It wasn’t easy — or pretty — but No. 13 Oregon (4-1) won its fourth straight game and improved to 2-0 in Pac-12 play on Saturday with a 17-7 victory against California at Autzen Stadium.
Here are five takeaways as the Ducks head into a short week with Colorado coming to town for a game Friday.
1. Defense dominates again
Sure, the Ducks allowed their first touchdown since the opener against Auburn when Cal scored in the first quarter, but the defense locked it down for the next three quarters, giving Oregon’s offense some time to wake up.
The Ducks held the Golden Bears to 256 yards on 64 plays. In the third quarter, they limited Cal to eight yards and no first downs as Oregon scored its first points of the game to take a 10-7 lead.
The Ducks also sacked Cal quarterback Devon Modster four times and intercepted him twice.
It was just another impressive performance by the defense, which didn’t allow a touchdown to Nevada, Montana or Stanford — games Oregon won by a combined 133-15. The three straight games without giving up a TD was the best stretch by an Oregon defense since 1933.
2. Too many turnovers
In their first four games this season, the Ducks turned the ball over just two times on 270 offensive plays.
They more than doubled that total in the first half Saturday, as Oregon had turnovers on its first three possessions.
On the Ducks’ opening drive, quarterback Justin Herbert threw his first interception of the season when he was picked off at Cal’s 6-yard line.
Running back Travis Dye also gave up the ball in the Bears’ red zone when he fumbled at the 11 at the end of the first quarter. Two plays into their ensuing drive, Dye fumbled again at the Cal 38.
The first person who met Dye as he walked dejectedly to the sideline following his second turnover was his brother, senior linebacker Troy Dye, who leaned in and gave him an extended pep talk.
3. Running game gets on track
The running game looked better than it has this season, with the Ducks totaling 190 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries.
It was the most rushes in a game this season and the total yards was more than what they had against Auburn (90) and Stanford (61) combined despite 63 carries in those two games.
Sophomore starte CJ Verdell was sharp, getting 46 yards on 10 carries before leaving in the second quarter with an injury.
Dye, despite his fumbles, ran for 81 on 15 carries, Cyrus Habibi-Likio had 37 yards and a TD and even Herbert got in on the act, with 32 yards in four rushes.
4. Injuries put damper on victory
Coach Mario Cristobal said during his postgame press conference that Verdell twisted his ankle and wasn't sure how soon he’d be back. Verdell spent the second half on the sideline in sweats and with a boot on his right foot.
An injury to defensive end Gus Cumberlander was more severe.
The senior had to have his left leg immobilized on the field in the fourth quarter before being taken off on a cart.
The well-respected longtime backup who had worked his way into the starting lineup this season, had been credited with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss this year.
His backup, freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux, had two sacks Saturday.
5. Meanwhile in the Swamp …
Earlier Saturday, No. 10 Florida beat No. 7 Auburn 24-13, holding the Tigers scoreless in the second half. It’s not an insignificant development for the Ducks, whose only loss is 27-21 to Auburn. Oregon will need the Tigers to keep winning and keep impressing as the Ducks attempt to work their way back into the College Football Playoff contention.