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Planning for success: Oregon secondary finds consistency against Cal

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Oregon looking to snap Stanford's win streak (1:38)

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich looks ahead to his team's matchup this weekend against Stanford. (1:38)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Cal quarterback Jared Goff sent an early message in the Cal-Oregon game on Saturday -- a 40-yard bomb right at Oregon cornerback Arrion Springs off the first snap of the game.

The Bears' plan, not unlike every other team's plan that had faced the Ducks up until last weekend, was to attack Oregon's porous secondary.

It made sense. Oregon had allowed an FBS-worst 27 passing touchdowns and the Ducks had given up 36 completions of 20 or more yards (121st nationally). Only six teams had given up more first downs from passes than Oregon and only five teams had given up more passing yards than the Ducks.

So it wasn't a surprise to see Goff -- the Pac-12's best NFL quarterback prospect -- look to attack the secondary early.

The surprise was that Goff struggled to complete passes against Oregon.

"You can't contain him, you just slow him down," Springs said of Goff. "I think we did a good job slowing him down."

Springs, who's never short on words, might've actually undersold that one a bit.

The Ducks held Goff to his lowest adjusted QBR of the season (41.4), the lowest completion percentage on the season (44 percent) and the fewest completions in a Pac-12 game this season (18).

Part of that can obviously be attributed to the defensive line, which accounted for four quarterback hurries and two sacks. Up front, the Ducks made life a bit more difficult for Goff so that he didn't have as many opportunities to make big plays downfield.

But a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that the secondary is finally finding some consistency -- for just the second time this season, Oregon had the same starting four in the secondary in two consecutive games.

"We're starting to pick up our chemistry a lot more," safety Reggie Daniels said. "We're starting to communicate better. We're just making sure guys do their jobs right and we're all just executing our assignments."

Oregon defensive back coach John Neal said that communication is easier when guys have more confidence, and that he knew his players would get that kind of confidence once they made plays in games. Neal knew he was in a waiting game to pick his starting four and a main rotation group that he could rely on for extended periods of time.

"When you don't have a lot of confidence or experience you wait for someone to tell you what to do," Neal said. "When you have four guys who don't have experience at the same time, it became an issue. With these guys in there -- and there is some consistency -- there is some confidence being gained and I think that's why we're seeing better results."

But it doesn't slow down here.

The Ducks are now prepping for Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, who holds the conference's highest adjusted QBR (and it isn't close). The Cardinal offensive line has allowed just 15 sacks this season, which has given Hogan time in the pocket to allow plays to develop and as a result he has thrown 16 touchdowns to just six interceptions.

His 9.1 yards per pass attempt leads the conference and though he passes less than the Goff's and Luke Falk's of the world, he'll still be a big challenge for an Oregon secondary that's just finding its footing and chemistry.

"We have a couple great quarterbacks in the league," cornerback Tyree Robinson said. "Next week we've got Hogan -- he's another great quarterback. We just have to come in every day. We don't have first year quarterbacks who are just looking to make mistakes. … We have to be ready to play our best game."