SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Marcus Mariota threw a rare interception — his first since the Oregon State game last season — on a pass that was deflected twice.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich could only smile.
The No. 6 Ducks are on a roll and Mariota’s turnover hardly slowed them at all.
Mariota matched his season high with five touchdown passes and broke the Oregon record for career passing yards in the Ducks’ 59-41 victory over California on Friday night in the first college game at Levi’s Stadium.
“During the game I was upset,” Mariota said. “Coach came and joked with me and got me to relax a little bit and forget about it. It’s OK. It happens. I just have to learn from it.”
Mariota completed 18 of 30 passes for 326 yards. The miscue ended his streak of passes without an interception at 253.
Mariota pushed his career total to 8,625 yards, breaking Bill Musgrave’s record of 8,343 on the Ducks’ opening possession with the first of two touchdown throws to Dwayne Stanford. The junior quarterback has at least one TD pass all 34 of his career games.
“You might want to go buy a lottery ticket, Marcus made a couple of mistakes,” Helfrich said. “I’m actually glad, I think, that that happened to get him off the schneid.”
Royce Freeman ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns to overcome an early turnover, and Charles Nelson scored on a 58-yard punt return to help Oregon (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) win its sixth straight against Cal.
Jared Goff passed for 360 yards and two touchdowns for Cal (4-4, 2-4), but the Bears couldn’t overcome multiple breakdowns and lost their third straight.
Mariota had scoring throws of 22, 9 and 24 yards in the first half alone. That made it easy to overlook his interception.
“It’s almost funny, you just expect him to be perfect,” Helfrich said. “Marcus is such a stud. It’s great that he has another 1 1/2 years left.”
The game drew an announced crowd of 55,575 at Levi’s Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Large sections of Oregon fans attended the game, negating any homefield advantage Cal might have had.
Mariota and Co. didn’t disappoint the faithful and moved Oregon one step closer to playing for the Pac-12 championship in December. That game also will be played at Levi’s Stadium.
Dwayne Stanford caught six passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Byron Marshall added four catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.
The Ducks got a lift from their defense, too.
Oregon forced a fumble by Goff deep in Cal territory to set up Aidan Schneider’s 24-yard field goal in the first half. Oregon also stopped the Bears on fourth-and-1 near midfield, and Mariota capitalized with a 9-yard touchdown pass Pharaoh Brown.
Nelson’s 58-yard punt return made it 31-14. He took off down the Oregon sideline before cutting back near the 25 and outracing a trio of Bears.
Cal cut it to 31-28 late in the second quarter before the Ducks pulled away.
“We made too many mistakes in the ballgame to beat a team as good as Oregon,” Bears coach Sonny Dykes said. “We’ve just got to get more disciplined. Guys are trying to make some plays and sometimes are trying to do too much.”
Mariota threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Marshall in the third quarter and a 21-yarder to Brown in the fourth. Freeman added a 2-yard touchdown run.
The Bears stayed close early behind their ground game.
Backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer scored on a 12-yard keeper up the middle, then freshman Vic Enwere added a 19-yard touchdown run after he bounced off a pair of defenders at the 5, spun and stumbled into the end zone to give Cal a 14-7 lead.
Rubenzer also scored on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter.
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