Saturday night the California Bears showed up at a packed out Memorial Stadium, trying to out-ugly the Oregon Ducks by wearing headache-inducing all-yellow uniforms.
Duds that made them look like a misguided burlesque vegetable act of dancing bananas, or something disturbingly hideous like that. Just perfect for games played in fog, or for hunting birds in thick forests, or even stopping traffic,. But not-so-much for playing football on tv.
Not-to-worry. This was the Oregon Ducks being entertained tonight, a uniform-challenged team in their own right that routinely shows up in color combinations that can kill grass.
But tonight the Ducks actually looked surprisingly presentable, with green pants and white shirts with white helmets. Normal green too, not that zeon lime Seahawk color that leaves spots in your eyes.
The Ducks and Bears played a brutal defensive battle tonight on a warm evening in the Bay Area, with Oregon barely managing to hang on to a two point lead for the entire last quarter and a half.
The Ducks scored a total of zero points after the first few minutes in the second half while being dominated by California’s defensive line for all but the last drive.
Ironic if not somewhat amusing, because before the kickoff, tv pundits were speculating that “this might be the best college offense in the history of the game.”
And while the statement was enough to make most viewers urp up blood, soon the pundits looked foolish as Oregon limped out of the gates with two straight fourth and twos. The first successful, but the second stuffed, giving the Bears a first down at the 50 yard line with just over three minutes played.
With the Ducks looking nothing like the hyped up super-team, the Bears immediately set off on a six play TD scoring drive of their own that consumed all of two and a half minutes.
After an errant pass play up the middle, the Bear’s Shane Vereen cranked off a nifty 34 yard run to the Duck’s 17.
Four running plays later, all Vereen, the Bears were up quickly seven zip.
A quick three and out later, and the Bears once again had the ball at their own 27, but fizzled after seven plays that left them with a fourth and one at their own 48.
A very short & high punt later, Oregon was in business from their own 19.
Oregon ran a quick six play drive using their traditional hurry-up offense with a mere 10-15 seconds between plays.
Didn’t work. They stalled and punted, giving the Bears the ball at their own 12 with three minutes left in the first quarter. But the Bears too, stalled after seven plays, and punted back to end the first quarter.
Oregon had been shut out in the first quarter for the second straight week, hardly justifying the hype that had been poured upon them before the game. This was the best offensive team in college history? Seriously?!?
The second quarter started mostly the same way, with both defenses taking over. A quick three and out, a punt, and the Bears had the ball at their own 20 before they too went three and out.
Followed by an Oregon four play dead end drive, yet another punt back to California, who promptly went five plays before punting back again.
This had gotten pitiful! Hoards were seen daydreaming about which color to paint their bathroom ceilings.
Oregon followed that by going three and out,, getting as far a the California 42. Their punt pinned the Bears on the 3 yard line..
California, still leading 7-0 with half of the second quarter burned, went another ugly three and out, finally punting from their own end zone. This time the Duck’s Cliff Harris woke up the crowd by racing 65 yards for the first Oregon touchdown.
Before the Bears knew what hit them, Oregon had jammed a two point conversion down their throats for an unimpressive but effective 8-7 lead with 6:34 left in the first half.
After a kickoff and a 28 yard return, California got the ball and gained a first down with the help of a questionable pass interference call, but then three plays later punted once again. This time out of bounds to make sure Harris didn’t burn them again with another return.
Oregon took over from their own 35 and with a bit of momentum, managing to drive the ball to the California red zone with a nifty 16 play drive before ending the first half on a rare missed 37 yard field goal that hooked left.
Thus at the half it was a rather unimpressive 8-7 Duck lead. A defensive battle yes, but hardly the kind of offensive fireworks that everyone had promised!
Oregon’s total offense had amassed a paltry and embarrassing 68 yards, their lowest total at halftime all season.
Perhaps the football gods were getting even for the Ducks running up the score on the hapless Washington Huskies the week before?
The start of the second half saw the Ducks kick off returned by the Bears to their own 20.
On the first play of the second half, throwing from the shotgun, California’s backup-turned-starting quarterback Brock Mansion, hit Keenan Allen with an ugly knuckle ball for a short gain over the middle.
But on the second play of the second half, he fumbled the ball causing squealing from the friendly crowd, which Oregon jumped on at the 29.
Only the fifth lost fumble for California all season.
Oregon’s QB Darron Thomas immediately hit Jeff Maehl for a one play TD drive, their 31st touchdown drive in less than five plays this season. Seven points in 30 seconds after it had taken them the entire first half to score eight.
15 to 7 Oregon with 14:29 left in the third quarter.
Certainly not the light show that the proud and delighted Oregon fans were expecting.
A kickoff, and quick three and out, and Oregon had the ball again at midfield. But six plays later and another missed field goal from 48 yards, and California was back in business.
The Bear’s next nine play drive stalled at their own 41 when Marvin Jones dropped another ball that he should have caught, and once again California punted.
Oregon had the ball on their own 12 yard line.
For the first big California play of the game since their opening drive, Derrick Hill slapped the ball out of a throwing Oregon QB Darron Thomas’s hands, which the Bears jumped on in the end zone for a touchdown.
15-13 Ducks with 9:11 left in the third quarter. That would be it for scoring.
California tried a two point conversion, but Manson’s pass sailed over Marvin Jone’s head on the left side. No good,
Oregon responded with a three and out, finished when DJ Davis’ caught ball came up three yards short near midfield on the Duck's own 47.
Oregon punted, California took over on their own 10, and took the ball all the way to the Duck 10 yard line on a 14 play drive, aided by a knucklehead Duck pass interference and another face mask personal foul.
End of the third quarter.
At the beginning of the fourth things were looking better for the Berkley boys of California. Their kicker, the sensational Georgio Tavecchio, had not missed from 24 yards in over three years. And he didn’t this time either, drilling it.
But a weird illegal motion call against the Bears forced them to re-kick, and this time he hooked the 29 yarder left for his first miss in his collegiate career from that distance.
Still 15-13 Ducks.
An offensive effort uncharacteristic for both teams, especially the Bears, who prior to this game had averaged 47 points per game at home all season.
Which team should be BCS #1?
The Ducks took over and drove it to the California 36 in a ten play drive that ended on an incomplete pass on fourth and seven. Five plays later, California punted it into the end zone.
Oregon took over at their own 20 with nine minutes left, and this time took their time between plays while driving it clear down to the Bear five yard line on 18 plays, to run out the game clock, taking knees to end the game.
A surprising gesture from a team who ran hurry-ups with a huge lead the week prior.
The Ducks won the game by two points.
California came away knowing they could have won had they merely made one more defensive stand.
Oregon is now 10-0 for the first time in their history, facing Arizona next week before finishing the regular season with the civil war game against the despised and hungry Oregon State Beavers.
The same Beaver team that lost today as Washington State broke a 16 game Pac10 losing streak by surprising them in a rout 31-14.
Meanwhile California, now 3-4 in the conference and a disappointing 5-5 overall, faces Stanford next weekend and finishes at Washington in what could be their last chance at a bowl game.
Oregon is still #1, but could be in trouble with this week’s BCS polling since Auburn rolled over conference rival Georgia 49-31.
(Hey kids! Don't miss last week's adoring Oregon piece against UW!)http://bleacherreport.com/articles/511048-classless-oregon-ducks-victorious-over-vastly-superior-university-of-washington
(Boise State Football: Why They Should Never Be Allowed in a BCS Title Game) http://bleacherreport.com/articles/522870-boise-state-football-why-they-should-never-be-allowed-in-a-bcs-title-game