No. 2 Oregon tops Cal in driving rain
Even a driving rain couldn't rattle Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and No. 2 Oregon defeated California 55-16 on Saturday night in a drenched Pac-12 opener for both teams.
"I've been playing in the rain since I was a little kid. Hawaii has its passing showers," the sophomore quarterback said. "So it really doesn't bother me."
Bralon Addison returned two punts for touchdowns and Byron Marshall ran for 130 yards and two more scores for the Ducks (4-0, 1-0).
The game was played as a strong storm swept across the Pacific Northwest, cutting power to more than 26,500 customers in Oregon. It was a sloppy mess on the field, with eight fumbles -- four for each team -- in the first half alone. The Ducks handled the soggy conditions better, building a 41-3 halftime lead.
The wind and rain all but shut down the "Bear Raid" offense that new head coach Sonny Dykes has installed at Cal (1-3, 0-1).
Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff went into the game as the national leader with an average of 435.3 yards passing a game. He completed just 3 of 6 passes for 11 yards in the first quarter before he was replaced with backup Zach Kline.
Goff, making his first start on the road, simply couldn't grip the ball.
"The ball was slipping out of his hand. We're not quite sure why but it was," Dykes said. "So we felt like were having a hard time getting anything done. Couldn't throw it at all. We needed to make a change and it felt like it gave us a better chance to move the football and score some points."
Mariota, whose name is mentioned as an early Heisman Trophy candidate, completed 11 of 24 passes for 114 yards and ran for another 33 yards before coach Mark Helfrich sat him during the third quarter.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich also suggested Mariota's Hawaiian upbringing had something to do with his ability to shake off the storm.
"Playing on the beach as a kid, I thing, was paying off," Helfrich said.
Oregon opened the game with Marshall's 14-yard scoring run. Mariota threw two touchdown passes, a 19-yarder to Josh Huff and a 14-yarder to Daryle Hawkins before Marshall ran for a 25-yard score to make it 27-0.
But the start of the game was also costly for Oregon. Running back De'Anthony Thomas was hurt while returning the opening kickoff. He grasped his lower right leg and had to be helped off the field. He reappeared after the half on crutches, but because Oregon does not discuss injuries it is unclear how serious it is.
Afterward, Thomas said he hurt his right ankle, but it had not been X-rayed. He said he was trying to make a move but "it was slippery out there."
"I'm very focused," said Thomas, who was uncertain about his status for next week's game at Colorado. "I'll get back there when I can."
The speedy junior leads the Ducks with 338 yards rushing and six touchdowns. He has 485 all-purpose yards through Oregon's first three games.
Mariota ran 2 yards to score in the second quarter before Addison's 75-yard punt return for a touchdown. Cal finally got on the board as time ran out with Vincenzo D'Amato's 46-yard field goal.
Addison's 67-yard punt return for a score early in the second quarter made is 48-3. The only other Duck with two punt returns for touchdowns in a game was Cliff Harris against New Mexico in 2010.
Thomas Tyner ran for a 21-yard touchdown for the Ducks before Jeffrey Coprich pushed in a yard for a TD for Cal to make it 55-10. Kline hit James Grisom with a 7-yard scoring pass for the final margin.
Kline completed 18 of 37 passes for 165 yards.
Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti likened the weather to the so-called "Toilet Bowl" between Oregon and Oregon State in 1983, the last college game to end in a scoreless tie before the NCAA changed its rules.
"Those conditions were pretty terrible," Aliotti said. "But I don't know if it was as windy."
Both teams were coming of bye weeks.
The Bears' last outing was a 52-34 loss to No. 4 Ohio State on Sept 14. The Ducks are the third ranked opponent that Cal has faced; the team also lost to then-No. 22 Northwestern in the season opener. All three teams are undefeated.
Oregon put up easy nonconference victories over Nicholls State, Virginia and Tennessee. The Ducks have averaged 61.3 points per game, ranked second nationally, while allowing opponents just 9 points a game.
Cal hung close with Oregon for a good part of their last meeting, trailing just 24-17 midway through the 3rd quarter last year. But Mariota led the then-No. 3 Ducks on a 35-0 run for a 59-17 victory in Strawberry Canyon. He matched a school record with six touchdown passes in that game.