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Freshman QB leads pass-happy Cal against Ducks

The Oregon Ducks are facing an uptempo, pass-happy team in California (7:30 p.m. Saturday, Autzen Stadium, Pac-12 Networks).

True freshman Jared Goff leads the offense, and getting to him appears to be part of the challenge in slowing the Bears, although he has been sacked 12 times.

"They do a good job in their scheme of getting the ball out of his hands," UO coach Mark Helfrich says.

The Bears rarely have Goff do seven-step drops or five-progressions reads. It's just take the snap and throw to the receiver.

"He's a really good player, and he's in a great system for that kind of thing," Helfrich adds. "They complete a lot of short, quick passes, whether to the tight end or on a screen play. ... They get the ball out of his hands, They're making it simple. It's the marriage of a skilled guy and he's well-coached."

Goff, 6-4, 205 pounds and from Kentfield, Calif., has completed 61.3 percent of his passes, averaging 435.3 yards with seven TDs and four interceptions. Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper have combined for 49 receptions for 641 yards and four TDs. The Bears average 117.3 yards rushing with three backs: Brendan Bigelow, Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad.

But, the true freshman QB leads the Sonny Dykes passing offense. And, Goff hasn't felt daunted by the challenge.

"It looks like a big production," he says, "but it's still 22 guys on the field.

"My job is to get the ball to playmakers and let them run. So far we've been doing all right. I feel our offense can score on anybody."

Dykes says Goff has to be more patient and not force throws.

Goff says he doesn't feel any butterflies, and he doesn't expect any before the game.

"It's a regular game," he says. "We're playing in front of a bunch of crazy people."

Cal has done "a great job of managing things for (Goff)," Helfrich says.

"Obviously, they've done a great job of moving the ball, period," the UO coach adds. "They run the ball better than people give them credit for. Bigelow is a home run-type of back, an incredible runner with top-end speed. ... We have to play team defense, put pressure on with three, four, five guys. The crowd will contribute a great part in that; it'll be (Goff's) first road game, so you want him to be as uncomfortable as possible."

• Predictably, Dykes, a former offensive coordinator at Arizona, had high praise for the Ducks.

It's very difficult to simulate slowing down the Ducks — literally slowing the offensive pace and scoring.

"You can't do that," Dykes says. "That's why Oregon has a lot of success. They put up big numbers against just about everybody. It takes a special effort from a special team to beat them."

The passing game gives Cal the best chance to win. The UO secondary, a strength of the team that helped Oregon lead the country in turnovers generated in 2012, plays aggressively because "they know they're going to score points," Dykes says. "If they give up a big play, it's something they can deal with."

He warns that Goff will have a smaller window to try to complete passes.

By the way, offense hasn't been the problem at Cal. It's defense, as the Bears give up 556.3 yards per game, including 262 on the ground.

• Helfrich was asked Tuesday about Oregon's prolific offense and statistics. His answer:

"I don't think I could literally tell you a statistic we have. I don't know if I can tell you we've done this many things for this many yards. it just so happens (numbers are) that type of byproduct."

However, he did recognize the fact that Oregon has zero turnovers. He told a reporter that reminding him about zero turnovers is akin to talking to Randy Johnston during an 0-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning — one strike from a perfect game.

Sounding a lot like former UO coach Mike Bellotti, Helfrich says turnover-margin is the No. 1 stat in football, and scoring after generating turnovers is important.

• In three games, QB Marcus Mariota has completed 49 of 82 passes for 889 yards and seven TDs, and rushed 15 times for 262 yards (17.5 yards/carry) and four scores.

• Colt Lyerla, who missed the Tennessee game, purportedly because of sickness, remains atop the tight end depth chart, ahead of Johnny Mundt.

• Helfrich, who answered "circumstances" three times when asked about Lyerla, says the Ducks don't divulge injury (or, apparently, sickness) information because of privacy, player protection from an opponent targeting him, mind-set and competitive edge. He says that if a team knows about a player's right knee injury, for example, that team will "attack" the right knee. So, apparently, the Ducks expect other teams to take cheap shots.

• Oregon has won four games in a row against Cal.

• Twenty-one of UO's 25 touchdown drives have lasted less than two minutes. The Ducks rank last (125th) in FBS in time of possession (22:18) per game, 1:17 less than the next closest team (San Jose State, 22:34).