Cal gets first win in 20 years
EUGENE, Ore. -- The Bears hadn't won at Autzen since 1987. And now that's a thing of the past.
Cal escaped with a 31-24 win. I say "escaped" because -- as I'm sure you all saw on TV -- Oregon was thisclose to scoring before Marcus Ezeff took out Colvin right by the endzone, forcing a fumble. The play was reviewed for (I'm just guessing here based on how long we stood on the sideline) 17 minutes before the officials ruled it was a fumble and Cal regained possession. There were 16 seconds left at that point and the Bears walked away with a win.
Tedford pointed out afterward that Cal simply, "found a way win." It's true, too: It's not easy to walk away with a victory in Autzen and early on it looked like the Bears weren't going to. But they were patient and got a key defensive play (Dixon's first INT of the season) and kept their cool. They also got DeSean Jackson involved a tad more in the second half and that made all the difference. Jackson finished with 158 yards and two TDs. Forsett gained 101 on the ground, also netting two TDs for the Bears. Longshore (who came back in and was fine) finished 28-43 with two TDs.
For the Ducks, Stewart finished with 168 yards with one TD. Dixon went 31-44 with two INTs (the first at a VERY costly time) and 306 yards. Really, though, it wasn't a bad game for the Ducks by any means. Their defense looked good and while Cal scored pretty much whenever it wanted in the second half, but the D held on and didn't even let Cal get a field goal after Andre Crenshaw and Derrick Jones RUNNING INTO EACH OTHER on kickoff and Cal recovering on Oregon's 26. That shows how tough the defense was.
"It was a communication issue," said Stewart, who was not involved in the play. "When things happen like that, it's usually so simple."
"Our defense played excellent," Bellotti said. "For our offense to battle back and have a chance to win like that at the end was amazing. Cal is a good football team, but they took advantage of some of the things we gave them. We didn't keep the ball enough in the second half. "
Last year when Cal beat/demolished Oregon the Ducks fell apart for the rest of the season. But they're determined to not let that happen this year.
"This isn't it," said CB Jairus Byrd. "We need to stay focused. We'r enot going to let what happened last year happen (now)."
"I believe we are a good football team," Bellotti said. "And they believe in themselves."
Cal acknowledged that winning today was no easy task and knows the Ducks still have a lot of potential.
"I want to give mad credit to Oregon," said LB Worrell Williams. "They played one hell of a ball game."
And now, onto the particulars:
Player of the Game: It took Jackson awhile to warm up, but he was ON in the third quarter. Besides scoring a few touchdowns, he got open and came up big when the Bears needed a first down. And on a few plays he showed why he's a Heisman candidate, fliting around defenders and making big gains.
Play of the Game: Dixon went more than 100 attempts without an INT, but his first INT of the season -- a snag by Anthony Felder -- hurt. He was intercepted on Oregon's 21and a few second later, Cal was up 30-24. Credit Felder, a junior linebacker, with the Bears' biggest defensive play.
Next up: Cal has a bye week (And Williams exclaimed his happiness about that, saying, "Thank God next week is a bye week because we need it to work and stay healthy. We play Oregon State next so we're just waiting for them.") Currently, the Beavers are barely hanging onto a 14-12 lead over UCLA with 10 minutes to go in the third quarter. Last year the Bears slaughtered the Beavers, and that was in Corvallis. It could be ugly, but Cal needs to take the time to get healthy (they'll be even better with Zack Follett back).
The Ducks are at home again against Washington State and their stud (and Eugene born-and-raised) QB Alex Brink, who's single-handedly breaking every Wazzu record there is. But Williams was right -- the Ducks MUST stay focused and still believe they can win. USC still has to come to town and it won't be an easy win for the Trojans.
That's it from Eugene. Traffic is still awful from what I can see in the press box so I'm going to grab some cookies and watch the rest of the Oregon State game before hitting the road. Wasn't exciting start to end, but -- as is the usual for games in Eugene -- it had a hell of a finish.
Thank you, and good night.