Jeremiah Masoli, Ed Dickson Power Ducks Upset over #6 Cal

Apparently, all Oregon needed to turn their sluggish offense around was just another set of new uniforms, and Uncle Phil was more than happy to oblige. The University of Oregon legend even went so far as to put a radar on Ed Dickson’s number 83 for Jeremiah Masoli. Jeremiah, you remember your teammate Ed, right? Boy, did he ever.

I guess 8,000 uniform combo's weren't enough. And hey, one more never hurt.

I guess 8,000 uniform combo's weren't enough. And hey, one more never hurt.

After forgetting that he had one of the nation’s top tight ends at his disposal during the first three games (4 receptions for 58 yards), Masoli quickly made up for lost time, looking for Dickson early and often, connecting 11 times for 148 yards and three scores, spelling a disastrous 42-3 defeat for a No. 6 California Golden Bears team that was clearly not prepared to deal with the raucous environment at Autzen Stadium.

With non-conference play leaving much to be desired from the Ducks offense, as well as several pundits questioning themselves for picking Masoli as a dark horse Heisman candidate, Oregon needed to make a statement that they were still the same high-flying offensive attack that earned them a 42-31 drubbing of Oklahoma State in last year’s Holiday Bowl. And man oh man, what a statement they made.

After a fumble on the opening kickoff (again Walter, really?) and a three and out, which brought all sorts of “here we go again” face palms from the student section, the defense stepped up and held Cal to a field goal and a punt; a major win, considering the short distance between dangerous Jahvid Best and the end zone.

The energy the defense displayed on those stops must have translated to the offense, because on Oregon’s next series, the Ducks walked on to the field with an aura of confidence, a swagger even, that they didn’t show at all during their first three games.

Looking much more comfortable in the pocket, Masoli calmly checked his reads and accurately hit Jeffrey Maehl and D.J. Davis on screen passes for back-to-back first downs.

With speedy LaMichael James and a stable of other capable backs imposing the threat of the run, the Oregon offense finally was able to move the ball at will. Although the drive ultimately ended in a tying-field goal, that was all the confidence the Ducks needed for the offense to finally get in a rhythm.

Instead of locking into a single receiver even before the snap and forcing throws to covered receivers, Masoli patiently waited in the pocket and took what the defense gave him, which was a plethora of screens, short throws over the middle on drag routes, and designed roll-outs that found the seams in Cal’s usually stingy defense. The result? 524 yards and a 42 spot on the scoreboard.

The defense, who were once again without T.J. Ward and Walter Thurmond (who was injured on the opening kick-off), did a masterful job of containing Best, thanks in part to a series of drops by Cal receivers that must have damaged quarterback Kevin Riley’s confidence in the passing game, because Riley, who was visibly flustered by most likely the loudest crowd he had ever faced, continuously missed open receivers, allowing the Ducks stack eight in the box which let Oregon hold Best to just 55 yards on 18 carries.

Masoli finished an efficient 21-25 for 253 yards and three touchdowns, James contributed his second straight 100-yard game, ending with 118 and a score, and Remene Alston, Kenjon Barner, Andre Crenshaw and Masoli combined to add over another century mark to the rushing total.

The defense added four sacks, numerous pass break-ups and allowed just 207 total yards to a Cal offense that had averaged just less than 500 yards in each of their first three contests.

With the confidence of today’s huge win and noticeable improvements in each game, Oregon finally seems to have hit their stride at just the right time, knocking off back-to-back ranked opponents for the first time in the Chip Kelly era.

In college football, when you lose is almost more important than who you lose to, and in a month, voters will look back at the Boise State game as simply an 11-point loss on the road to an undefeated Bronco squad who were playing for their season. And even though it was a horrific game, that really doesn’t sound too bad.

So with the defense looking frighteningly legitimate and the offense re-finding their high-flying form, the Ducks have the early edge on the Pac 10 and a serious chance to sneak their way back into the BCS mix.

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Pac-10 Weekend Preview: Possibility for Perfection?

There are only two teams in the Pac-10 in the AP Top 25. Pretty pathetic, considering this West Coast perennial powerhouse prides itself as talented and deserving of BCS births as the SEC and Big 12.  But after a disappointing season last year, the Pac-10 has the makings of a bounce back season, with USC and Cal as the headliners and several other teams on the cusp of contention.

This will be a scene far too familiar for Minnesota's liking tomorrow as Jahvid Best will undoubtedly hit paydirt.

This will be a scene far too familiar for Minnesota's liking tomorrow as Jahvid Best will undoubtedly hit paydirt.

With that being said, this is a big weekend for those teams trying to hang with the big boys out west, especially for the Oregon schools, each of whom host ranked opponents this Saturday. Meanwhile, Arizona and UCLA face second-tier teams from BCS conferences, where wins would go a long way in proving the overall strength of the conference.

