Oregon buries sixth-ranked Cal
EUGENE, Ore. – To Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, taking criticism is part of the job. So is disproving it.
Masoli answered his naysayers by throwing for 253 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon’s 42-3 upset of sixth-ranked California on Saturday.
He completed 21 of 25 passes for the Ducks (3-1), who had 524 yards in total offense and buried any resemblance to the Oregon team that fell so dramatically to Boise State in a nationally televised season opener.
“There’s always critics – and it always falls on the quarterback,” Masoli said. “You try not to think about it, because nobody on the outside really has anything to do with it.”
Tailback Jahvid Best ran for just 55 yards for the Golden Bears (3-1), who had 206 yards in total offense – less than half their average. Widely considered a top Heisman contender, Best went into the game ranked third in the nation with an average of 137.33 yards on the ground.
It was Cal’s most lopsided loss under coach Jeff Tedford – Oregon’s former offensive coordinator – and worst since 55-14 to USC in 2001.
Oregon tight end Ed Dickson had 11 catches for a career-best 148 yards. He caught all three of Masoli’s scoring passes.
“On offense the sky’s the limit for us,” Masoli said with confidence. “We’re the only ones who can hurt us. These last couple of weeks we’ve been in a funk, but today we moved past that.”
Cal scored on Vince D’Amato’s 47-yard field goal early after Oregon fumbled on its opening kickoff return.
The Golden Bears would not score again.
Oregon tied it with Morgan Flint’s 30-yard field goal. Masoli completed five passes on the scoring drive – surpassing the four completions he had last weekend in Oregon’s 31-24 victory over then-No. 18 Utah.
Despite the win, Masoli was widely criticized for his performance and some fans suggested the Ducks go with backup Nate Costa against Cal. Oregon first-year coach Chip Kelly was steadfast in support of Masoli.
His first touchdown pass of the season was a 26-yard strike to Dickson that opened the second quarter. Masoli then tossed to Flint, who scampered into the end zone for the conversion to put the Ducks up 11-3.
“He proved that he can play,” Dickson said of Masoli. “He proved that he can throw the ball.”
After D’Amato missed a 43-yard attempt, Oregon pushed its lead to 18-3 on Remene Alston’s 1-yard TD dive. LaMichael James ran for a 4-yard touchdown just before halftime to make it 25-3.
James is among a trio of backs to whom Oregon has looked since LeGarrette Blount was suspended for punching a Boise State player in the aftermath of the opener. Blount is out for the season, but he is allowed to practice and this week wore Best’s No. 4 jersey on the practice squad.
James finished with 21 carries for 118 yards.
In the third quarter, Dickson caught scoring passes of nine and 36 yards from Masoli as Oregon went up 39-3. Ironically, fans who called for Costa got their wish when Masoli left the game early in the fourth quarter.
Flint added a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who went to high school in Beaverton, Ore., completed 12 of 31 passes for 123 yards. He was replaced in the fourth quarter by redshirt freshman backup Beau Sweeney.
“He’s disappointed, obviously,” Tedford said about best. “Everybody is, everybody’s disappointed when you don’t play well like that when we invest so much time and energy into what’s going on. It doesn’t feel good.”
Last weekend Best tied a Pac-10 record with five rushing touchdowns to lead the Golden Bears to a 35-21 victory at Minnesota, for which he earned Pac-10 player of the week honors.
But Oregon was able to shut him and the rest of Cal’s running game down. The Golden Bears had just 77 yards on the ground.
“Everybody kept asking, ‘What are you going to do about Best?’ If he can’t get past the line of scrimmage, we have nothing to worry about. That was our mentality,” Oregon defensive tackle Brandon Bair said. “We were going to come in here and hit him with all we’ve got. We know we have the talent, the speed, the ability to stop anybody.”
Cal was averaging 488.7 yards in total offense going into the game to rank 11th nationally, and gaining 250.33 yards on the ground.
Cal hosts USC next week. Oregon hosts Washington State to conclude a four-game homestand.
The Ducks were wearing throwback uniforms from the late 90s, featuring yellow helmets with an entwined UO.
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