Football: Cal defensive player honored by Pac-12 for second week in a row — the world is upside down!

Senior safety Stefan McClure was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week — the second straight week a Cal defensive player has been honored by the league.

You might remember 2014 when the Bears’ defense was the most futile in Western Civilization, much less the Pac-12.

Not anymore.

A week after defensive end Kyle Kragen was honored, McClure got the award for delivering a timely sack and returning a fumble for a touchdown after a Washington State fake punt try.

The Bears have now scored three touchdowns with their defense this season — and I count this as defense (rather than special teams) because the fake punt made it an offensive play not a kicking-game play.


Football: Is Jared Goff’s Heisman candidacy for real?

Five weeks into the season, Cal quarterback Jared Goff is ranked third on USA Today’s Heisman Trophy watch list. Coach Sonny Dykes understands just what that means.

“I’ve always believed the Heisman Trophy is a team award,” Dykes said. “You’re kind of recognized as the best player on the best team. That seems to be what it’s become.

“As long as we play well and continue to win, people are going to take notice of him. I think if were sitting here and we were 0-5, I don’t think anyone would be talking about him for the Heisman.

“The more we win, the more recognition he’ll get. And that’s good – that’s the way it ought to be.”

Conversely, should the No. 23 Bears (5-0) lose to No. 5 Utah (4-0) on Saturday in Utah, Goff could drop from sight on the Heisman lists. It’s the first in a string of challenging games for the Bears – all of which will significantly impact Goff’s Heisman chances.

“If we’re talking about him for the Heisman in Week 10,” Dykes said, “that means we’re in a good spot.”

LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who has topped 200 yards rushing three straight games, sits atop the USA Today list. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is next, just ahead of Goff. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is fourth.


Football: Dykes expects Bears to be healthy

Cal coach Sonny Dykes expects his team to be healthy and intact Saturday when the No. 23 Bears visit fifth-ranked Utah.

Running back Daniel Lasco, who played just the first half against Washington State after missing two games with a hip muscle strain, practiced Sunday.

“Daniel looked great,” Dykes said. “He’s just going to need those reps in practice to back to where he was. Every rep is going to be important to him. He knows it.”

Running back Khalfani Muhammad and defensive end Kyle Kragen both came out of the 34-28 win over WSU, but both are fine, according to Dykes.

Defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil (knee) played on a limited basis Saturday and defensive end DeVante Wilson (foot) sat out. Both will face the Utes. “Moose will have a big role this week,” Dykes said of Jalil.

Offensive tackle Brian Farley (ankle) also practiced Sunday after sitting out the WSU game.


Football: Bears inch to No. 23 in Top-25

Cal’s 34-28 win over Washington State lifted the Bears one spot to 23rd in this week’s AP Top-25 rankings.

The Bears (5-0) put their perfect record on the line Saturday at Utah (4-0), which climbed five spots to No. 5, despite having a bye last week.

Cal has not beaten a top-5 team since a 34-31 triple-overtime win over No. 3 USC on Sept. 27, 2003. The Bears have dropped six straight games to top-5 opponents since then.


Football: Next Cal opponent ranked No. 1

That’s no typo. Unbeaten Utah has moved to the top of ESPN’s weekly power rankings, creating a tantalizing matchup next Saturday at Salt Lake City against Cal, which is 23rd on that list.

Click here for the entire list.

Utah opened the season with a win over Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan squad, which has outscored opponents 119-7 over the past 15 quarters. The Utes had a bye last week after pushing their record to 4-0 with a 62-20 pounding of Oregon in Eugene.

This week is gonna be fun.


Football: What’s happened to Cal at 5-0?

Cal has reached 5-0 for the seventh time since 1950, when the Bears most recently started the season with six wins.

At the risk of drudging up some painful memories for Cal fans, here’s what has happened to the Bears in Game 6 after a 5-0 start over that span:

1952: No. 7 USC d. No. 4 Cal 10-0 in Los Angeles

1991: No. 3 Washington d. No. 7 Cal 24-17 in Berkeley

1993: No. 13 Washington d. No. 16 Cal 24-23 in Berkeley

1996: Washington State d. No. 19 Cal 21-18 at Pullman

2005: No. 16 UCLA d. No. 10 Cal 47-40 in Pasadena

2007: Oregon State d. No. 2 Cal 31-28 in Berkeley

2015: No. 24 Cal at No. 10 Utah. Result???


Football: Cal’s victory by the numbers

No. 24 Cal’s 34-28 win over Washington State was its first victory as a ranked team since a 35-21 victory at Minnesota on Sept. 19, 2009.

Along the way, the Bears put up some special numbers:

— They recorded seven sacks, the most they’ve had in a game since racking up nine in the 2005 Big Game.

— They now have 18 sacks on the season — two more than the Bears totaled all of last season.

— Senior defensive end Kyle Kragen logged 2.5 sacks, giving him 4.0 the past two weeks.

— Damariay Drew’s interception was the 10th this season by Cal. The Bears had 12 in 2014.

— With three fumble recoveries, Cal’s takeaway total through five games is 18. That’s one more than all of last season.

— Jared Goff’s four touchdown passes boosts his career total to 68 in 29 games. He’s tied for 18th on the all-time Pac-12 list.

