SANTA CLARA, California — A fumble deep inside its own territory. A failed decision to go for it on fourth down near midfield. The list of costly mistakes was lengthy for California. And against No. 6 Oregon, the Bears' had little margin for error.
Marcus Mariota matched his season high with five touchdown passes and broke the Oregon record for career passing yards in the Ducks' 59-41 victory Friday night in the first college game at Levi's Stadium.
"With a team as good as they are you can't make the small mistakes," Cal quarterback Jared Goff said. "When you're playing a good team, if you make those little mistakes, they turn into big mistakes. Most of the time they capitalized."
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.
Oregon's defense helped set the tone.
The Ducks 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.
Mariota completed 18 of 30 passes for 326 yards. He also threw his first interception since the Oregon State game last season, ending his streak of passes without an interception at 253.
"There were a lot of mistakes on our part, tackling and just running to the ball," said Bears safety Stefan McClure, who picked off Mariota's pass in the end zone after it was deflected by a pair of Cal players. "We've got to make some better plays out there. Getting off the field on third down is what the game comes down to."
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," Oregon coach Mark 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 a critical 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.
Mariota had scoring throws of 22, 9 and 24 yards in the first half alone.
"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.
The Ducks got a lift from their defense, too.
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.
"In my head I thought I was going to get tackled but I was patient and waited for my blocks," Nelson said. "The blocks were a big key."
Cal cut it to 31-28 late in the second quarter before the Ducks pulled away.
Mariota threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Byron 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.