It was a bittersweet night for Oregon’s defensive line.
True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux had the breakout game he’s been waiting for with two sacks and a forced fumble.
The celebration was somewhat muted after starting defensive end Gus Cumberlander was carted off the field with a “significant” leg injury with 6:50 remaining in the Ducks’ 17-7 win over California on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
“It was bitter,” Thibodeaux said. “No sweetness in it.”
Through his first four games at Oregon, the five-star prospect had only been credited with a half sack until harassing Cal’s Devon Modster as part of another impressive performance by Andy Avalos’ defense.
Now Thibodeaux will likely be in the starting lineup as Cumberlander’s replacement.
“I’m excited to just contribute and really help the team,” Thibodeaux said. “When my name got called I was able to come up with a play, and I just thank God for it.”
Senior linebacker Troy Dye and safety Jevon Holland each had an interceptions as Oregon held its fourth consecutive opponent to single digits.
Isaac Slade-Matautia led the team with seven tackles, including 1.5 for loss, with a sack and two quarterback hurries.
“He doesn’t say much but he gets it done,” Thibodeaux said of Slade-Matautia. “He’s a true dog, a true fighter, a true leader, and he just does it. He goes out there and leads by example.”
Three wide receivers eturn
Brenden Schooler, Mycah Pittman and Juwan Johnson all made their season debuts after missing the first four games due to injuries.
Schooler had one reception for 21 yards, and Pittman showed flashes of why he was the toast of fall camp with four catches for 43 yards.
“If he could, he’d put another hour on the clock and keep playing. That’s the type of guy he is. Really happy for him,” Cristobal said of Pittman. “Schooler looked great. He practiced this week for the first time.”
Cristobal said Johnson received “late clearance” from the medical staff. The 6-foot-4 Penn State graduate transfer was not targeted by Justin Herbert.
Kicking game looking upright
Camden Lewis made Oregon’s first field goal of the season, a 28-yard try with 7:32 remaining in the third quarter.
The true freshman had missed his first three attempts, including a 45-yard try in the second quarter.
Blake Maimone continued his solid season, averaging 41.2 yards per punt. Cal only returned one of the punts for three yards.
Holland also had a 24-yard punt return to set up Lewis’ field goal.
• Oregon is 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 after beating Cal for the 10th time in the last 11 meetings and the sixth consecutive time at Autzen.
• Herbert’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd in the fourth quarter extended his streak to 33 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest active streak in the nation.
• Tight end Jacob Breeland continued to produce in the passing game with a team-high five receptions for 87 yards. The senior has 19 receptions for 326 yards in the last four games.
• NFL scouts from the Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns attended Saturday’s game.
• Oregon women’s basketball stars Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard introduced the Ducks’ starting lineups. The returning players received their Final Four rings during a timeout in the second quarter.
“I like looking at snapshots in time. I look at us a couple years ago, what that would have meant to our team and how deflating that would have been,” Cristobal said of overcoming the 7-0 deficit, three turnovers and some costly penalties. “And I look at us now and the rallying that goes on around it. I get ridiculously fired up about it because I feel it’s coming from the inside.
“It’s hard to stop a team that’s motivated from the inside out.”