BERKELEY, Calif. — One small step helped No. 1 Oregon avoid one big upset.
Jeff Maehl caught a 29-yard touchdown for the Ducks' only offensive touchdown. And Oregon caught a huge break on a missed field goal to beat Cal 15-13 on Saturday.
Giorgio Tavecchio's 24-yard field goal, which would have put the Bears ahead 16-15 early in the fourth quarter, was wiped out by an illegal motion penalty. The junior then missed a 29-yarder.
Cliff Harris returned a punt 64 yards for the only touchdown in the first half for the Ducks, who wobbled on the road to the BCS title game but are still heading in the right direction.
Darron Thomas passed for 155 yards and led a final drive that chewed up the last 9:32. It was a strange sight to see the high-speed Ducks downshift into super-slow motion. But it worked to perfection. Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James took turns running the ball while Thomas milked the play clock on an 18-play, 65-yard drive.
The Bears held the nation's most potent offense to a season-low 317 yards. And defensive tackle Derrick Hill forced a fumble and recovered it in the end zone for the Bears, who lost at home for the first time this season — but only after putting a mighty scare into their first top-ranked visitor in five years.
James rushed for a season-low 71 yards in a tentative performance by the Heisman Trophy hopeful, but Oregon's defense shut out Cal's offense for the final 55 minutes.
The Ducks had played just three scoreless quarters all season until Cal shut them out in the first and fourth quarters.
Oregon's Rob Beard also missed two field goals after going 8-of-8.
Oregon, which hadn't won by fewer than 11 points all season, will find out today how its struggles will affect its position in the ranking and BCS standings, where it leads fellow unbeatens Auburn, TCU and Boise State.