Heading into Saturday night’s game at Memorial Stadium, the California Golden Bears made it their mission to try and shut down the vaunted Oregon Ducks running game.
Sometimes, you have to be careful of what you wish for.
Johnny “Football” Manziel from Texas A&M is not the only stud freshman quarterback this year, as Marcus Mariota of Oregon played a key part in the Ducks decimation of Cal, 59-17 on Saturday evening in Strawberry Canyon.
Mariota completed 27 passes in 34 attempts for 377 yards and six touchdowns. Josh Huff caught five passes for 109 yards and three touchdowns as the Ducks moved to 10-0 (7-0 Pac 12 North). Mariota left the game for a while in the second quarter with what appeared to be a left shoulder injury, but he did return to the game to do most of his damage after the injury. (Oregon does not disclose injury information during the game.)
Kenyon Barner struggled on the ground, rushing for only 65 yards on 20 carries as the Golden Bears made a concerted effort to stop the running game. But the emphasis on stopping the ground game left opportunities for the ducks in the passing game, and Mariota exploited the holes in the defense.
The Golden Bears (3-8, 2-6 Pac 12 North) were the team that had success running the ball. Isi Sofele carried the ball 15 times for 134 yards and a touchdown, but backup quarterback Allen Bridgford, playing because of a knee injury to Zach Maynard, was inconsistent at best, completing less than 50 percent of his passes for 113 yards and 2 interceptions.
The game was 24-10 at halftime, and the Golden Bears scored on their first possession of the second half. But then the Ducks passing game got cranked up and they went on a 35-0 run, with Mariota leading the way with precision passing.
The Ducks will probably move to number one in the BCS standings that will be released on Sunday. The Ducks also have the hardest path to stay in the top two of the standings, as they will most likely finish by playing three straight ranked opponents, starting this coming Saturday at home in Eugene versus Stanford (game time and network TBD).
The Golden Bears are have one game left in their season as they travel to Corvalis to face the Oregon State Beavers next Saturday (10:30 PM, Pac-12 Network). After that, Jeff Tedford will await his fate.