The No.10 Ducks got a much deserved by last week after starting off conference play by pounding the Arizona Wildcats 56-31 on Sept 24.
The Ducks amassed 516 yards, 415 on the ground as the two-time defending Pac-10 champion, won its 13th consecutive conference game, blowing open a 35-3 lead then holding off an Arizona rally before pulling away again with its blinding offense.
All but the last of the Ducks’ seven touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes. Darron Thomas passed for two scores and ran for two more while LaMichael James rushed for two TDs.
Oregon has the top-ranked offense in the Pac-12 and Arizona’s defense statistically is the worst. So the results from the opening kickoff was not too surprising.
However, the Oregon defense did allow Cats’ QB Nick Foles to complete 33 of 55 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns, something they need to repair before Thurdays’s match up with Cal.
In last year’s match up, California busted out their unsportsmanlike methods to slow down Oregon, by faking injuries. That kept the game closer than it probably would have been.
The Golden Bears will have no excuses this time around, and have had the week off to prepare for what I expect to be a severe pounding at Autzen Stadium. Unlike Oregon, Cal has not been impressive in the least bit, losing to the only worthy opponent they faced and barely beating Colorado.
Meanwhile, the high flying Ducks seem to just be warming up, and a week of rest should give the team even a little more jolt to their stride.
Oregon is 32-39-2 against the Golden Bears, but is 8-1 against the Bears at Autzen Stadium since 1989. having won 18 straight games at Autzen Stadium, dating to 2008, which is the second longest streak in stadium history.
Just four games into the season, though, and the Ducks defense hasn’t performed quite like one would have expected, surrendering a lot of yards to Nevada, Missouri State, and Arizona, as the secondary looked helpless at times.
Luckily, the Ducks are up against a Cal offense that has struggled with consistency, and the path for success will be to give Cal a long field, and force the Golden Bears to consistently move the ball and gain first downs.
This year’s Golden Bears is a middle of the road team, and after Thursday’s thumping, I think they’re going to know it.
NWSB Player Recognitions
Starting running back LaMichael James was named Pac-12 player of the week on offense last week after he rushed for a school record 288 yards and broke the Oregon mark for career rushing touchdowns with two scores against Arizona.
James, who also had a 51-yard punt return, averaged 12.2 yards per carry in his second consecutive and fifth career 200-yard rushing game.
For James, the weekly honor was the third of his career, having also earned the distinction on offense following wins over Stanford in 2010 and USC in 2009.
A big question entering Thursday’s big ESPN matchup is the status of junior linebacker Michael Clay, who was tied for the Pac-12 lead in tackles through two games but has missed two straight with an ankle injury. Clay is said to be 65 or 70 percent and it is not sure whether he will play against Cal despite returning to practice on a limited basis this week.
Other Ducks who have been playing through injury are Josh Huff, John Boyett, Carson York, and Alejandro Maldonado.
Eye on Future Talent
Newest Ducks recruit tight end/defensive end Terrance Daniel from Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland caught a couple of key passed in O’Dowd’s 36-17 win over Castro Valley last Friday. Soon after the senior finished the game with six catches for 89 yards, he called Chip Kelly and pledged his loyalty to the Ducks.
Another recruit, Oshay Dunmore, one of the most dominant small school athletes in Oregon, played a role in three Newport touchdowns — including a 71-yard run to the end zone — as the Cubs rolled past Cascade, 28-12.
The future continues to look bright for Oregon football.