After last week’s loss at Arizona State, the Oregon Ducks wanted to get out to a fast start Saturday night against Cal.
Led by the play of quarterback Justin Herbert, the Ducks achieved just that. Oregon scored the first 17 points of the game — all in the first quarter — in the 45-24 victory. The Ducks improve to 4-1 on the year and 1-1 in Pac-12 play.
While the win was accomplished for the Ducks, it came at what appears to be a steep price as Herbert suffered a broken left collarbone, according to The Oregonian.
Herbert and running back Royce Freeman both left the game on the same drive in the first quarter. It appeared that Freeman also suffered a shoulder injury. After being taken to the locker room, neither returned to the game.
Even with the injuries to the offense, Oregon’s defense was more than up to the challenge.
The Ducks gave up 80 yards on 31 plays in the first half, including seven tackles for loss and four sacks. A late touchdown by Cal cut into Oregon’s lead, making the score 17-7 at the break.
Oregon added to its lead on its first drive of the second half. Backup quarterback Taylor Alie and Tony Brooks-James led the Ducks’ once-stagnant offense on a 73-yard drive for the 24-7 lead.
Cal (3-2, 0-2) responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Ross Bowers to Kanawai Noa to cut into the deficit, 24-14.
The fourth quarter began with a Golden Bears’ field goal before Oregon’s Kani Benoit, one of the backups to Freeman, scored on a 68-yard run for the 31-17 lead.
Oregon added to its lead on the next possession when it forced a Bowers fumble and recovered at Cal’s 3-yard line. Brooks-James put the game away when he scored on a five-yard run up the middle.
Benoit led Oregon with 138 yards on 18 carries and two scores. Brooks-James chipped in 76 yards and a score while Freeman ran for 51 yards on six carries before leaving the game.
The Ducks’ defense held Cal to just nine rushing yards and 262 yards of total defense. They also added seven sacks.
Adding to the injury report was wide receiver Dillon Mitchell and linebacker Kaulana Apelu, both starters who got hurt in the first half and didn’t return. Alie was injured in the second half and didn’t return. Safety Tyree Robinson was ejected in the first half for a targeting call, leaving the Ducks extremely thin on both sides of the ball. Oregon was already at a disadvantage as Charles Nelson, Jacob Breeland and AJ Hotchkins — all listed starters — did not play due to injuries.
Oregon hosts No. 16 Washington State next weekend. The Cougars are coming off an upset victory over No. 5 USC.