Quarterback Anthony Brown shut out the noise to lead Oregon to a fourth-quarter comeback, then let the defense seal a victory over California.
Brown scored on an 11-yard keeper with 4:50 left and the ninth-ranked Ducks held off surprisingly tenacious Cal 24-17 on Friday night.
The Golden Bears took a 17-10 lead early in the final quarter, but Brown answered with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd to tie it. The Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) pulled in front on Brown’s scamper into the end zone.
Cal threatened on the ensuing possession. The Golden Bears got to the Oregon 3 after Chase Garbers’ fourth-down pass to Kekoa Crawford preserved the drive, but his fourth-and-2 attempt with just 2 seconds left fell incomplete.
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Oregon was coming off a bye following an overtime loss at Stanford. The rebound win was the Ducks’ 16th straight victory at Autzen Stadium.
Travis Dye ran for 145 yards and a score as Oregon leaned on him in the absence of CJ Verdell, who was injured against Stanford and is out for the season.
Brown threw for 244 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 44 yards and another score. But he faced boos from the Autzen crowd earlier in the game as Oregon’s offense sputtered.
“He’s a great leader, he’s willing to step up in those big moments and he’s not afraid to shy away from those moments. He shows that time and time again,” said offensive lineman Ryan Walk. “We saw that tonight, when the going was getting tough there he stepped up, grabbed the offense, he said, `We’re going to get this thing right, let’s get it going.'”
California (1-5, 0-3) has not defeated an FBS opponent this season — the team’s lone win came against Sacramento State.
Garbers, who went into the game leading the league in total offense (281.2 yards per game) and ranked third in passing yards (249 per game), threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
Cal, also coming off a bye, defeated Oregon last season in Berkeley, 21-17, with Garbers accounting for a pair of touchdowns, one via pass and the other on a keeper.
“It’s very frustrating, extremely frustrating, so there’s no other adjectives to use, it’s very frustrating,” Cal coach Justin Wilcox said.
Verdell, who led Oregon with 406 yards rushing and six touchdowns, injured his left leg during the Ducks’ 31-24 overtime loss to Stanford. Bennett Williams, who had three interceptions this season, broke his leg in practice before the game and was also out for the season.
Camden Lewis’ 49-yard field goal gave the Ducks the early lead, but Garbers answered with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jake Tonges.
Oregon looked out of sorts at times on offense. The Ducks were driving late in the second quarter before Kris Hutson fumbled on the Cal 11 and the Golden Bears recovered.
Oregon went up 10-7 on Dye’s 11-yard touchdown run and took the lead into halftime. Cal tied it in the third quarter on Dario Longhetto’s 45-yard field goal.
Garbers found Gavin Reinwald with a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Golden Bears a 17-10 lead.
“We went down and scored there late in the game. And then came back and they got a big kick return on us and then went right down and scored and tied it up,” Wilcox said. “So the momentum seemed to shift a little bit. I thought the guys stayed with it and kept competing really in every phase, and that gave us a chance to win the game in the end, but unfortunately we didn’t quite get it done.”
California: Wide receiver Nikko Remigio and offensive lineman Will Craig were back from injuries this week. … Garbers has 43 career touchdown passes, tying him for eighth all-time at Cal with Aaron Rodgers.
Oregon: Oregon was without its marching band for the game because of a coronavirus outbreak among members. The university said 14 members tested positive. … The Ducks saw the return of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who missed the game against Stanford because of illness. … Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux played the second half after sitting out the first because of a targeting penalty at Stanford.
COUNTING ON TRAVIS
Cristobal was pleased with the way Dye stepped up in Verdell’s absence.
“His style of play his energy, his leadership, which is really stood out all week long, made a tremendous impact. He was our guy that spoke to the team before the game as well, and his message was strong, and from the heart, and I think it really carried through and showed up in the fourth quarter,” Cristobal said.
Cal hosts Colorado next Saturday.
Oregon visits UCLA at the Rose Bowl next Saturday.