Oregon Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Ducks' Win vs. California
Before this Pac-12 Conference matchup even started, the stakes got higher. Earlier in the afternoon, BCS No. 1 Alabama went down to Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa.
So, along with what we learned about Cal and Oregon, we also learned how the Ducks respond to outside stimuli. Oregon certainly played as if they knew they could take over the top spot in the polls on Sunday.
What else did this game teach us?
Note: If you want to revisit my Live Blog of the game, here's the link: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1404323-oregon-vs-california-live-scores-analysis-and-results
1. Oregon Is A Good Road Team
Remember way back in September when the Ducks went on their first road trip to play Washington State and everyone's darling new coach Mike Leach? The fear was that Oregon's redshirt freshman quarterback, Marcus Mariota, untested on the road, would play like a freshman.
No siree, Bob.
As the season has unfolded, Oregon and its freshman QB have turned out to be an excellent road team. Prior to this road trip to Cal, the Ducks had outscored their road opponents 156 to 98, and 51 of those 98 points was against USC in the L.A. Coliseum, an extremely hostile environment.
After tonight, the total is 215 points for the Ducks on the road, compared to 115 for their opponents.
It really doesn't seem to matter to these Ducks where the game is played. This Oregon team shows up.
2. Cal Needs A Fresh Start
Whether or not you believe the Cal Bears and Jeff Tedford are perennially overrated (I do), it's hard to argue that Cal doesn't need a fresh start.
They ended last year with a loss to a weak Texas team in the Holiday Bowl (21-10). This year, the Bears will be home watching a raft of Pac-12 opponents play in exciting bowl games. I understand that Cal has been bit hard by the injury bug, but so have other teams who seem to find a way.
Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour needs to make the call at the end of this season. Under her leadership and across all sports, Cal has traditionally been one of the elite programs in the country. That is no longer true of the Bears' football program, and she must rectify that.
Jeff Tedford can coach, and he will coach again at this level. I would argue that he needs a change of scenery as much as Cal needs a change.
It's a year late, Sandy, but better late than never.
3. Kenjon Barner Is Still A Heisman Candidate
Kenjon Barner added to his season's brilliant stats, even after suffering an injury in the Ducks' road game at Cal.
Prior to tonight's game with Cal, Barner had 1295 yards rushing with 19 touchdowns, and 184 receiving with one TD. Add in his 65 yards rushing and 35 yards receiving against the Bears, and Barner's total yardage for the year sits at 1,579.
Really, the only question is, will Barner's injury in the Cal game prohibit him from hitting the magic number of 2,000 total yards on the year? With two regular conference games remaining, plus the Pac-12 Championship game, it's certainly possible that Barner will get the additional yards if he's able to play at full strength.
If he makes it, give him the hardware.
4. Memorial Stadium Looks Nice
From what we could see, it looks like Cal's renovation of venerable Memorial Stadium in Berkeley was a success.
After 640 days of construction, it appears that Cal preserved the original oval of the stadium, while rebuilding most of it. The stadium sound system was clear and understandable, where it used to be just awful trying to understand anything. It would appear that Cal got the most for its $321 million.
And you just can't beat that made-to-order sushi.
5. Oregon vs. Stanford The Game Again
After all the preseason hype—USC No. 1, doesn't that seem forever ago?—the Pac-12's big game again this year will be next weekend as Stanford travels to Oregon's Autzen Stadium.
Stanford won a great game at home today against Oregon State. Both teams slogged it out, and it was a hard-fought win for the Cardinal. The Beavers have been resilient all year, but the Stanford defense was just too much for OSU today.
Will Autzen Stadium's motto "Where Ranked Teams Come To Die" be true again on Nov. 17?
6. Oregon Gets Up For Every Opponent
I am still exhausted after last Saturday's Oregon game against USC at the L.A. Coliseum. I was lucky enough to be one of 93,607 fans treated to a fabulous college football game. Each and every one of us knew this game was for all the marbles.
Stay with me here. So, before the Cal vs. Oregon game starts, the Ducks know that next Saturday's game with Stanford at Autzen Stadium is now the "Game of the Century."
If you're the Ducks, how on earth do you manage to keep your focus against the lowly Bears? Oh, I know, "Win The Day," and all that. But these are kids, remember? With short attention spans.
It's very clear that the Ducks—every single guy on the roster—has bought into the "Win The Day" mantra, and trust their coaches. Personally, I had a tough time getting up for this game.
We should all take a lesson from Oregon's playbook: every opponent is a challenge and you must be ready to play.
Cal Has Some Good Athletes
Although the Bears were soundly defeated by Oregon, Cal does have some good players.
The Bears' confidence is in the toilet, and playing the Ducks never helps a team to regain any confidence whatsoever. But there were moments of success that the Bears can take away from this game and build on.
Marc Anthony and the rest of the Cal secondary played the Ducks really tight for two quarters. They played Oregon as well as anyone all season, and have no reason to hang their heads.
On the defensive line, Aaron Tipoti is a piece of work, and might get a shot at the next level.
And I know that Allan Bridgford made some mistakes, but overall he was decent in relief of injured starter Zach Maynard.
You did get the feeling tonight that if Cal wasn't decimated by injuries, they might have made a game of it.
8. Johnny "Football" Manziel Made the Right Choice
I was shocked to hear on College GameDay this morning that Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M's terrific quarterback, had first committed to Oregon while still in high school.
Somehow I had missed that important bit of football trivia. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Aggies' head coach Kevin Sumlin said of Oregon's Marcus Mariota: "Tell Chip he did all right. I don't feel sorry for Chip at all."
It's clear after today that both Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota made the right decision. Mariota lit up the Memorial Stadium field, and Manziel had the game of his young life knocking off No. 1 Alabama.
The takeaway is that it would be great fun to see these two great quarterbacks and their similar offenses square off against one another. It's likely to not happen this year, but who knows about next year?
9. Oregon's Knock-out Punch
Here's the deal. Oregon has so much speed and so many weapons, that it's only a matter of time until the Ducks deliver the knock-out punch in every game.
If you contain the run, like Cal did almost better than anyone (in part due to Barner's injury), then Mariota will pick you apart.
If you cover the wide receivers down field, then Colt Lyerla will glide into the end zone untouched.
And, you can't ever take your eye off De'Anthony Thomas. If you do, well, I'm sorry for your team.
When you believe you have covered all these options, then Mariota will do it himself.
Take that. Nobody's been able to yet.
10. Oregon's Defense Bounced Back
Oregon's defensive effort against the USC Trojans last week was much maligned, deservedly so, all week leading up to this game. After bragging about the Ducks' D as being the best defense Oregon has had during the reign of King Chip, the Trojans hung 51 points on the Ducks at the Coliseum.
Clearly, it stuck in their craw. While the Cal Bears are not USC, the Ducks' defense played with spirit, toughness and focus tonight, qualities lacking last weekend. What made the defense's performance even more impressive was the fact that they were extremely short-handed against Cal. Guys we haven't seen much of all year played key roles.
Did the Ducks' D just have an off night in L.A? Are they the best defensive unit for Oregon in many years?
Time will tell.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.