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Ducks do a lot of bending in victory

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Oregon’s defense allowed 30 first downs, 41 points, 367 passing yards and 560 total yards under the Friday night lights at Levi’s Stadium.

After the sixth-ranked Ducks improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-12 with a 59-41 victory over California, coach Mark Helfrich was asked if he believes in the old adage that defense wins championships.

“I believe in the adage that teams win championships,’’ Helfrich said. “There are a bunch of guys in that locker room that are disappointed that the margin wasn’t different and about their role in that deal. That’s a great thing, but it’s also a frustrating thing.”

Sonny Dykes’ “Bear Raid” offense had put up point totals of 45, 55, 59 and 60 while climbing to the top of the North Division standings earlier this month.

The Bears (4-4, 2-4) were averaging 41.6 points entering the game, which was second in the conference behind Oregon (43.6 ppg).

Cal sophomore quarterback Jared Goff has produced more total yardage than Oregon’s Marcus Mariota through eight games this season.

“We knew it was going to be a shootout,” Bears running back Daniel Lasco said after gaining 85 of his team’s 193 net rushing yards. “So every single time they scored, we knew we had to answer.”

Although Don Pellum’s defense bent even more than normal, the Ducks broke up 12 of Cal’s 55 pass attempts, had four tackles for loss and three sacks, recovered two fumbles and made two key fourth-down stops.

“The biggest thing for us on defense, we are still in the process of trying to develop and become who we want to be,’’ Pellum said. “When you rotate a lot of groups, a lot of guys, it’s going to take a little longer.”

Oregon was without one of its top defensive linemen, Arik Armstead, who was unable to make the trip because of an injury. Another starter, Alex Balducci, recovered a fumble but hobbled off the field with an apparent injury in the first half.

Safety Erick Dargan (team-high 11 tackles), linebacker Joe Walker (six tackles, one for loss) and defensive lineman Christian French (leads the team with 4?1/2 sacks after a timely takedown) continue to be bright spots on the defense.

“To win on the road in a neutral site on a short week with a bunch of guys gutting it out, you know, you can’t just look at numbers and go, ‘These guys stink,’?” Helfrich said.

The Ducks — who host two-time defending Pac-12 champion Stanford on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (4:30 p.m., Fox) — can almost smell the finish line.

Unlike 2013, when Oregon stumbled down the stretch with a 2-2 November after an 8-0 start, Mariota appears to be healthy enough to lead the team to a conference championship.

The redshirt junior broke Bill Musgrave’s school record for career passing yards while throwing for 326 yards with five touchdowns and his first interception of the season.

“Marcus is such a stud, and it’s great that he has another year and a half left,” Helfrich said with a smile, knowing Mariota is unlikely to stiff-arm the financial security of being a first-round NFL pick for a second time.

Even without running back Thomas Tyner and wide receiver Keanon Lowe in the lineup, Oregon showcased a list of dynamic next-level skill players in the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium.

Byron Marshall (190 total yards, one touchdown), Royce Freeman (112 yards rushing, two touchdowns), Dwayne Stanford (103 yards receiving, two touchdowns) and Pharaoh Brown (30 yards receiving, two touchdowns) all put up impressive fantasy numbers.

“From an offensive mindset, I like the shootout,” Brown said. “We like to put up touchdowns. So when you put them up all night, I love it.”