Oregon overcomes slow start to defeat California
Justin Herbert threw for 214 yards and a late touchdown to extend his streak of consecutive games with a scoring pass to 33, and No. 13 Oregon overcame an uncharacteristically slow start in a 17-7 victory over California on Saturday night.
Oregon (4-1, 1-0 Pac-12) trailed until Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in third quarter made it 10-7. Herbert’s streak of TDs appeared in jeopardy until his short pass to Jaylon Redd with 7:14 to go in the game.
The Ducks, whose only loss came in the opener against Auburn, were held scoreless in the first half by the surprisingly resilient Golden Bears (4-2, 1-2).
Junior Devon Modster made his first start for Cal in place of injured quarterback Chase Garbers. After struggling last week when Garbers got knocked out of Cal’s loss to Arizona State, Modster fared better against Oregon’s defense.
Modster threw for 190 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks, who hadn’t given up a TD since the game against the Tigers.
Herbert’s streak of games with at least one touchdown pass is the longest in the nation among active players. He was tied for seventh nationally with 14 touchdown passes this season going into the game.
Herbert threw his first interception of the season on Oregon’s opening drive. He went into the game on a streak of 174 consecutive passes without a pick.
Cal senior safety Ashtyn Davis snagged the interception. Cal’s secondary, dubbed “The Takers,” has amassed 27 career interceptions, but just three this season. The Golden Bears went on to score on the drive when Modster connected with Chris Brown on a 22-yard touchdown pass.
The Ducks got to the Cal 11 at the end of the opening quarter, but Travis Dye fumbled and Cal recovered, for Oregon’s second red-zone turnover of the game.
Cal recovered another fumble by Dye early in the second quarter, but the Golden Bears couldn’t capitalize on the turnover when Greg Thomas missed a 32-yard field goal.
After Herbert’s 27-yard pass to diving receiver Johnny Johnson III in the end zone was ruled incomplete, Camden Lewis missed on a 45-yard field goal to keep the Ducks scoreless. But Lewis made a 28-yard field goal with 7:32 left in the third quarter and Oregon was finally on the scoreboard.
Troy Dye intercepted Modster on a tipped ball in the final period. Herbert got a key first down with a 26-yard scamper but was pushed into the sideline camera stand by a late hit that moved the Ducks to the Cal 13. The drive ended with a 1-yard scoring pass from Herbert to Redd.
It was a surprisingly sloppy game for the Ducks, who were coming off an off week after a 21-6 victory at Stanford. The Ducks were known for fast starts this season, outscoring opponents 84-15 in the first halves of their four games this season. Herbert had 10 first-half touchdowns.
Oregon saw the season debut of senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler, who started. Freshman Mycah Pittman also made his first appearance of the year.
California: Cal was undefeated heading into the ASU loss game and ranked No. 15 — the team’s highest spot in the AP Top 25 since 2009. … Cal has lost six straight games at Autzen Stadium. … Thomas also missed a 46-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Oregon: The Ducks’ streak of three games without allowing a touchdown was its longest since 1933. … The Ducks were hurt in the opening half when they lost running back CJ Verdell to what appeared to be a right ankle injury. Verdell had 10 carries for 46 yards when he was hurt. … Starting defensive end Gus Cumberlander had to be carted to the locker room midway through the final period with an apparent knee injury.
MODSTER TAKES OVER
Modster, a transfer who played at UCLA, had to sit out of Cal’s first three games after committing to the Golden Bears in December. He was pressed into service during the 24-17 loss in the Sun Devils, but completed just five of 14 passes for 23 yards and an interception in the end zone. He was intercepted twice by the Ducks.
California has a week off before hosting Oregon State on Oct. 19.
Oregon hosts Colorado next Friday night.