“I told you long ago, on the road.”
As Cal Band raised their instruments up high in an attempt to reinstate hope, anticipation and excitement back to Memorial Stadium — the sad truth stood, undeniable: at the beginning of Cal’s home matchup against Oregon, there were as many Ducks fans in attendance as there were Bears fans. The stadium roared for mistakes and triumphs by both sidelines — a reflection of the dwindling amount of faith Cal fans have in their team following back-to-back losses the Bears had against Colorado and Washington.
After being plagued by slow, often disastrous first half starts earlier in the season, Cal knew that someone needed to step up early offensively if they wanted to put up a fight against the No. 8 ranked Ducks. Quarterback Jack Plummer needed to protect the ball, the offensive line needed to establish a steady run game and the defense had to make strong, statement stops.
“Baby how you feelin’? Feeling good as hell.”
The first two quarters went as well as the Bears could have hoped for. Though Plummer’s second pass of the game was an interception by defensive back Bryan Addison, the Ducks were unable to capitalize and punted the ball back right back after going three and out. The Bears returned the favor after failing to convert on a 3rd and 3 on their own 22 yard line.
The first quarter was largely defined by this back and forth between both teams: defensive stops, turnover on downs – at the end of the first quarter, the score stood at 3-0 Cal.
The run game for the Bears in the first half was abysmal, with Jaydn Ott, DeCarlos Brooks, and Plummer combining for a total of 8 yards. But where the run stalled, Plummer attempted to drive the ball forward, albeit with another interception.
Nevertheless, it was clear that Plummer was trying to take better care of the ball, relying on his second, third looks instead of forcing throws into tight spaces.
Though the first half scoreboard read 21-10 Oregon, Cal was still very much in the game.
“Somebody come get this man.”
Despite Cal’s strong start, the second half was a testament to Oregon’s offensive strength and defensive toughness. As the Ducks moved down the field with ease thanks to the elusiveness of their players on the run, the scoreboard shifted from 21-10 to 28-10 to 35-10 to 42-24. The Bears did not score in the third quarter.
Cal’s Game MVP
Despite only playing for a single quarter, second string quarterback Kai Millner brought hope to a near-empty stadium littered largely with Oregon green.
For just the third time in his career, Millner came off the bench to step in as quarterback for Cal’s first possession of the fourth quarter. In his first drive of the game, Millner threw 5 of 8 for 39 yards and his first career touchdown, giving the Bears their first points in the second half. Millner’s quarter of play ended with 8 completions for 114 yards and two touchdowns, compared to Plummer’s 214 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions.
This is Cal’s fourth consecutive loss – a startling truth to contrast the elation, anticipation and optimism Bears fans had after the season opener against UC Davis. While the offense struggles to provide pass protection and drive the ball down the field, the defense continues to leave receivers wide open and miss open field tackles, giving up easy first downs. The Bears’ 24-42 defeat against the Ducks is tied for their largest loss margin this season. They previously lost 9-28 to Washington State earlier. One can only hope that when the Bears travel to Los Angeles to face the No. 10 ranked USC Trojans next Saturday, the score differential will not be as large.