Half of Cal's football team upset No. 1 Oregon on Saturday night. But the other half couldn't keep up.
The result was a gut-wrenching 15-13 loss to the Ducks, one that left coach Jeff Tedford and Cal's players emotionally drained.
"It's a shame. I feel sick for the kids," Tedford said. "It hurts for them more than anything."
Cal's defense put together a memorable performance, shutting down the Ducks' offense in a way no other opponent has come close to doing this season.
The Bears held Oregon 40 points under its scoring average and 250 yards below its typical production for total offense. The Ducks' previous scoring low for a game this season was 42 points.
But Cal's offense, led by inexperienced quarterback Brock Mansion making his second career start, was bottled up by Oregon. The Bears were held to a season-low 193 yards and scored just one offensive touchdown.
And Giorgio Tavecchio missed a 29-yard field goal that would have given Cal the lead in the fourth quarter.
"We wanted to have the defense's back so bad," said Cal tailback Shane Vereen, who rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown. "We wanted to be there for our defense just like they are there for us game in and game out. The fact that we were unable to put points on the board is kind of disheartening and frustrating."
Vereen had to take a moment to gather himself when asked to describe the scene in Cal's locker room after the game.
The reason is because Mansion and the Bears' passing game was a no-show and Tavecchio missed another crucial field-goal attempt. Mansion was just 10 for 28 for 69 yards, often missing several throws either high or too short.
"I just feel like I was playing a little too fast," Mansion said. "We knew they would bring pressure, so I was conscious of getting the ball out. I put a lot of it on my shoulders."
After the Bears drove 49 yards on their first possession of the game for Vereen's 1-yard scoring run, the offense -- especially the passing game -- went into hiding for the rest of the first half. But after Cal nose tackle Derrick Hill stripped Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas and recovered the ensuing fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, the Bears trailed just 15-13 with 9:11 left in the third quarter.
Then out of nowhere, the Bears put together a sustained drive, moving the ball from their own 11 to the Oregon 7 on 13 plays. They were helped out by pass-interference and face-mask penalties on the Ducks.
The offense turned it over to Tavecchio, who appeared to make a 24-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. But Tavecchio started his approach to the ball before the snap and was flagged for illegal motion. He then missed a 29-yarder wide right.
"There's no excuse for it," Tedford said. "We kick field goals every day. There's no excuse for jumping the gun like that. It's poise under pressure, and we didn't have it right there."
As it turned out, the Bears got only one more chance on offense and had to punt after registering one first down. The Ducks took over at their 20 with 9:25 remaining, and Cal's defense was finally out of stops. Oregon converted three third downs and ate up the rest of the clock, leaving the Bears to walk off the field overcome with disappointment.
"I had no doubt that we were going to win this game," Cal safety Chris Conte said. "I knew that our defense would come out and execute the game plan. We had a great week of practice. It was ripe for the upset. We all knew if we just came out here and executed, that this team was very beatable. We should have won."
Not only did the Bears silence an offense that led the nation in both scoring offense (54.7 points per game) and total offense (567.2 yards per game), but they also held the Ducks to just one offensive touchdown.
Oregon got on the board in the second quarter on Cliff Harris' 64-yard punt return, and a two-point conversion made it 8-7.
That was the score at halftime, and the Bears received the second-half kickoff, needing to establish some momentum. Instead, Vereen fumbled the ball away on the second play of the possession, and the Ducks scored on the next play when Thomas threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Maehl.
Cal held Oregon tailback LaMichael James, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, to 91 yards on 29 carries. James entered the night leading the nation in rushing (166.4 yards per game).
"Their defense came out and showed us a lot of different looks that we hadn't really seen," Thomas said. "So we had to adjust some things on the fly. But I'll give it up to their defense. They did a good job."