All the pieces appear to be in place for No. 6 Cal to have a strong defensive performance Saturday against Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
For one, defensive coordinator Bob Gregory appears to have a knack for stopping the Ducks' spread option. The Bears have held Oregon well below its season averages in recent years, and Cal has eight returning starters from last season when the Ducks were silenced in a 26-16 victory at Memorial Stadium.
Oregon also may not have the potent offense it once had. The Ducks have led the Pac-10 in total offense for three straight years but are dead last so far this season (273.3 ypg). Oregon ranks 6th in scoring offense this season (25.7 ppg) after leading the Pac-10 in each of the past two years.
"It always gives you confidence anytime you play well against a really good team and against a different kind of offense," Gregory said. "They're still good, and they're still different."
The Ducks averaged 38.2 points per game in 2007 but lost 31-24 against Cal, as the Bears forced Oregon into four turnovers. In last year's rain-soaked game at Memorial Stadium, the Ducks gained just 290 yards and scored 16 points, well below their final season averages of 484.8 and 41.9.
Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is a threat to run, but that might be the biggest weapon in his game right now. He's completing just 45.3 percent of his passes and ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (88.8).
The Ducks also are playing without running back LeGarrette Blount, who was suspended for the season after throwing a punch following their season-opening loss to Boise State.
Blount's replacement, LaMichael James, rushed for 152 yards last week against Utah.
"Nothing against Blount — he's a good player — but I think this guy is faster," Gregory said. "To me, speed is always harder to defend."
It was Ezeff's jarring hit on Oregon wide receiver Cameron Colvin that forced a fumble that resulted in a touchback with 22 seconds left, preventing the Ducks from scoring a game-tying touchdown.
"I still hear about it to this day," Ezeff said. "It was a great play to make, but at the same time I am just a quiet dude who just likes to stay humble and hungry. I'm focused on going there and making more plays."
Riley, a Portland native, started Cal's 34-21 loss at Oregon State last season, but he was just a part-time starter throughout the year. He said he will have about 60 friends and family members on hand Saturday.
Riley actually got into the 2007 game at Oregon long enough to hand off twice to tailback Justin Forsett after starter Nate Longshore limped off with an ankle injury.
"I just remember yelling in the huddle and being a little nervous," Riley said. "If I threw it deep, it probably would have gone 70 yards. We should have opened it up."