Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Register-Guard: Lights, rain, noise ... frogs?: Cal comes prepared for anything at Autzen

By Rob Moseley

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2007


First darkness overcame the sideline, then a torrential rain drenched overtime.

At this point, Jeff Tedford is probably preparing for a plague of frogs when his No. 6 California Golden Bears play No. 11 Oregon in Autzen Stadium on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

It's been 20 years since Cal last won at Autzen Stadium, a 20-6 decision back in 1987. The Ducks have won seven straight over the Bears at home since, including the last two in which Tedford, the former UO offensive coordinator, was the Cal head coach.

Odd circumstances have colored each of Cal's last two visits to Autzen Stadium, including one of the strangest moments in the 40-year-old venue's history.

Early in the fourth quarter, with Cal ahead 10-7, the game was delayed for 23 minutes when a bank of lights on the stadium's south side went dark. The Bears scored shortly after play resumed to go ahead by 10 points, but the Ducks got a 31-yard touchdown catch-wrestle-and-run by tight end Tim Day to get within three, then drove to the winning score with less than a minute left.

Quarterback Kellen Clemens was a sophomore when he engineered that comeback. Two years later, when the Bears returned to Autzen, he was on the sideline after suffering a career-ending ankle injury at Arizona in the previous game.

That Cal game was Dennis Dixon's first career start, but by the time the game went into overtime, Brady Leaf was under center, and a downpour was drenching the stadium. The rain may have factored into a missed 53-yard field goal attempt by the Bears to end regulation, a kick that for a few moments looked good.

In overtime, the Ducks converted two third downs, the second a touchdown pass from Leaf to James Finley. The Bears got a two-yard run to start their possession, followed by three straight incompletions, the last one just overthrown to a wide-open tight end. Tedford and the Bears walked off the field losers once again, and wet ones at that.

Regardless of the outcome this week, Tedford is at least expecting more manageable playing conditions.

"Yeah, I heard it's going to be in the 70s and sunny this week, but it's still a tough place to play," Tedford said. "It was kind of freaky that the lights went out when they did. And then any time you play there in November, you're always going to run the risk of inclement conditons.

"This time it should be nice. But it still doesn't make it any easier to play there."

That stems from all the noise generated by the crowd, a particularly significant factor this week in that this will be Cal quarterback Nate Longshore's first trip to Autzen.

"It's never easy to deal with an environment where you can't hear anything," Tedford said. "So we're going to be really challenged for that. It's very difficult to win at Autzen Stadium. It's just so loud and difficult to communicate there."

Fewer penalties makes

offense more efficient

The Ducks continued to prove themselves a more mature group this past Saturday, from the way Cameron Colvin stepped in for injured Brian Paysinger, to the way the team reacted to a halftime deficit, to their continued ability to limit penalties.

Key to the 34-point rally against Stanford was that the Ducks weren't penalized once in the second half (although one holding call was declined).

That after Oregon's offense didn't commit a penalty in the opener against Houston.

For the season, the Ducks have been flagged 24 times for 230 yards.

Should they qualify for a bowl and play 13 games, their current pace would put them at 78 penalties for 748 yards for the season. Those totals would be lower than any in the previous five years at Oregon, which includes seasons of 12 and 11 games.

The play of a veteran offensive line has been a big factor in the limited penalties this fall. Through four games, just two false starts and one holding call have been flagged against Oregon's blockers.

Ducks bring their best ranking into top-10 tilt

Saturday's game will be the 21st visit by a top-10 team to Autzen Stadium and will feature Oregon's highest ranking for any of those games.

For the first 17 of those visits by top-10 teams, the Ducks weren't ranked. But they have been for the last four: 20th when they beat No. 6 Washington in 2000, 22nd when they beat Michigan in 2003, 24th when they lost to No. 1 USC in 2005, and 11th this Saturday against No. 6 Cal.

The Ducks are 8-11-1 in the previous 20 matchups.


• 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium. TV: ABC. Radio: KUGN-AM (590) and KZEL-FM (96.1).

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