Can explosive Ott help Cal hang with Oregon?

In Cal’s one-point loss to USC last week, Jaydn Ott ripped through the Trojan defense.

The moments Fernando Mendoza had last Saturday against USC when Jaydn Ott found a crease at the line of scrimmage and was gone are a perk of being the quarterback at Cal.

Mendoza had the best seat in the house for the sophomore running back’s touchdown runs of 43 and 61 yards.

“I’m trying to come up with a word to describe it — it’s exhilarating,” Mendoza said in an interview. “It’s like going on a rollercoaster and it just takes off.” You know it’s going to be a touchdown when you hand the ball to him and see an open hole.

“You see the No. 1 with Ott above it and you just see it get smaller and smaller and smaller.”

The No. 24 Trojans overcame it all, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 50-49 at Memorial Stadium.

“Our hopes were to get the team a win on offense,” Ott told reporters. “It was pretty much running a track meet out there but it obviously wasn’t enough.”

In an unexpected role reversal, the Cal offense has carried the defense most of the time this season. Mendoza’s emergence as a promising redshirt freshman quarterback has been an effective complement to Ott’s running game.

After languishing at the bottom of Pac-12 statistics for the previous five years, the Bears now rank fifth in the conference in scoring at 32.3 points per game.

The challenge will be greater on Saturday afternoon. Cal (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12) travels to No. 6 Oregon (7-1, 4-1), which ranks third in scoring (45.5 points per game) and 11th in scoring defense (15.6).

The Ducks, in particular, are stingy against the run, ranking 12th in the country with 95.6 yards allowed per game. They have only allowed three rushing touchdowns, the same number Ott scored against USC.

“They’re long and wide — one of the largest fronts we’ve seen.” “They’re difficult to run against,” said Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. “We’re going to have to use a lot of misdirection and get them thinking a little bit because we know they’re talented across the board.”

And the Ducks appear to be improving as the competition heats up. In five Pac-12 games, opponents have rushed for 76.8 yards per game at a meager 2.5 yards per carry.

Cal says Ott is fine after leaving the USC game in the fourth quarter. It is the third time this season that he has been unable to finish a game due to an injury, and he missed the Idaho game entirely after attempting to vault over an Auburn defender and landing hard.

Despite this, Ott leads the Pac-12 and ranks ninth in the FBS with 108 rushing yards per game. With his 756 yards, he is on pace to become Cal’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Patrick Laird in 2017.

The Bears are hoping Ott stays healthy on Saturday because backup Isaiah Ifanse, who has rushed for 365 yards and seven touchdowns, is injured and unlikely to play.

Freshman Jaivan Thomas of Oakland is making the most of his opportunities. With 58 seconds left, he scored on a 13-yard pass play, bringing the Bears within a point of USC before the two-point conversion attempt failed.

“I think he’s gotten past the nerves of his first few games,” said Spavital of Thomas. “As the season progresses, he gains confidence.” We know what he’s capable of, and we believe he’ll be an excellent all-purpose back.”

The Bears could also use Justin Thomas-Williams, a Tennessee transfer who missed the first seven games due to a leg injury. He made his debut in the fourth quarter against USC, and his 23-yard dash set up Thomas’ touchdown catch.

Ott, on the other hand, has the speed to get away from the pursuit and force defenses to put more players in the box.

Mendoza hopes to see him vanish into the horizon again on Saturday.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply