Golden Bears Take on Oregon Ducks Looking to Break Losing Streak


After an undefeated start through five games, the California Golden Bears have lost three in a row and find themselves still ineligible for a Bowl game. In just a few short weeks, Cal has gone from a top-20 team in the AP rankings, to a team that is unranked, and whose season is slowly slipping away. In their fourth straight primetime game on ESPN2 Saturday night, Cal will have a chance to get back on track against the Oregon Ducks.

The normally high-powered Bears’ offense, known as the “Bear Raid”, has gone through a power outage during their three-game skid. The team opened the year with five straight games over 30 points, including 73 against Grambling State in the season opener, but have failed to breach 30 points in each of the last three games. Overall, their 35.8 points per contest in 30th in the nation.

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During this down stretch, the Bears’ run game has been extremely inconsistent. Senior running back Daniel Lasco has been dealing with an injury, making him either unavailable or ineffective over the past six games. Since picking up 123 yards on 19 carries in week two against San Diego State, the game in which he sustained the hip injury, Lasco has carried the ball just 29 times for 105 yards (3.6 per carry) and one touchdown.

The team made note of this deficiency after last week’s loss to the USC Trojans. In a postgame interview, Lasco pointed out that “in any offense, you have to have a strong run game to be effective [because] it takes a lot of heat of the [quarterback]”, while also stating that he’s “back now”, giving hope that his hip is now fully healed.

Wide receiver Bryce Treggs was also on that bandwagon, as he said that “in the future, I think we’re going to focus on really establishing a good run game”.

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Junior quarterback Jared Goff could use that extra dimension in the offense. Goff has been under extreme pressure from opposing defenses in the past few weeks, as they’ve been able to key in on attacking the quarterback without the threat of being burned by the run game. Although he wasn’t sacked last week against USC, he was under heat all night, and was sacked seven times in the two weeks before. That forced Cal to use a lot of short, quick passes, not allowing them to open up their playbook, or the field.

Turnovers have also been a big factor to the Bears’ losing streak. In the first five games of the year, Cal won the turnover battle four times while breaking even in the remaining game, and was +8 in turnover ratio. In the past three weeks, they have lost the turnover battle twice, winning it by one in the third game, and are -5 in ratio. After forcing 21 turnovers in the first six weeks, the most in the nation, Cal has one takeaway in the past two games.

Oregon isn’t the same team that it’s been the last few years, when they were the powerhouse of the Pac-12. The biggest missing piece is quarterback Marcus Mariota. After winning the Heisman Memorial Trophy and leading the Ducks to the College Football Championship Game last season, Mariota decided to head to the NFL, rather than stay for his senior season.

The Ducks’ offense is still very dangerous, but there has been some inconsistent quarterback play. Senior quarterback Vernon Adams, given the very tall task of replacing the beyond-prolific Mariota, has played well, but missed three games because of a broken finger on his throwing hand. While he’s not Mariota (who is, though?), he can still lead a very effective offense.

Oregon’s biggest offensive weapon is their sophomore running back, Royce Freeman. Known as “Rolls Royce” for his prime combination of speed and power, Freeman has gained 1,109 yards on 165 carries (well over six yards per carry), and scored 11 times on the ground. He’s also a receiving threat out of the backfield, as he’s caught 18 passes for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The defense has been Oregon’s most glaring issue. The Ducks have scored 42 points per game, which is 10th-best in the nation, but the defense is allowing 38.4 points, which is 10th-worst in the nation. They have allowed over 40 points four times in eight games, and over 50 points twice.

Next: Cal Remaining Confident Despite Losing Streak

Rain is expected to pound Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday night, and the Bears have to be hoping to avoid a repeat of 2013’s “monsoon game” between the Ducks and the Bears, when a steady, pounding rain soaked the field for the entirety of the game. Goff, a freshman at the time, experienced one of the worst games of his career, as he struggled just to grip the sopping wet ball, and he had to be replaced after just seven pass attempts. Oregon ran away with a 55-16 win.

Cal is in need of a big win if they are to have any glimpse of hope in remaining relevant in the Pac-12 race. The entire team needs to up their game on Saturday night, or the downward spiral will continue.