Football: Cal vs. WSU facts

RECORDS: Cal 4-0, 1-0 Pac-12; Washington State 2-1, 0-0.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Networks/810-AM

SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 45-26-5. The Bears have won nine of the past 10 meetings, including 60-59 at Pullman, Wash., last season.

STORYLINES: The No. 24 Bears try to improve to 5-0, which would match their best start since 1950, when Cal opened 9-0. The Bears have started 5-0 six times over the past 65 seasons, most recently in 2007. A win sends the Bears into the toughest stretch of their schedule, beginning Oct. 10 at Utah. . . . Cal & WSU played one of the craziest games in the country last season, with the Bears surviving an NCAA-record passing performance by WSU quarterback Connor Halliday to win when the Cougars missed a 19-yard field goal in the final seconds.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: RB Daniel Lasco (hip), DE DeVante Wilson (foot) and Saf Griffin Piatt (knee) will play; OT Brian Farley (ankle) is questionable. Washington State: DB Isaac Dotson (concussion) is probable; WR C.J. Dimry (undisclosed), Saf Suli Hameed (undisclosed), DE T.J. Fehoko (undisclosed) and K Matt Abramo (undisclosed) are out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal quarterback Jared Goff vs. WSU cornerback Marcellus Pippins. The two first met three years ago in the North Coast Section Division III championship game, won 31-28 by Goff’s Marin Catholic High in a rainstorm. Pippins, who has one of WSU’s two interceptions this season, was part of an El Cerrito High secondary that helped limit Goff to 110 passing yards. But Goff also ran for 77 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown.

STATS THAT MATTER: Goff’s next touchdown pass will the 65th of his career, breaking the record he currently shares with Kyle Boller (1999-2002) for most in school history. . . . Cal enters the game as the NCAA leader in takeaways with 14. . . . Cal & WSU combined for 1,401 yards of total offense last season, including 1,261 through the air. The game featured eight touchdowns in the third quarter alone. . . . Cal’s most recent win as a ranked team came more than six years ago, on Sept. 19, 2009 against Minnesota.


Football: Improved Cal pass defense faces test in WSU

One year after allowing 42 touchdown passes – the most ever surrendered by a Football Bowl Subdivision team – the Cal defense has assembled this startling statistic:

Through four games, the No. 24 Bears have as many interception returns for touchdowns (2) as touchdown passes allowed.

The challenge will be substantially tougher Saturday when the Bears (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) take on Washington State (2-1, 0-0) at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

After facing a series of opponents with immature passing games, Cal gets a look at one of the nation’s most prolific air attacks. A year ago, in a 60-59 Cal win, Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday threw six touchdowns and set an NCAA single-game record with 734 passing yards.

“This is going to be the real true test of how well we can defend the pass,” senior safety Stefan McClure added. “It’s been exciting to see how confident this group has been. I’m eager to see how we’re going to match up and how we’re going to respond to the challenge.”

“They’re as good as anyone in the country throwing the football,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said.

The Bears are aiming for their first 5-0 start since 2007 after posting road wins at Texas and Washington. The schedule ramps up considerably beginning next week, when Cal plays consecutive games against Utah, UCLA, USC and Oregon – three of them on the road.

For now, the Cougars passing game provides challenge enough.

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Football: Kyle Kragen’s dad gave him good advice

Cal defensive end Kyle Kragen was 41/2 years old when his father, Greg Kragen, finished a 13-year NFL career as a nose tackle. Kyle can barely remember watching his dad on TV with the Carolina Panthers in the 1996 NFC Championship game, then walking off the field with him after his final game a year later.

He has more vivid memories of his dad helping to shepherd his football path.

“He said I didn’t need to play before high school to be good,” said Kyle, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. “Then I wasn’t even going to play in high school. I liked basketball. But he told me I had to play my freshman year. Thankfully, he did that.”

Cal coach Sonny Dykes is grateful.

“He has been good. He’s very tenacious — he’s a second-effort guy,” Dykes said. “He plays hard every play.”

