Missed FG Keeps Cal from Upset of No. 1 Ducks

November 14, 2010, 3:46 am
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Nov. 13,2010

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) One small step helped No. 1 Oregon avoid one big upset.Jeff Maehl caught a 29-yard touchdownpass for the Ducks' only offensive touchdown, and Oregon got a stellareffort from its defense and a huge break on a missed field goal to beatCalifornia 15-13 on Saturday night.Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio erasedhis 24-yard own field goal, which would have put the Golden Bears aheadby one early in the fourth quarter, by committing an illegal motionpenalty by taking a stutter step forward before the snap. The juniorthen missed a 29-yard try on the next play.Cliff Harris returned a punt 64 yardsfor the only touchdown in the first half for the Ducks (10-0, 7-0Pac-10), who wobbled on the road to the BCS title game but are stillheading in the right direction."It feels really good to come throughfor the offense this time," linebacker Casey Matthews said. "We didpretty good, but we should do that every week, no matter what theoffense does."Darron Thomas passed for 155 yardsand led a final drive that chewed up the last 9 12 minutes. It was astrange sight to see the high-speed Ducks down shift into super-slowmotion, but it worked to perfection. Kenjon Barner and LaMichael Jamestook turns with the ball while Thomas milked the play clock on an18-play, 65-yard drive.The Bears held the nation's mostpotent offense to a season-low 317 yards, but couldn't get the Ducks'offense off the field when they most needed a stop.Cal defensive tackle Derrick Hillforced a fumble and recovered it in the end zone for the Bears (5-5,3-4), who lost in Strawberry Canyon for the first time all season - butonly after putting a mighty scare into their first top-ranked opponentin five years.James rushed for a season-low 91yards in a tentative performance by the Heisman Trophy hopeful, butOregon's defense shut out Cal's offense for the final 55 minutes.Shane Vereen rushed for 105 yardsand scored a touchdown on Cal's opening drive. Brock Mansion went 10for 27 for 69 yards in his second career start.The Ducks had played just threescoreless quarters all season long until Cal shut them out in the firstand fourth quarters. Oregon kicker Rob Beard also missed two fieldgoals after going 8 for 8.Oregon, which hadn't won by fewerthan 11 points all season, will find out Sunday how its struggles willaffect its position in the ranking and BCS standings, where the Duckslead fellow unbeatens Auburn, TCU and Boise State.But after surviving Berkeley, justtwo hurdles remain between the Ducks and an unbeaten regular season: avisit from Arizona on Nov. 26, followed by the Civil War at OregonState.The Bears began a three-gamehomestand to close the season on a postcard-perfect afternoon atMemorial Stadium, but their future got much chillier by the fourthquarter. If Cal loses the 113th Big Game to No. 7 Stanford nextSaturday, the Bears must beat Washington in their finale to gain bowleligibility and a chance to avoid their first non-winning season incoach Jeff Tedford's nine years in Berkeley.Oregon's offensive strugglescertainly weren't for a lack of nerve: The Ducks went for it twice onfourth down on their opening drive, but turned over the ball atmidfield. After an incomplete pass, Cal handed the ball five straighttimes to Vereen, who barreled in from 1 yard out just 4 12 minutesinto the first quarter.The rest of the first half was afast-paced game of field position until midway through the secondquarter, when Harris broke down the Oregon sideline for his fourth TDpunt return of the season.Defensive end Dion Jordan took the 2-point conversion in for a score on a trick play, putting the Ducks up 8-7.Vereen fumbled at the Cal 29 on theBears' first drive of the second half, and Thomas hit Maehl in stridefor a score on the next play, finally showing off the quick-strikeoffense that has captivated college football.But Hill's tremendous play punishedthe Ducks moments later. He swatted the ball out of Thomas' hand as thequarterback drew back to pass before recovering it in the end zone,with the play upheld by video review.Cal failed on the 2-point conversionpass, but mounted another clock-chewing drive to the Oregon 7 momentslater. That led Tavecchio's crucial misstep.