BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — After more than 200 plays, 101 points and 1,086 yards of offense, it was California’s defense that stepped up at the end to seal another thrilling game for the Golden Bears.
Matt Anderson kicked a 28-yard field goal in the second overtime and Jordan Kunaszyk ended the game with an interception on the FBS-record 203rd play, giving California a 52-49 victory over Oregon on Friday night.
“It’s crazy,” Kunaszyk said. “I just remember going into OT, I was like, ‘Man, another one of these games.’ Every one of our games is close. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
This was the sixth straight game for Cal that went down to the closing minutes, including an overtime loss at Oregon State two weeks ago and a home win against Utah the previous week when Cal’s defense came up with a late goal-line stand.
Five of those six games featured both teams scoring at least 40 points but the defense delivered when it mattered most.
“Our defense’s back was against the wall, just like it was against Utah,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “Jordan made a big time break on the ball. You could kind of see it developing. He threw it a tad bit late.”
Davis Webb threw five touchdown passes and ran for a sixth to lead the way for the Golden Bears (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12), who snapped a seven-game losing streak to Oregon.
Freshman Justin Herbert threw six touchdown passes and rallied Oregon back from a 20-point deficit in the third quarter but it wasn’t enough for the Ducks (2-5, 0-4), who lost their fifth straight game for their longest skid since 1996.
“I feel awful that we couldn’t get it done for them, of how they’ve stuck together and weathered through a lot, they’ve had a lot of opportunities to splinter and they haven’t,” coach Mark Helfrich said.
The one positive for the Ducks was the play of the freshman Herbert, who threw for 258 yards, including a 20-yard TD to Jalen Brown in the first overtime, in his second career start.
“He’s obviously very hard on himself with how the end occurred but we should’ve really never been in that situation,” Helfrich said. “I’d do the exact same thing at the end, and trust him to make the play.”
Oregon: Just 21 months since playing for a national championship, the Ducks find themselves at the bottom of the Pac-12. The collapse has been complete. The defense got torched once again, leaving receivers unguarded for touchdowns and allowing scores on six straight possessions. The offense punted on its first four drives against a Cal defense that ranks near the bottom in all statistical categories. The Ducks were also undisciplined, committing 14 penalties for 134 yards, including personal fouls on back-to-back plays in the first half.
California: Dykes had lost all 12 games to Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA as Cal coach before this breakthrough win. But the Ducks aren’t the same team they were just a few years ago, taking some of the luster off of it. The Bears were sloppy as well, committing 14 penalties and struggling on defense but pulled out the win behind Webb’s strong play and a stellar running game. Tre Watson ran for 154 yards and Khalfani Muhammad had 148.
PLEAD THE FOURTH
Dykes had little hesitation going for it on fourth down against the Ducks’ porous defense, converting four straight tries — including two in his own territory — before getting stopped on a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter. The Bears are 15-for-17 on fourth down this season.
Tony Brooks-James ran for 109 yards on 15 carries for the Ducks, while starter Royce Freeman was held to 10 yards on 15 carries. Freeman said he was healthy after sitting out the second half against Washington two weeks ago with an injury.
Oregon: The Ducks host Arizona State next Saturday.
California: The Bears have another weeknight game when they travel to USC next Thursday, a fact that drew the ire of Dykes.
“I think everyone in the locker room was tired,” he said. “I know I certainly am. We’ll be back at it tomorrow. We have a game in six days, which is crazy, absolutely nuts.”
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org