Oregon football fans will be interested Saturday to see if the Ducks did their homework during bye week practices.
Several elements need attention, including field goal kicking, for example. Oregon’s kicker is 0-for-2 with one miss courtesy of his own lineman’s leg deflecting the center snap. Coach Mario Cristobal has passed up numerous opportunities for reps in nonconference blowouts so keep your fingers crossed.
Pass protection for Justin Herbert also needs to improve. In the win over Stanford, the front allowed four sacks, several hurries and two fumbles by Herbert, who recaptured the ball. Watch the linemen protecting Herbert, particularly on passes that involve stunts with defensive linemen slanting and looping to confuse the blockers as Stanford did.
Check the third-down conversion rate for the Ducks as well as the goal is for 50% and is currently a mediocre 39%. There is excitement about two touted wide receivers, Brenden Schooler and Mycah Pittman coming off injuries that have prevented them from playing this season. In their absence, Johnny Johnson III, Jalen Redd and Bryan Addison have helped make Herbert the most efficient passer in the Pac-12.
When the Ducks are on offense, watch the middle linebacker for the Bears, Evan Weaver, a tackling machine who stands out in every game. He will be on point as a barrier to Oregon’s effort to establish and sustain the running game Cristobal has talked about all season.
Cal’s starting quarterback is out with an injury so UCLA transfer Devon Modster will start for the Bears. Modster had some success with the Bruins before deciding to transfer to a junior college and join another program. As a backup, Modster has not had the repetitions you need for your starting QB, so look for defensive coordinator Andy Avalos to press the Bears into passing situations so he can utilize his improving pass rush that already has 15 sacks this season.
Oregon’s own Justin Wilcox is the head man at Cal and he is a defensive-oriented coach. Expect the Bears to play hard-nosed football and give the Ducks all they can handle. Where Cal is most dangerous is their tough runners, Christopher Brown and Marcel Dancy, who combined average 121 rushing yards per game.
As the Ducks can’t be described as explosive right now, Wilcox will not want to get in a scoring contest with a backup quarterback on the road. Modster, Weaver and the two running backs hold the Bears’ destiny in their paws.
Former Oregon player Ken Woody coached college football for 18 years. He conducts a weekly coach's corner from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the 6th Street Grill.