BERKELEY, Calif.- Marcus Mariota overcame a brief injury to throw for a career-high 377 yards and tie a school record with six touchdown passes as No. 2 Oregon made a case for the top ranking in the country by beating California 59-17 on Saturday night.
The Ducks (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) withstood injuries to its entire starting defensive line and brief absences by Mariota and star running back Kenjon Barner to extend the longest active winning streak in major college football to 13 games.
The win over California (3-8, 2-6) could be enough to move Oregon up to No. 1 after top-ranked Alabama lost earlier in the day 29-23 to No. 15 Texas A&M. Even more importantly, the Crimson Tide loss cleared one potential rival for a spot in the BCS title game, leaving Notre Dame and Kansas State as the only other major undefeated teams eligible for a bowl. The Ducks are currently third in the BCS rankings.
After struggling for more than a half against a Golden Bears team that was missing quarterback Zach Maynard and star receiver Keenan Allen, the Ducks will have to be more consistent the next few weeks if they want to remain unbeaten. They finish the regular season against No. 16 Stanford and No. 13 Oregon State and also could be in the Pac-12 title game.
Oregon raced past the Bears with their passing game instead of the vaunted running attack that had rushed for at least 400 yards in the previous three games. Cal held Barner to 65 yards on 20 carries – 256 fewer yards than he had last week against USC – and even knocked him out briefly with a hard hit that sent him to the locker room in the first half.
Mariota also left the game after a hard fall late in the second quarter but returned the following series. He then helped the Ducks break the game open in the second half with four TD passes, including two to Josh Huff.
Mariota completed 27 of 34 passes and tied the school TD record last achieved byDarron Thomas last year against Nevada. Huff finished with five catches for 109 yards and three scores as the Ducks set a major college football record by scoring at least 40 points for a 13th straight game.
The biggest moment came midway through the third quarter after the Bears cut Oregon’s lead to 24-17 and got a stop on defense to fire up a crowd that has had little to cheer about this season.
Isi Sofele, who rushed for 134 yards, had been gashing Oregon’s defense in the second half and started this drive with a 14-yard run. But Allan Bridgford threw an incomplete pass, Brendan Bigelow was stopped for a 1-yard gain and then Bridgford was intercepted by Boseko Lokombo on a screen pass under heavy pressure from Arik Armstead.
Mariota found Huff on a 35-yard touchdown pass on the next play to make it 31-17 and the Ducks rolled from there. Mariota and Huff teamed up on a 39-yard score on the next drive and the rout was on.
That ended the Bears chances in the final home game of the season and perhaps final home game for coach Jeff Tedford at Cal. There have been questions raised about Tedford’s status after missing a bowl for the second time in three years. The Bears have lost four straight for the first time ever under Tedford.
Bridgford finished 9 for 21 for 113 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Mariota left the game holding his left arm in the second quarter but returned after Vincenzo D’Amato missed a 48-yard field goal late in the half for Cal. Mariota drove the Ducks 69 yards, capped by a 10-yard pass to Huff that made it 24-10 at the half.