EUGENE, Ore. — This was supposed to be a much-improved Cal defense. Against middling offenses earlier in the year, the Bears were piling up takeaways and pressuring quarterbacks.

But defensive coordinator Art Kaufman’s group looks more and more like the porous editions of 2013 and 2014 as the season wears on. Saturday night, in a 44-28 loss at Oregon, the Bears’ defense reached a nadir.


The Ducks set a school record with 777 yards of total offense, which featured 300 through the air from Vernon Adams and 180 on the ground from Royce Freeman. Cal was left with its fourth defeat in a row.

The Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) weren’t lacking in motivation. In the wake of the previous Saturday’s loss to USC, they were on the verge of a full-blown collapse akin to 2014. Cal entered Saturday riding a six-game series losing streak against Oregon (6-3, 4-2). During the Bears’ weekly news conference, with a container of roast duck sitting in front of him, defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil asserted that the Ducks “don’t want this as bad as we do.”

The Bears were in control early, needing less than three minutes to seize a 7-0 lead. On the ensuing drive, with Oregon facing 3rd-and-goal, Cal safety Griffin Piatt intercepted Adams’ pass in the end zone. The Bears were marching downfield until Jared Goff missed his targets on back-to-back plays.

After a 27-yard Matt Anderson field goal put Cal up 10-0, the Bears went silent. They punted on their next four possessions, including three three-and-outs.

Cal’s defense didn’t help matters. Adams hung in the pocket, hitting wide-open receivers for first down after first down. Freeman offered the ideal complement. Midway through the second quarter, the sophomore topped 100 yards rushing.

With little more than a minute left in the first half, wide receiver Bralon Addison took a quick dump-off 15 yards to put Oregon up 31-10. The Ducks’ student section jumped up and down in jubilation as DMX’s “Party Up” blared through the Autzen Stadium speakers.

Cal then showed signs of life as it pierced Oregon territory. In the waning seconds of the half, Goff failed to thread the ball to Kenny Lawler through coverage. The Bears’ top red-zone threat lay in the end zone for at least a minute after taking a hard hit.

Cal, as a whole, was hurting. By intermission, the Bears had surrendered more yards — 441, to be exact — than in six of their previous eight games this season. Goff had completed just 6 of 20 passes after starting the night 5-for-7. Between taking its early 10-point lead and starting its final drive of the half, Cal had mustered just 50 yards of offense.

Sonny Dykes’ group began to resemble its “Bear Raid” nickname in the second half. The Bears notched a field goal and a rushing touchdown by Vic Enwere to trim their deficit to 10 points midway through the third quarter.

But Cal couldn’t deliver necessary stops. Less than four minutes removed from an Oregon field goal, Adams nailed wide receiver Charles Nelson down the right sideline for a 20-yard touchdown. A few dozen members of Oregon’s 108th consecutive sellout began filing toward the exits. They missed a one-play Cal drive, an 80-yard pass to wide receiver Bryce Treggs. But no desperation heaves could prevent the Bears’ season from further derailing.

Like last year, when it dropped six of its final seven games to fail to qualify for a bowl game, Cal has deviated from its blueprint amid a back-loaded schedule. The Bears’ best shot at earning their first postseason trip of the Dykes era will come next Saturday against lowly Oregon State. Earlier Saturday, the Beavers fell to 0-6 in conference play with a 41-0 home loss to UCLA.

Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: cletourneau@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @Con_Chron

Cal schedule

Date

Opp.

Time/

Result

Sept. 5

Grambling St.

W, 73-14

Sept. 12

San Diego St.

W, 35-7

Sept. 19

at Texas

W, 45-44

Sep. 26

at Wash.

W, 30-24

Oct. 3

Wash. St.

W, 34-28

Oct. 10

at Utah

L, 30-24

Oct. 22

at UCLA

L, 40-24

Oct. 31

USC

L, 27-21

Nov. 7

at Oregon

L, 44-28

Nov. 14

Oregon State

7:30 p.m.

Nov. 21

at Stanford

TBA

Nov. 28

Arizona State

TBA

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