Greg Kragen laughs at what he calls his son’s revisionist history. He didn’t play tackle football until high school and didn’t feel the need to push his son in that direction, either. “I didn’t want to be the overbearing dad,” he said with respect to Kyle’s experience.

As a freshman and sophomore at San Ramon Valley High, Kyle played linebacker and … quarterback.

“I was terrible,” he said. “I was soft, afraid of hitting. As I kept getting bigger and stronger, it was obvious I should not be playing quarterback.”

The No. 24 Bears (4-0) are well-equipped at the position with All-America candidate Jared Goff. Greg said that should provide the Bears with the same confidence he felt the first nine years of his career, when he reached three Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

“It helps to have a great quarterback,” Greg said. “I played with John Elway. We always knew if we get the ball back we’ve got a chance. They’ve got that piece, clearly, with Goff. You’ve always got a chance.”


Basketball: Cal to host Haas Hoops Hysteria on Oct. 16

The Cal men’s and women’s basketball teams will give fans a preview of the upcoming season when they host Haas Hoops Hysteria on Friday, Oct. 16.

The free event will start at  7 p.m. on Spieker Plaza, then move inside to recently renovated Haas Pavilion at 8 p.m.

Coaches Cuonzo Martin and Lindsey Gottlieb will be on hand, along with the Cal Straw Hat Band, cheerleaders and Oski. Among the new amenities at Haas is the center-hung scoreboard.


Football: Lasco expected to face WSU

Cal running back Daniel Lasco, who has missed the past two games with a hip muscle strain, is expected to play Saturday when the Bears face Washington State at Memorial Stadium, coach Sonny Dykes said.

“Lasco’s good. He practiced all week. I would expect him to play unless he doesn’t feel good,” Dykes said. “We’ll warm him up and see how he feels. He’s felt good all week.”

Lasco, who rushed for 1,115 yards last season, injured the hip against San Diego State on Sept. 12 after rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Defensive end DeVante Wilson (foot) and safety Griffin Piatt (knee) also are expected to play. Offensive tackle Brian Farley (ankle) is questionable.


Basketball: A hoops buzz as Cal practice begins

College basketball practice begins Friday and there is a growing buzz around Cal, whose talent level suggests this could be an elite team. Coach Cuonzo Martin, who added top-10 national recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to a core of three returning starters, said nothing is guaranteed.

“If you have talent, you’re in the ballpark to do special things,” he said. “But there’s a lot that goes into it. You look over the past 20 years, and there were a lot of talented teams. Some made it, some didn’t.

“For us it’s one day at a time, trying to be the best team we can be.”

The Bears, who played four games during an August tour of Australia, figure to be ranked in the pre-season Top-25 for just the second time in 21 seasons. ESPN had the Bears at No. 12 in its No-Longer-Way-Too-Early Top-25 in August. Blue Ribbon Yearbook also ranks the Bears at No. 12 and Athlon Sports places them No. 13.

Cal’s regular season opens Nov. 13 at home against Rice.

Martin, who said everyone is healthy and ready to begin practice, came away from the 3-1 trek to Australia feeling encouraged. He said the Bears played as a team, adjusted to the physical style of older professionals and communicated well against opponents for which they had no scouting report.

Brown, a 6-7, 225-pound small forward, may be the most gifted player Cal has had in 20 years. He averaged 17.8 points on the Aussie tour.

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Football: Sonny Dykes’ boss thrilled by his performance, but declines to say a new contract is coming

Does Cal’s Sonny Dykes, the lowest-paid football coach in the Pac-12 Conference, deserve a raise?

Athletic director Michael Williams said Thursday he is happy with Dykes in every way.

“I just want to make it clear that Sonny is a great partner,” Williams said. “I’m really optimistic about the future. I couldn’t ask for any more from him right now.”

But Williams stopped short of acknowledging that Dykes’ performance – including a 4-0 start to this season and repairing the program’s damaged academic profile – will soon get him a new deal.

