Cal Bears Hold off Oregon’s Comeback in Double Overtime

Oct 21, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears wide receiver Vic Wharton III (17) celebrates after a Golden Bears touchdown against the Oregon Ducks during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears wide receiver Vic Wharton III (17) celebrates after a Golden Bears touchdown against the Oregon Ducks during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cal Bears played a very nice first half, but needed a little luck and a timely mistake to overcome a big Oregon comeback. After two overtimes, they came away with a 52-49 victory.

The Cal Bears and Webb had to figure out a way to move the ball without their number-one receiver. Junior Chad Hansen, who is the team’s leader in receptions (59), yards (770), and touchdowns (eight), suffered a sprained ankle against the Oregon State Beavers. The bye week wasn’t enough time for recovery, and Hansen was out against the Ducks.

Cal’s passing game wasn’t the usual “Bear Raid” offense. Webb’s lingering thumb injury may have been part of the problem, but the run game picked up the slack. At the half, Webb had completed 21 passes for just 149 yards, but the running backs were picking up big chunks. Khalfani Muhammad and Tre Watson combined to rack up 159 yards on 24 carries in the first half.

Though the running game did the heavy lifting early, it was Webb that got the glory with touchdown passes. He threw four first-half touchdowns to four different receivers. In the first quarter, he hooked up with freshman Demetris Robertson for a 10-yard score on a perfect back-shoulder floater. Later, it was Raymond Hudson in the endzone, catching a jump ball following a well-executed play fake.

In the second quarter, Vic Wharton was the recipient of a 13-yard touchdown after a defensive breakdown left him open in the endzone. A little later, Tre Watson was all by himself down the right sideline for a 14-yard pass.

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Oregon’s freshman quarterback Justin Herbert started the game out of sync, missing throws both short and deep. But when Cal pulled ahead by three scores, Herbert found some rhythm. He led Oregon on a six-play, 69-yard drive and capped it off with a 27-yard scoring strike to tight end Pharaoh Brown.

Cal pushed their lead back up slightly on their ensuing drive, when junior kicker Matt Anderson nailed a 37-yarder to make it 24-7. The Ducks answered again with another touchdown drive, with Tony Brooks-James‘ score making it 24-14, but Webb’s touchdown to Watson with 17 seconds left made it 31-14, the score when teams entered the locker room at half.

Cal started the second half with a field goal, but it was all Oregon soon after. They scored three straight touchdowns to take their first lead of the day at 35-34. They took all the momentum for a short time, but neither could hold it from that point on.

Watson’s tremendous diving catch in the endzone put Cal back ahead, and a two-point conversion (caught by backup lineman J.D. Hinnant, big man scores!) put them ahead 42-35. Three drives later, Oregon scored in a mere 36 seconds to tie the game.

That left Webb and the Bears’ offense with plenty of time. The senior led his team down the field with help from Muhammad to get into field goal range with just second left, but Oregon successfully iced Anderson. After two timeouts, he missed from 41 yards out to send the game into overtime.

Pac-12 After Dark extended a bit longer than usual, and Oregon took the ball in the first overtime period. Two plays later, it was Jalen Brown finding the endzone for a 20-yard score for Herbert’s sixth touchdown of the night. On the other side of the field, Cal showed up as well. From the one-yard line, Webb ran a keeper for the touchdown, and the extra-point made a second timeout necessary.

Cal started overtime number two with the ball. They converted a third down on a big gainer to Wharton, but shot themselves in the foot with three penalties to make it second-and-goal from the 21. They had to settle for three when they couldn’t overcome themselves. Anderson made a 28-yard kick, putting the Bears ahead 52-49.

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Herbert had a great performance. He threw for 258 yards and six touchdowns, but in the second overtime, he made his only mistake. He stared down his receiver over the middle before firing, and linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk made a play. He tipped the ball to himself for the game-sealing interception.

Webb finished the night with 325 yards and five touchdowns, but the biggest number on his start sheet was zero. The big difference was that the Cal quarterback didn’t turn the ball over.

Muhammad followed up his career-high 165-yard performance against Oregon State by piling up 148 yards against the Ducks. Watson set a personal best with 154 rushing yards, while also picking up 50 receiving yards. He caught two touchdown passes for the first time in his career.

It was a sloppy game from both sides. The two teams combined for 28 penalties and 279 yards. It felt like a lot more than that.

The Ducks have fallen to 0-4 in the conference this year, and are in the midst of their first five-game losing streak since 1996. This was also Cal’s first win against the Ducks since 2008, when they came away with a 26-16 win at home.

Next: Bears Look to Get Back on Track vs. Oregon

Cal moves to 4-3 on the season, and 2-2 in conference play while remaining undefeated at home. They have a very tough schedule left to play this year, with a matchup against undefeated and fifth-ranked Washington, and 4-2 Stanford and Washington State among their five games. They are two wins from bowl eligibility.