I really like all of the matchups for the Pac-10 this weekend, and aside from the one intra-conference   game between USC and Washington, which could actually be highly entertaining (now that U-Dub has finally won a game for the first time in 16 tries – sorry, as an Duck fan I had to get in a cheap shot), I would not be surprised if the Pac-10 finishes with a perfect Saturday.

On to the games:

#8 Cal @ Minnesota – A matchup of golden animals, how cute. After barely knocking off Syracuse and Air Force, the Golden Gophers face their first true test of the season. Even with the home field advantage of their snazzy new digs, TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota doesn’t have nearly enough offensive firepower to be able to keep up with Heisman hopeful, Jahvid Best, talented redshirt freshman, Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson, and surprisingly effective quarterback Kevin Riley and the rest of the Golden Bears. The only hope for Minnesota is if Cal reverts back to 2008 form, where they went 1-4 outside of Memorial Stadium (does a win at Washington State even count?), but I think Cal is too determined to stay in the BCS hunt.

Result: Cal 38, Minnesota 24.

#17 Utah @ Oregon – I wonder if Oregon looks back at their non-conference games for this season and regrets scheduling two non-BCS teams who desperately need every win to maintain their status as BCS contenders. Playing a team with everything to lose is a dangerous proposition, especially when Oregon is still figuring out its offensive personality. Fortunately for the Ducks, I feel Oregon saw enough of an improvement from Jeremiah Masoli and emergence from LaMichael James to pull out a tough win at raucous Autzen Stadium, and return to the top 25.

Result: Oregon 45, Utah 34

#3 USC @ Washington – It looks like Steve Sarkisian has really performed a quick fix for last season’s winless Huskies (ahh, can never say that enough). All of U-Dubs hopes rest in the legs and left arm of Jake Locker (who Husky fans consider as the 13th apostle), but this season it looks like he is finally ready to live up to the hype, after an impressive performance against a top 10 foe. But all that goes out the window when USC comes to town. Taylor Mays will provide a test Locker has never seen before, and the Trojan’s stable of running backs could put the game out of reach early.

Result: USC 38, 17

Arizona @ Iowa – With all the talented running backs in the Pac-10, Arizona’s Nic Grigsby often gets overlooked. But after the quick-footed back put up a 200-spot against Northern Arizona last weekend, you can bet Kirk Ferentz has done his homework.  In the end though,  it won’t matter, as the Wildcat’s ground game will prove too much to handle for the Hawkeyes.

Result: Arizona 24, Iowa 17

SMU @ Washington State – Did I say the Pac-10 would win every inter-conference game tomorrow? Sorry, I forgot how bad the Cougars were. Maybe next year, fellas.

Result: SMU 42, Washington State 13

If only the Cougars weren't horrible, the Pac-10 would be in for a perfect weekend.

If only the Cougars weren't horrible, the Pac-10 would be in for a perfect weekend.

#17 Cincinnati @ Oregon State – Wow, can those Bearcats put up points! 117 in two games is mighty impressive, but if you dig a little deeper, those games came against Rutgers and Southeast Missouri State.  Two teams not known for their pas defenses.  The Beavers, meanwhile, have a stopped the run very well this year, which will allow them to focus more attention on the Bearcats air attack. On the offensive side of the ball, look for Sean Canfield and the dynamic Rodgers brothers to do work in front of a national audience.

Result: Oregon State 48, Cincinnati 42.

San Jose State @ Stanford – For all the potentially great storylines – the Bill Walsh connection and the fact that the campuses are located less than 20 miles a part – this is one of the more boring games of the weekend. Dick Tomey has done a nice job for the Spartans but he can’t compete with the resources and firey attitude Jim Harbaugh gives to the Cardinal. The lone superstar in this game, Toby Gerhart, will determine the outcome, which doesn’t bode well for San Jose State.

Result: Stanford 24, San Jose State 20.

Louisiana-Monroe @ Arizona State – As impressive as the Warhawks 58-0 thrashing of Texas Southern was, I don’t think it matters. In a battle of the Sun Belt against the Pac-10, it doesn’t matter who’s playing (except Washington State), you can put a W in the Pac-10’s win column.

Result: Arizona State 42, Louisiana-Monroe 17.

Kansas State @ UCLA – The Bruins really made a statement last Saturday with a big-time win in Knoxville. UCLA will build on that momentum with a win over a Kansas State program battling through a down couple of seasons. The Wildcats have a positive net 2 points after games against Massachusetts and Louisiana-Lafayette: this game could get ugly.

Result: UCLA 31, Kansas State 13.

Pac-10 Weekend Preview: Possibility for Perfection?