“I don’t know what I may or may not want to be doing contract-wise,” Williams said. “Football coaches and their representatives and athletic directors are always talking. We have ongoing conversations with Sonny’s representatives.”

Alluding to the athletic department’s financial challenges, he also said, “There are contractual limitations that are beyond my control.”

But Williams said he believes Dykes is happy at Cal and encouraged by the future of his program. “Things are positive,” Williams said. “The academic showing of the football players is extraordinary. The chancellor is very excited.”

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Football: Where have Cal kickoff returns gone?

There were more than 1,400 yards of total offense logged by the time Cal closed out a 60-59 victory at Washington State in a marathon game that ended 19 minutes before midnight last October 4.

Just as important to the outcome for the Bears were kickoff returns for scores of 100 and 98 yards by Trevor Davis – both during a third quarter that featured eight touchdowns.

But as the No. 24 Bears (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) and Cougars (2-1, 0-0) prepare to duel again Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the kickoff return has been conspicuous by its absence for Cal.

Opponents have kicked to the Bears 17 times, but only five of those have been returned. Ten resulted in touchbacks, the other two were short kicks that were not returned. Add it up and Cal ranks last in the Pac-12 with an 18.6-yard return average.

“It’s been a weird year,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “Our sample size is too small to draw a lot of conclusions. It has to get better, just like our kick coverage.

“We’ll give it some attention this week, that’s for sure.”

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Football: Cal takes low-key approach to ranking

Unbeaten Cal has earned its first national ranking since 2010, but coach Sonny Dykes said the Bears won’t celebrate as they prepare for a home game Saturday against Washington State.

The Bears are No. 24 in the AP Top-25 writers poll and tied for 24th with Oregon in the coaches poll.

“It’s not something we’re going to talk about. We’re not going to hold a team meeting and say, `Hey guys, we’ve arrived,’ ” Dykes said. “But I’m happy for our players. They have worked awfully hard to be part of a program that’s recognized and appreciated, that other people respect. Polls are a part of that.”

The Bears are 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and coming off a 30-24 win at Washington in their Pac-12 opener. But linebacker Hardy Nickerson said the season is young.

“It definitely feels great to be in the position we are now. We want to keep it going,” Nickerson said. “We just have to keep preparing like we have something to prove. We haven’t done anything yet.”


On the injury front, Dykes said he expects running back Daniel Lasco, who has sat out the past two games with a strained hip muscle, to practice fully on Tuesday when the Bears next gather.

There is no update on the status of offensive tackle Brian Farley, who suffered an ankle sprain in the win at Washington. Dykes said he anticipates defensive end DeVante Wilson (foot) and defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil (sore knee) to ready to face Washington State.

Running back Khalfani Muhammad, who came off the field at one point Saturday after a big hit, is fine, Dykes said.


Dykes said he will file a report Monday to the Pac-12 office regarding the hit  that wide receiver Kenny Lawler took from UW linebacker Azeem Victor after his helmet came off during a collision with Kevin King.

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Football: At No. 24, Cal ranked for first time since 2010

Cal’s 30-24 win at Washington lifted the Bears into the Top-25 rankings for the first time in five years on Sunday. Cal is No. 24 in both the AP writers and coaches polls.

The Bears, off to their first 4-0 start since 2007, were last ranked in September 2010 after winning twice to open the season to secure the No. 24 spot. They dropped out after a 52-31 loss to Colin Kaepernick and Nevada.

It’s been a long, tough climb for coach Sonny Dykes’ program. The Bears were 1-11 in his debut season of 2013, but are 9-7 the past two seasons.

Cal is among five Pac-12 teams in the AP rankings, with UCLA at No. 7, Utah at No. 10, USC at No. 17 and Stanford at No. 18.

Absent from the AP Top-25 is Oregon, which fell to 2-2 after a 62-20 home loss to Utah. The Ducks are tied for 24th with Cal in the coaches poll.

UCLA is No. 10 in the coaches poll, followed by Utah at No. 12, USC at No. 16 and Stanford at No. 20.