Oregon-Cal: How Ducks shape up for the game
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
California (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) at Oregon (3-1, 1-0), 6 p.m. Thursday, at Autzen Stadium (ESPN)
Kelly's (sort of) endorsement
• "I'd rather play early games," Oregon coach Chip Kelly says, of having a game on a Thursday. "We don't have a vote, so we don't make a big deal about it."
Long streaks, big numbers
• The Ducks take a 13-game league winning streak and an 18-game Autzen Stadium winning streak into the game.
Oregon is averaging 49.6 points in those 18 Autzen games, including 59.9 points in the past eight.
• The Ducks have beaten Cal in 10 of the past 15 matchups, including the past two. But Jeff Tedford's Bears got the best of Kelly and Co. in both 2007 (at Autzen Stadium) and 2008, and Cal played the Ducks better than anybody (other than Auburn) in losing 15-13 last year.
• Oregon will wear what it calls throwback uniforms. The Ducks sported throwbacks for the Cal game in 2009, and Oregon played a nearly flawless game, winning 42-3.
Hail to the leader
• Oregon's LaMichael James enters the game as the nation's leading rusher, by virtue of his school-record 288 yards against Arizona.
James is averaging 153.3 rushing yards per game. He has 613 yards on 65 carries (9.4 per), with seven TDs. He also has 11 receptions for 159 yards and one score. And, he's averaging 22.8 yards on five punt returns, with a score.
"He's just a talented guy," Kelly says. "He's a lot more physical than people give him credit for. He can pack a punch, and makes guys miss. ... I don't believe he's a system running back. I believe he would flourish in any system."
Scouting the Bears
• Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, a transfer from Buffalo, has thrown for 1,073 yards in four games. He is 72 of 138 passing (52 percent) with 10 TDs and three interceptions.
Keenan Allen has 30 catches for 498 yards and three scores, Marvin Jones has 28 catches for 375 yards and three scores.
Isi Sofele has rushed for 380 yards on 79 carries (4.8 per), with four touchdowns. The Cal offensive line has some veterans, including Mitchell Schwartz, brother of former Duck Geoff Schwartz.
Maynard is a more mobile quarterback than Cal QBs in the past. The two receivers are big and good, Kelly says. "They both go after the ball. They're both physical receivers," he says. "Those two receivers do have our attention."
The Bears run a 3-4 defense that features some good linebackers and secondary players, Kelly says.
What remains to be seen is how well the Bears play on the defensive line. That was a key when Cal held the Ducks to 317 yards offense and only one offensive TD last season. The Ducks, however, did make an extended drive to close out the game.
• "You've got to give them credit," Kelly says, of Cal's game narrow loss to the Ducks last season. "They did a better job of executing."
Kelly for the defense
• The Ducks are giving up 181.2 rushing yards per game, and they surrendered 398 yards passing to Arizona's Nick Foles in their previous outing.
"The biggest statistic for us is points scored against," Kelly says. "We're improving as a group on defense. We have great knowledge and understanding. We need to tackle better. I love our guys' effort, I love how much they study the game and are in tune to what they're doing."
Asked who has been impressive on defense, Kelly listed practically everyone.
"I'm happy with almost all of them," he says.
Thomas on a roll
• Oregon QB Darron Thomas has thrown a touchdown pass in 17 consecutive games. He had six TD passes against Missouri State and accounted for four touchdowns (two passing, two running) at Arizona. And, his leadership has been impressive, going beyond any rah-rah stuff.
"Darron never tries to do something that he's not," Kelly says. "I don't think I've ever seen Darron rattled, going back to when he got in the game against Boise State as a true freshman and threw three touchdowns. He didn't let the situation fluster him.
"Darron is exactly what we want. He's always on to the next play. Immediately after he throws the ball he looks to the sideline. He wants the next call."
• Oregon has given up only one sack this year, while Cal has notched 13.
• The Ducks try to establish the running game in every outing.
"I still think you need to be balanced to be a good football team," Kelly says, "and to win championships you have to run the ball."
Clay to start?
• Linebacker Michael Clay, who has missed the past two games with a leg injury, is listed as a starter on the UO depth chart.
• Kicker Alejandro Maldonado, who has played the past three games, has not been needed for a field-goal attempt. But he's 25-for-25 on extra-point kicks.
Land of Jordan
• Dion Jordan leads the UO defensive linemen with 13 tackles (six solo) and four tackles for loss.
Speaking of Stanford
• Kelly had a recent take on Stanford, UO's Nov. 12 opponent:
"I always admire teams that play hard, and that's what Stanford does," he says. "Their talent level has gone up, obviously, with Andrew (Luck) and players who surround him. They've started to come into their own as a defense. ... But it's their competitiveness, how hard they play the game."