BERKELEY, Calif. — During Justin Herbert’s first road start at Oregon here two years ago, the true freshman tied the program’s single-game record for touchdown passes with six.
And the Ducks still lost.
Brady Hoke’s defense did not force any turnovers and allowed 636 yards during the 52-49, double-overtime defeat en route to a 4-8 finish.
Oregon’s star quarterback had significantly more help from Jim Leavitt’s defense during Saturday’s 42-24 victory over California at Memorial Stadium.
The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) forced five turnovers and scored two touchdowns as the program ended a five-game losing streak in Pac-12 road games.
“In real critical moments, the defense stood up and did a great job,” coach Mario Cristobal said.
True freshman Jevon Holland and senior Ugo Amadi had two interceptions each against the Bears. Both safeties have three interceptions through five games, which puts them in a tie for second in the FBS.
Oregon is tied for fourth with eight interceptions this season. The secondary was in a celebratory mood a week after allowing touchdown passes in regulation in overtime during the loss to Stanford.
“The mindset was to redeem ourselves,” said Amadi, whose 32-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the win with 3:02 remaining. “We were eager to get back on the field. We wanted to give the world what they needed to see and that was playing Oregon football.”
Cal was driving with a chance to gain some momentum before halftime when backup defensive end Drayton Carlberg forced a fumble that outside linebacker La’Mar Winston scooped off the turf and returned for a 61-yard touchdown to extend the Ducks lead to 28-10.
“I didn’t expect in my wildest imagination something like that,” Winston said. “I’m going to have to take Drayton to dinner all next week.”
Carlberg, who came up with a fourth-down stop against Stanford, had 1.5 sacks against Cal. Starting defensive end Austin Faoliu did not make the trip due to an ankle injury.
“Carlberg for two consecutive weeks has really shown that he's going to be a tremendous factor for us going forward,” Cristobal said. “Really proud of him and fired up to have him, especially in a situation like this where Austin was not with us.”
Troy Dye led the team with 11 tackles, including a tackle for loss on Cal quarterback Brandon McIlwain on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
“It was surreal, getting the (win) on the road," Dye said. "We came out here and we handled business."
Cal did rush for 241 yards, including 123 and a touchdown by McIlwain and 92 yards and a touchdown for running back Patrick Laird.
Oregon, which had a balanced offensive attack with Herbert passing for 225 yards and Travis Dye and CJ Verdell each rushing for over 100 yards, allowed the Bears only 186 passing yards and one touchdown with four interceptions that led to 14 points.
“Well. Frustrated at a couple drives in the 2nd half. But I am so Proud of the effort,” Leavitt tweeted. “Offense was so good and 5 takeaways on defense. 2 for scores! Have a big one coming up!”
Oregon, which moved up one spot to No. 18 in this week’s Associated Press poll, will have a bye week before hosting No. 10 Washington on Oct. 13 at Autzen Stadium.