Cal football hopes to stop string of losses to Ducks Friday Night at Levi’s Stadium

Michael Tao/Senior Staff

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Cal hasn’t beat Oregon in a football game since George W. Bush was president of the United States.

The Bears have lost five-straight times to the Ducks, and most of those have been blowouts. Cal hasn’t scored more than 17 points against Oregon in any of those contests, and the Ducks have responded by putting up at least 40 in all but one. Cal has lost to Oregon by an average of 30 points per game in the last five seasons. Other than one close call in 2010, where the Bears lost by two, it’s been nothing but domination for the Ducks.

There aren’t a lot of signs that the Bears will be able to turn it around this year when Cal faces Oregon on Friday night at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Other than a loss to Arizona and a brief scare against Washington State, the Ducks have looked like their same old selves in their second season under Mark Helfrich. Oregon has won all of its other games this season by at least two scores, including a 46-27 walloping of then-No. 7 Michigan State in September.

“I think they’ve really improved as the season has worn on,” said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. “I think they’ve been playing their best football right now, so it’ll be a big challenge for us.”

The Ducks also have the best scoring offense in the Pac-12 and the sixth best in the country, putting up 43.6 points per game. But their defense is a bit of a different story — it’s just fourth in the conference, giving up 23.7 points per game. Still, both of those rankings are better than Cal. The Bears are just behind Oregon in scoring — second in the conference — but are second to last in scoring defense.

For Cal to win, one key might be keeping Oregon’s offense — and Cal’s defense — off the field through the Bears’ rushing attack. The team gets Chris Borrayo back from injury this week, Cal’s starting left guard who could help open up holes for Daniel Lasco and the rest of the running backs, who had trouble last week against UCLA.

“It’s good to get Chris back; he kind of solidifies things for us up front,” Dykes said. “Anytime he’s not in there playing, you miss his physical presence and his leadership and toughness.”

Though Borrayo plays on the interior of the line, his presence will help against an imposing Oregon pass rush. The Ducks have 20 sacks this season and are particularly effective at attacking off the edge of the line.

“They do a lot of line movement, the line is constantly moving and (they) play a lot of games with their defensive line,” Dykes said. “They’ve got good speed coming off the edge, (their) linebackers are good pass rushers.”

But most eyes won’t be on the lines. It’ll be on the quarterbacks on each side of the ball. The game features two of the best passers in the country. Marcus Mariota ranks first nationally in passer rating, while Jared Goff is just behind him in fifth. Both are also throwing for more than nine yards per attempt through the first seven games of the season. Mariota in particular is excellent at protecting the football — he hasn’t thrown an interception all season.

“It’s never quarterback vs. quarterback,” Goff said. “But at the same time, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he’s done through the years. … It’s going to be fun competing against him for sure.”

Last year’s game was a disaster for Goff in particular. In the pouring rain in Eugene, the then-freshman quarterback completed just three of seven passes and was pulled from the game in the first quarter. The Bears fumbled the ball four times in the first quarter as the rain crashed down.

There’s a zero percent chance of rain in Santa Clara on Friday, so at least Cal won’t have the weather to worry about — just the Ducks.

Riley McAtee is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @riley_mcatee