On a day full of BCS madness, No. 3 Oregon restored some semblance of order to the national college football rankings, battling injuries and a scrappy California defense to win 59-17 and stay undefeated on the year.
But while the scoreboard reads as another Ducks blowout, Saturday night’s game was anything but easy for head coach Chip Kelly’s national-title hopefuls. The Golden Bears came out fired up, stuffing senior running back Kenjon Barner and the Ducks’ early attempts to get anything going on the ground.
“At the end of the day, we still had a good game,” Barner said, rushing for 65 yards on 20 carries just one week after this 300-yard masterpiece against USC. “I’m not the type that has to be ‘the guy.’”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota had a career night, passing for six touchdowns and 377 yards on 27 completions, and routinely showcasing solid decision-making skills in the pocket. Over the Ducks’ last two games, both on the road, the Hawaiian has thrown for 10 touchdowns and nearly 700 yards.
One of Mariota’s favorite targets Saturday, wideout Josh Huff, had a career game for the second straight week, hauling in five catches — three of them touchdowns — for 109 yards. It was the first time an Oregon receiver caught three scores in a game since Jeff Maehl did it against USC in 2010.
Huff’s ability to break open a play with yards after the catch made him explosive on the sidelines.
“That’s what I’m known for,” Huff said about his yards-after-catch total. “That’s what I’m going to continue to be known for. I just feel really comfortable out there.”
Huff wasn’t alone. Sophomore De’Anthony Thomas chipped in with 101 more receiving yards, and tight end Colt Lyerla added 64 yards on four catches. Under Kelly, it’s the first time the Ducks have had two receivers with triple-digit receiving yards in the same game.
Bouncing ‘Bama. Earlier in the day, top-ranked Alabama fell to Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa, opening the door for a new No. 1 team in the country. Kelly said he acknowledged the game with his players, if only to put them at ease.
“I felt like I had to address it,” Kelly said. “‘Is Coach Kelly’s head going to fall off?’” Mariota too said the game could be seen as proof anything can happen on any given Saturday.
“It was kind of an eye-opener for us. We have to come in and take care of business,” Mariota said. “It really reminded us that every game counts.”
Turning point. With Bears starting quarterback Zach Maynard out with a knee injury, Allan Bridgford got the nod for Cal. It was a rough outing for the junior, who completed fewer than half of his passes and tossed a couple of interceptions to go with his first career touchdown pass.
It was the second pick that was the dagger. With the game a seesaw, true freshman Arik Armstead pushed through the middle and forced a poor throw from Bridgford that bobbled in the hands of Ducks linebacker Boseko Lokombo. One play after the turnover Mariota hit Huff for the quarterback’s third passing touchdown of the night, a 35-yard strike that essentially put the game out of reach.
Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich called the two-play momentum swing “immeasureable.”
On the horizon. Oregon will return from its road trip to the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium to face the surging Stanford. A win over the Cardinal would clinch the Pac-12 North for the second consecutive year.
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.