Cal's defense faces huge challenge this weekend vs. No. 2 Oregon
BERKELEY, Calif. — California coach Sonny Dykes sees a lot of similarities between the Golden Bears' offense and the one being run by No. 2 Oregon.
There is a striking difference between the two teams, however.
The high-scoring Ducks are backed by a defense that has allowed only three touchdowns all season, leading to a trio of blowout victories.
Cal, on the other hand, has yet to hold an opponent under 30 points this season. The Bears have been involved in three consecutive shootouts, their lone win coming against Portland State of the FCS.
That likely means the two teams are in for another high-scoring game at Autzen Stadium on Saturday night, and Bears freshman quarterback Jared Goff is openly looking forward to it.
"Every game, we go into it trying to score a lot of points," Goff said Tuesday. "We know they score a lot of points but that doesn't change what we do. We're just going to keep doing what we do every down, every possession."
Trying to keep pace with Oregon sounds a lot simpler than it actually is.
The Ducks are second in the nation in scoring, second in rushing and second in total offense.
They've also scored more than 50 points in all three of their games this season, outscoring their opponents by an average of more than 52 points, including lopsided wins against Virginia and Tennessee.
"They remind you of a basketball team in some ways because there's these huge momentum swings that take place in their games a lot of times," Dykes said. "You watch the film and it's 7-0, then all of a sudden you look up and it's 52-0. They make these runs and you have to weather the storm."
Oregon has a troika of talent in sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back De'Anthony Thomas and wide receiver Josh Huff.
The trio has combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns as the anchor of an offense that is among the most explosive in the country.
Of the 26 touchdowns scored by Oregon, 21 have come during drives that lasted fewer than two minutes. Oregon already has 26 plays of 25 yards or longer while running the frenetic-paced offense favored by former coach Chip Kelly.
"The tempo, I think, people have gotten used to," Dykes said. "What separates Oregon apart from a lot of other [teams] is their ability to answer. They have answers for the stuff that you do."
So how do the Bears plan to stop the Ducks and their 61.3 points per game?
"Believe it or not, the same way people slowed down the Four Horsemen at Notre Dame," Dykes said. "Line up correctly, open field tackle, create turnovers, play without penalties, limit big plays. Just good fundamental defensive stuff that's been trademarks of good defenses since college football started."
Cal's best defense just might be its offense.
The Bears are averaging 33 points a game primarily on the strength of Goff. One of seven freshmen Dykes plans on playing against Oregon, Goff leads the nation in passing (435.3 yards a game) and is just the second quarterback in school history to pass for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games.
Cal's defense, however, has struggled to keep up.
The Bears gave up 44 points in a season-opening loss to then-No. 22 Northwestern, then had to rally from behind to beat Portland State 37-30 the following week. Against No. 4 Ohio State, they allowed 52 points and lost by 18.
"For us, at times we've played pretty good football but we haven't played very well early in games," Dykes said. "That has to be a focus of ours. From Play 1, let's do things correctly from the beginning."