by Rob Moseley
Oregon took the field in Autzen Stadium three straight days to close out this week, each of them progressively more ominous as far as weather was concerned.
The Ducks held their walk-through on Thursday, under sunny skies broken up by a few patches of clouds. But by the team's "Fast Friday" workout, skies were completely overcast. And the forecast for Saturday looked much, much worse.
Head coach Mark Helfrich addressed that forecast with his team just before they broke practice Friday.
"You know what those conditions are?" Helfrich asked. "Perfect. Whatever the conditions are, they're perfect."
Some of his players might have silently disagreed as Saturday's first quarter against California became a monsoon of swirling winds and cascading sheets of rain. But in the end, the result pretty much was perfect, a 55-16 victory for the No. 2 Ducks.
"I was really proud of our guys, to go out there and play as well as they did in those conditions," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "We preach mental toughness to them at all times, and playing to our standard no matter who the opponent, no matter what the situation is.
"Our kids have bought into that and they believe it, and I was really impressed with how we came out and started the game."
Oregon demonstrated their mental toughness by overcoming some early mistakes that included four first-quarter fumbles. Cal recovered only one, while the Ducks recovered all four of the Golden Bear's first-quarter fumbles, and also intercepted a pass in the period.
The weather also produced a muffed hold for the Ducks on their first extra-point attempt. But by the end of a first quarter that featured eight combined fumbles and six total turnovers, Oregon held a commanding 27-0 lead.
"We took it in stride," UO quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "It's just something you've gotta deal with. It's football, and I thought we did pretty well."
Receiver Josh Huff acknowledged that the weather probably played a factor in some inefficiencies in the passing game, and Grasu could only hope all of his shotgun snaps had been true, before reviewing game film. But ultimately the Ducks didn't let the weather hinder them, and tried to have as much fun with it as they could.
"We were just laughing it off, trying to have a good time," Grasu said. "If you're going to be upset about it, it's going to be a long night."
Frost said the weather didn't affect the way he called plays on offense; the Ducks finished with 48 rushes and 26 pass attempts, but at halftime they were close to even, with 28 rushes and 23 passes.
"I was sitting up in the (press) box, toasty and dry; I don't think I realized how wet it was," Frost said. "Marcus throws a wet ball great. We had a lot of trouble catching the ball, I think because our gloves were wet. We probably could have run more, but I was trying to stay balanced."
Mariota said the UO offense was further challenged by a Cal defense that went against tendency under a new coaching staff, and played some "odd" fronts, which employ a nose tackle.
"I thought we did an awesome job, especially the guys up front," Mariota said. "They actually came out in stuff we weren't used to, and we executed well."