Instant analysis/reaction: Electric, complete showing helps Bears upset not-so-mighty Ducks, earn 1st win of season

Photo of Cal vs. Oregon Football Game
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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Key takeaway

The Bears have had a few games this season they likely want to consign to oblivion, but they can file this particular one under unforgettable and astonishing season successes. For the first time since 2016, Cal beat Oregon at home in commanding fashion — unlike several of the losses the Bears have suffered this year, it wasn’t a fluke or a result of a couple of Oregon blunders but rather the result of a powerful Cal team revealing its convincing strengths.

Beating the reigning 2019 Pac-12 champions without any previous wins, some key starters, fans in the stadium and access to most practice resources that would be available in a normal year make this win against Oregon all the more momentous.

Although no fans were there to see it, this win may have been one of the most memorable and important for the program in years, proving that Cal can contend with the conference’s best even given unfavorable circumstances.

Cal has been on par with every team it’s played this season with the exception of UCLA, a loss that can be blamed on the batty circumstances that produced the last-minute matchup in the first place. Errors on special teams abounded and were exacerbated by costly offensive and defensive penalties, but all things considered, the Bears have made some impressive showings this season. The lopsided 0-3 record they toted going into the game was certainly undeserved, but this win is worth its weight in gold (and blue) to the program. Pre-pandemic, Oregon was the Goliath the Bears hoped to topple, and even with a disappointing season record, this win speaks volumes about the house that head coach Justin Wilcox has built here at Cal.

Cal’s game MVP

If Cameron Goode hasn’t already considered taking up duck hunting as a hobby, he definitely should now. The linebacker had his outing of the year against the Ducks, penciling numbers into every stat category as the night unfolded. Goode had seven total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a monumental 3.5 tackles for loss in addition to a forced fumble recovery in the fourth quarter. The outside linebacker proved stellar at getting into the backfield and stopping the run, all the more important against a rush-happy team like Oregon, which totaled 809 rushing yards before playing the Bears.

Two of Goode’s tackles for loss were against Oregon’s CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, the Pac-12’s fourth- and fifth-leading rushers, respectively. Goode was essential to limiting the Ducks’ prolificity in the first half and shutting down Oregon’s not-so-secret weapons, preventing it from executing the juiced deep runs and long balls so distinct to the team’s winning offense.

Eye-opening stat

Oregon has long been the monarch of the Pac-12 North, and its No. 23 ranking makes it one of three conference teams on the CFP Top 25 poll. After quarterback Justin Herbert’s departure and subsequent success in the NFL with the Chargers, the Ducks hardly needed time to rebound or rebuild, taking their conference slate by storm as they quickly drew up a 3-0 record before being upset by Oregon State. Despite the rarely disputed dominance of the Ducks, Cal was in the lead for the majority of the first half. The Bears pulled ahead 7-3 with just more than two minutes left in the first quarter, only losing their lead with about the same time left in the second quarter.

Although Oregon scored first with an explosive 75-yard drive down the field, Cal answered with back-to-back touchdown drives of its own for 75 and 80 yards apiece. Authority over a highly ranked and highly skilled opponent is something the Bears haven’t produced much of this season, but a much cleaner special teams performance got Cal firing on all cylinders and showed just the kind of moxie this team is made of.

Looking forward

Cal’s last game of the regular season will be battled out in Pullman against Washington State next week. Armed with a win against one of the biggest and baddest conference foes, the Bears will head north with some serious swagger.

Washington State’s lone win of the season came against Oregon State, which Cal fell to 31-27 earlier in the season despite a well-rounded performance without many of its starters. The Cougars dropped their game against the Ducks by a 14-point margin and have converted 11 of 25 third downs this year, so the chances of Cal leaving Pullman with a win seem lofty.

Washington State running back Deon McIntosh has rushed for 239 yards and ranks sixth in the conference behind Oregon’s Dye, but the player with the next most yards for the Cougars has 185 fewer than McIntosh. Cal’s defense held Dye to just 16 yards in the first half, so if the Bears are able to limit McIntosh’s playmaking ability in a similar manner, they should have a fighting chance at notching their second win of the season. Whichever way the ball bounces, Cal’s performance will be critical in determining its postseason opponent for Dec. 19.

Emily Ohman covers football. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilyohman34.