Looking back on 2006: The Oregon game

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with Oregon.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State, Arizona State and Oregon State.)

The storyline:
Undefeated and 11th ranked Oregon came into Berkeley in what would be the first real test for a quickly rising in the polls 16th ranked Cal team.  Cal took control from the opening kickoff beating Oregon in all 3 phases of the game, with the offense leading the way, to win by a lopsided 45-24 in a game that was effectively over by halftime.

The reality:
Cal really did dominate this game from beginning to end.  In many ways it was really the defense that led the way.  In the first half Cal started drives in Oregon territory 3 times, giving the offense an easy scoring opportunity.  Add to that the multiple 3 and outs that the Cal defense forced on the Ducks and there is a stronger case for the defense being the story of the day instead of the offense.  Perhaps not stated in the storyline was the mistakes that Oregon made.  From the 4 turnovers, the first an interception on the first play from scrimmage to the frequently dropped passes, Oregon shot their selves in the foot numerous times.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was that Forsett, who took over for Lynch after he was injured in the 2nd quarter, ran for 163 yards and 1 TD in what was really his only game where he took the lead RB spot.  Also forgotten is that the offense put the game out of the reach of a miracle Oregon comeback, something the Ducks are known for, with three grind it out drives that spanned the mid-3rd quarter to the end of the  game.  The first two went for touchdowns and the third likely would have had the clock not expired.  Finally for the forgotten list, Cal went for it on 3 different times on 4th and 1, making it all three times.

The 2006 learnings:
Traditionally Cal had struggled on defense against spread teams.  This was the first game where the defense figured it out and it was a very hopeful sign that Cal would be successful against the upcoming spread or spread-like opponents.  Also re-enforced was just how good Cal’s deep passing threat was.  Since this was the last of the 5 consecutive 40+ point games for Cal, one gets the feeling that defensive coordinators finally got the message after this game to protect against the speed for Jackson, Jordon and Hawkins.

The 2007 learnings:
The big learning for 2007 is that it looks hopeful that Forsett has both the durability and strength to be Cal’s primary running back.  He seems, more so than Lynch, to wear down defenses.  Clearly he doesn’t do it with size and a bruising running style but perhaps his speed wears on the defense because there is no question that when he has gotten extended running opportunities, he gets better as the game wears on.  As for Oregon specifically, they’ve replaced their offensive coordinator in 2007 so it is hard to judge if Cal’s defense will have Oregon figured out come the October match up in Eugene.  I can say this with confidence: If Oregon brings the same offensive strategy in ’06, they’ll lose in ’07.  Even with the miscues and mistakes, the Bears were very effective at containing the spread passing game while shutting down the running game both of the running back and of Dixon.  On the other side of the coin, the number of mistakes for Oregon in ’06 suggests that they’re capable of giving Cal a much better game in ’07.

The Conclusion:
What impressed me about this game when watching it was just how early in the game Oregon looked frustrated and overwhelmed.  They were not ready for the speed of Cal nor the hard-hitting defense, nor the crowd noise.  They got demoralized early.  This game was a turning point for the Oregon team.  Coming into the game they were undefeated.  After the game they went 3-5.  Did Cal just expose them for the team they were or was this defeat so demoralizing they couldn’t recover?  It’s hard to know for sure, but what is clear is that Cal took it to Oregon and left no doubt not only who was the better team but that Cal was in a different class in ’06.

5 Responses to “Looking back on 2006: The Oregon game”

  1. Danny Says:

    The best moment of the game was DeSean running that stop and go for a touchdown. The Ducks DB was lined up at least 12 yards off him, bit on the stop (but was still 8 yards away) and DeSean still blew past him. He got burned so badly, he tried to grab DeSean by the shoulders but that failed also.

    Probably not forgotten since there are multiple YouTube videos of it.

  2. Ken Crawford Says:

    Yeah Danny, that was an awesome moment. Just faked the DB right out of his uniform.

    It’s funny how when I create a format for something I always come to regret something about it later. My categories don’t have a good spot for single play stuff. Since I’m such a stickler for process, I won’t change now but for next year I’ll have to add something like “The highlights”, “The lowlights” and “The key plays”.

    While on the subject of great plays, DeSean’s punt returns in both the Oregon and the ASU game were things of beauty (as well as the yet to be reviewed UCLA game). The ASU return was all about finding a sliver thin seam and exposing it. The Oregon return was all about getting Oregon to over commit to one side of the field by running one way and then cutting back. Although I haven’t reviewed the game, he did an even better job of the same thing in his UCLA runback.

  3. 07 Says:

    Ken, you forget that desean had huge help from the MONSTER hit laid out by decoud.

    you can also find that on youtube.

  4. Ken Crawford Says:

    Oh, I didn’t forget 07 (referring to the monster hit by DeCoud that sprung DeSean in the UCLA game). That was HUGE. That hit was incredible and it was exactly what sprung DeSean around the corner. In fact, I had the privilege of interviewing DeCoud after that game. It was interesting to see the pride he had in laying out a hit so hard that it knocked himself out. It was an odd mixture of hubris and humility. Did you know that DeCoud didn’t know it was a TD for a few minutes after he came to?

    In any case, you’re right, that hit was huge.

    But it doesn’t change that DeSean got the UCLA defenders to commit to the left side of the field by initially starting left, just for a second, which allowed the Cal defenders, who were setting up for a right return, to get in position to spring him around the corner. As hard as DeCoud’s hit was, part of the reason he was in the position to make that hit was because DeSean had fooled the defenders into getting out of position.

  5. 07 Says:

    Thanks for the reply Ken.

    I remember watching that game (at memorial) and just staring at the damage done by decoud to himself and the ucla dude. I remember the huge sound it made (from the student section), and was so excited for the hit that even though desean was sprinting down towards the endzone, I couldn’t help look back at the bodies lying there on the field more than a couple times DURING the return.

    Last season was really a season of huge highs and huge lows. I’ve never seen so many exciting Cal games/plays/moments like last year, but dang, I remember the real crappy feeling after the losses as well.

    Not to overanalyze this oregon game, but just wanted to mention how electrifying the stadium was that night and how the crowd was really committed in making it real home game for the bears.

    As a side note, ncaa 08 is out to feed the hunger for a few more months.