A ho-hum victory over Cal still gets the Ducks where they need to be
There's plenty to work on, which in 2022 means Oregon still won by 3 scores.
BERKELEY, Calif. — The thing about monumental wins is that underwhelming outcomes tend to follow close in tow.
After a win over UCLA prompted a nation-wide swooning for the Ducks, it looked like such could be the case at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday — a feeling that hung in the air stagnant above the late-arriving crowd.
The game started with the Ducks’ worst quarter since their trip to the Palouse in late September. Yet in the end, Saturday was another a record-breaking offensive masterclass. Such is life for one of the best teams in college football, where even a ho-hum showing resulted in a commanding 42-24 win, more votes in the Heisman bucket for quarterback Bo Nix and quotes like this:
“We haven't seen our best yet,” coach Dan Lanning said. “I was hoping that this would be a game that we can walk away seeing our best and we haven't seen it yet. I'm excited to see where we can go, but we have to tap into that and it's a choice that we have to make.”
Lanning’s postgame comments were delivered from a tight, dingy room tucked below the stadium’s concourse. A temporary setup had been fashioned, the group of stationary workout bikes pushed off to one side. He was brief. And like so many of the elite coaches this sport has seen, spoke more intently on the “didn’ts” than the “dids.”
“I don’t want people to come away and think I’m not excited about a win,” he said. “I’m glad we won the game.”
If he didn’t before, Lanning’s starting to fully realize this team’s possibilities and it's evident in the way he’s broaching expectations. No. 8 Oregon is 7-1 and has scored 40 or more points in seven consecutive weeks. The Ducks are the only undefeated Pac-12 program through conference play and there’s reason to believe they could finish the season as such.
They aren’t righting the ship from that fateful Saturday in Atlanta anymore. They’ve put wings on the damn thing and want to see how far it’ll take them.
If we haven’t seen Oregon’s best yet, when’s it coming? And what will it look like?
Because, for as putrid as that first quarter against Cal looked, and felt — the drops, the false starts, the hesitancy on offense — it took Oregon just 15 minutes to not only wipe the crust from its eyes, but to swiftly outrun the adversity that its inconsistent start had opened the door for.
Lanning’s Ducks used a 21-point second quarter, their deadliest since they scored 28 in the fourth quarter against Washington State, to eviscerate all doubt. Then, maximizing an opportunity much like they’ve done all season, they opened the second half with a touchdown and slammed the door shut.
“I think it's hard to stop our team right now when we're consistent and operating at a high level, regardless of really who the opponent is,” Lanning said. “And again, we didn't get stopped, it was really more so us stopping ourselves.”
Oregon had three trips within Cal’s 14-yard line that resulted in a combined zero points. The Ducks still hung 42 points and racked up the most yards the Bears have allowed in six seasons under coach Justin Wilcox (588).
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