Instant analysis/reaction: Too close for comfort, Cal threatens No. 9 Oregon with no reward

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Al Sermano | KLC Photos/Courtesy

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Key takeaways

The rhythm is right 

The beginning of the game, exemplary of Cal, kicked off with an immediate 3-pointer on Oregon’s scoreboard, yet that didn’t disrupt the visiting team’s rhythm. The movement between plays seemed seamless as the game inched forward in minutes. After the Bears’ performance during the past few weeks, any semblance of coordination was deemed wishful thinking. However, the run game satisfied disgruntled viewers with redshirt senior tight end Jake Tonges’ awe-inspiring touchdown at the five-minute mark to top off an astonishing first-quarter performance. The rhythm continued after the half with quarterback Chase Garbers sending a ball to redshirt senior tight end Gavin Reinwald, putting the Bears up 17-10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Special teams are special again

With special teams being a contentious topic in the past games, it was not irrational for Cal fans to anticipate unsatisfactory kicking play. But in an interesting turn of events, all points attempted after touchdowns were made. Punts (while off target) were well executed from the game minimum of 49 yards. Redshirt junior Dario Longhetto showed up and showed out with a stellar 52-yard field goal, truly proving naysayers wrong. Longhetto then added to the scoreboard with a good PAT at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Special teams are truly special again, and fans can only hope that the kicking remains at this level until the Bears’ next kickoff.

Good defense is possible but only against bad offense

The Oregon offense was operating with a disadvantage as the game began: Star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was out the entire first half due to a targeting call against Stanford two weeks ago, simmering with anticipation on the sideline until he was able to make his midgame return. Thibodeaux’s absence gave Cal a leg up in rushing forward and augmented its ability to hold the Ducks off. The blue and gold clawed Oregon, creating a solid line as the opposition tried to push forward. The defense thought out its plan of attack well, completing two takeaways and an outstanding forced fumble by Collin Gamble. By the middle of the third quarter, the Ducks’ O-line left much to be desired, allowing the Bears to take advantage of an opportunity handed to them on a green-and-gold platter.

Cal’s game MVP

While Garbers had moments throughout the game that increased faith in his playing ability, the match’s most valuable player was sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter. An almost dynamic duo, Hunter and Garbers made valuable completions, yet Hunter came out on top, as he found his way to the ball every time. Completing passes of all lengths, Hunter truly showed his prowess.

Eye-opening stats

Penalties were present in spades during this faceoff, with six of them being for illegal holding. Three offensive holding penalties and three defensive holding penalties were definitely a sore spot for the Bears, as they led to multiple deductions of yards — yards that could have been used to put Cal on top. 

Looking forward

Cal comes home to face its reflection: Colorado. Prior to the matchup against Oregon, the Bears and the Buffs were both sitting pretty at a tragic 1-4 record. With disappointing defenses and frankly offensive offenses, both teams were not without negative talk about coaches and quarterbacks. 

The Buffs have lost each of their past three games by at least 22 points, and lackluster plays have become exemplary of Colorado football. Trying to get any game “locked in” has been a grave challenge for both teams. 

While the Bears did come close to a victory against Oregon, in an interesting turn of events, the risks Cal took came without reward. The blue and gold must try to recover from the upset against the Ducks, seeing as a faceoff against the Buffs is just around the corner.

Maria Khan covers men’s soccer and football. Contact her at [email protected].