— Goff’s season stats: 125 for 178 (70.2 percent) for 1,630 yards, with 15 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. His 9,111 career passing yards place him 21st in Pac-12 history.

— Kenny Lawler caught 6 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns, giving him 27 catches for 399 yards and 8 TDs this season. Dating back to the BYU game last fall, Lawler has 11 touchdowns in his past six games.


Football notebook: Bears embrace Damariay Drew’s return

Safety Damariay Drew, playing as a non-scholarship player after resolving his legal issues and being reinstated this fall by the university, had a late interception for Cal for the second straight week.

His pick at the 10-yard line with 3:29 left snuffed out of Washington State’s last real threat in the Bears’ 34-28 win.

Drew attended Butte JC last year while resolving issues that arose for an assault incident on campus in the spring of 2014. He got the charges reduced, did community service and took anger management classes and was allowed back at Cal.

“I’m just really excited to be back,” he said in his first media availability of the season. “We’re doing great right now. I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team.”

Said Cal coach Sonny Dykes: “He’s matured. I’m proud he’s made the most of his second chance. He’s playing lights out for us. He looks like a missile out there playing.”

Fellow safety Stefan McClure said Drew’s return to the team has been critical to the performance of the defense.

“It means a lot. You see how he flies around. He’s real physical,” McClure said. “I look at him as the tone-setter.

“He’s a good guy. It’s great to see him doing well and watch him grow up.”


Daniel Lasco returned to action after sitting two games with a hip muscle strain, but ran for just 22 yards on 10 carries before being held out of the second half. He did not reinjure himself, Dykes said, but never developed a rhythm.

Lasco called it a coach’s decision and seemed fine with it.

“I felt real good. I just didn’t have that same pop I had before I got hurt,” he said. “Me and the coaches talked at halftime. We’ve got plenty of great backs. It gave me another week to get 100 percent.”


Kenny Lawler caught his seventh and eighth touchdowns of the season despite battling a stomach ailment that had him throwing up much of the day, Dykes said. “Something I ate last night,” Lawler said.

Lawler had a one-handed TD catch in the first half and now has 22 scoring receptions for his career. That ties him for fourth with DeSean Jackson (2005-07) on Cal’s all-time, one behind Wesley Walker (1973-76).

Sean Dawkins (1990-92) holds the Cal career TD reception record at 31.


Football: Bears are 5-0 and a BIG game looms

Cal coach Sonny Dykes did his best to strike a nonchalant pose after a 34-28 victory over Washington State on Saturday kept his No. 24 Bears undefeated.

“Good win for us. On to the next one,” he said.

The next one is Saturday in Salt Lake City and it’s big enough that ESPN is marking the occasion by bringing in its GameDay program. The Bears take on No. 10 Utah, and a victory would give them their first 6-0 record since 1950.

“If we beat Utah . . . I ain’t going to say when,” said Cal wide receiver Kenny Lawler, before a sly wink of the eye. “It’s going to mean a lot when we get it.”

The Bears got to 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and improved to 2-0 in the Pac-12 on the strength of four touchdown passes from Jared Goff – two of them to Lawler – another dose of timely defense.

The nation’s worst major-college defense most of the past two seasons, Cal collected seven sacks and forced four more turnovers. Over the past two weeks, the Bears have 11 sacks and nine takeaways.

A year after escaping Pullman, Washington with a 60-59 victory, the Bears allowed the Cougars (2-2, 0-1) to score just seven second-half points before a disappointing crowd of 42,042 at Memorial Stadium.

Safety Damariay Drew, banished from campus last year after an assault incident, made the day’s biggest play when he came seemingly from nowhere to pick off Luke Falk’s pass down the middle at the 10-yard line with 3:29 left.

“I just wanted to make a play,” Drew said.

“A big-time play,” Dykes called it. “When he threw the pass, I didn’t see Damariay.”

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Football: Cal holds off WSU, 34-28

Safety Damariay Drew’s pass interception with 3½ minutes left helped No. 24 Cal stay unbeaten on Saturday with a shaky 34-28 victory over Washington State in front of 42,042 fans at Memorial Stadium.

Jared Goff completed two third-down passes on the ensuing possession and the Bears (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) went on to equal their best start since 1950. They hadn’t been 5-0 since 2007 and will need to win on the road against No. 10 Utah next Saturday to reach 6-0 for the first time since the Pappy Waldorf era.

A year after outlasting the Cougars (2-2, 0-1) in a back-and-forth 60-59 marathon in Pullman, Washington, the Bears used seven sacks and three takeaways to overcome an uneven performance by the offense.

Drew, who did not attend Cal a year after an assault charge for an on-campus incident in the spring of 2014, stepped in front of WSU receiver Tyler Baker to pick off Luke Falk’s pass at the 10-yard line with 3:29 left.

The Cougars got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 12 seconds left, but their comeback ran out of time.

Goff passed for 390 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the school’s career leader in that category with 68. Kenny Lawler caught two of the TDs, giving him 22 for his career.

But the Bears’ run game was erratic and Cal turned the ball over twice.

The Bears took a 34-28 lead into the fourth quarter after an action-packed third period.

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