EUGENE – No. 13 Oregon edged out California in the Ducks’ Pac-12 Conference home opener in front of a sell out crowd of 54,766 fans and students.
The win, in which the Duck defense shined and the offense didn't wake up until the third quarter, improves the Ducks to 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 and 10-1 under Coach Mario Cristobal at Autzen Stadium. Oregon (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remains the only team in the North Division without a conference loss.
Here are the top four takeaways from the contest.
1. Sloppiness needs to be turned into consistency
Oregon’s offense looked strong to start, pounding it on the ground with ease to reach the Cal 10-yard line in their opening drive. Then, a turn of events began a nasty spiral. A 15-yard penalty on Johnny Johnson III pushed back the ball and on the next play, quarterback Justin Herbert threw his first interception of the season. The pick ended a streak of 175 attempts without an interception for Herbert.
The Bears capitalized and struck first with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Devon Modster to Chris Brown, taking an early 7-0 lead.
It was the first first-half touchdown allowed all season by the UO defense and the first touchdown allowed since the opener against Auburn.
2. Turnovers and penalties haunt Oregon
The ugliness continued.
The Ducks had just two turnovers in four games heading into Saturday, which was ranked best in the conference and fifth in the nation. Oregon turned it over twice in the first quarter: Herbert’s interception and a Travis Dye fumble. To open the second quarter, Dye fumbled the ball again, totaling three turnovers in three possessions.
Oregon entered Saturday as the least penalized team in the Pac-12, averaging 4.25 penalties and 35.5 penalty yards per game. In the first half alone, the Ducks were flagged four times for 40 yards.
3. Freshmen highlights
Spectacular individual performances from freshmen are not to be overlooked. Mycah Pittman and Kayvon Thibodeaux both had shining, highlight-type moments. In his debut as a Duck,
4. CJ Verdell injured
Starting running back CJ Verdell was off to a fast start (10 carries for 47 yards and two catches for 17 yards) before going down with an apparent painful right ankle injury. The sophomore was writhing around on the turf and holding his ankle. He was able to walk off the field with help from the training staff. He did not return to play and emerged from the locker room in a walking boot.
More to come with quotes and videos from Coach Mario Cristobal and Ducks players.