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Football: Cal defense will try to be better, not different

Cal will mix its defenses tonight against Washington State, throw in some blitzes, and hope to get a lift off the bench from cornerbacks Darius White and Joel Willis, apparently healthy at last and ready to contribute.

“You’ve got to fire all your bullets,” coach Sonny Dykes said of how the Bears will approach coach Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense.

But don’t expect an entirely new look from the Bears. There will be no surprise defensive renovation, no new tricks to throw off the Cougars.

They won’t work, Dykes said, because he has seen teams try.

During his tenure working under Leach at Texas Tech, Dykes said more than one opponent showed up on game night with a dramatic, new defensive twist.

“Anytime we saw that we always knew it was going to play into our hands,” Dykes recalled. “In some ways that’s what they want you do to, make a bunch of drastic changes and use a bunch of new coverages.

“They just do their thing. You always have to resist temptation of using a bunch of new schemes because they’re going to be really good at what they do so you better be good at what you do.”

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Football: Pac-12 falls to 1-4 in bowls

Here’s how you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve: Bring together two horrible teams whose coaches already have been fired and let them go at it in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park:

   — Illinois 20, UCLA 14: The Illini (7-6) snapped a six-game losing streak spanning 12 weeks of real time by beating the Bruins (6-8) who got an exemption allowing them to play in a bowl game with a losing record. UCLA dropped its third straight game, the pprevious two by a 99-31 margin. Here’s more, if you want it.

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Football: Pac-12 is 0-3 in bowls, but . . .

If you’re gonna lose a bowl game, this is the way to do it.

Check out the comic-book stats assembled in Baylor’s 67-56 instant-classic victory over Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

Fans who sat through Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl between Cal and Texas had to be envious. Baylor outscored UW 29-14 in the third quarter alone — more points than were generated all night in San Diego.

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Football: Holiday Bowl game thread

FINAL SCORE: Texas 21, Cal 10. The Bears finish 7-6 after a 4-4 start. Texas, which had dropped three of its previous four games, winds up 8-5. There were lots of telling statistics in the game, but none moreso than the 5-0 turnover margin. Cal had coughed up just two turnovers in its previous four games.

The Bears finished with 195 total yards, their season low. The running game, which opened things up nicely for Maynard in recent weeks, netted seven yards (thanks partly to six sacks). Sofele, who averaged 143 yards the previous four games, had 20 carries for 52 yards.

Wideouts Allen (9 catches for 82 yards) and Jones (8-88) accounted for 170 of the Bears’ 195 yards. Jones finished his career with a catch in 38 consecutive games. Maynard was 19 for 33 for 188 yards, with three turnovers (2 fumbles, 1 INT). But he was harassed all night.

14:57 4th Q: Cody Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 252-pound running back, powered in from the 4 on the first play of the quarter and Texas leads 21-10. Four turnovers may be too much to overcome.

END OF THIRD QTR: The Bears just squandered a great chance. They forced a Texas punt from the end zone and took possession at the 27 after a 16-yard return by Marvin Jones. But Anthony Miller was flagged for a personal foul on a second-down play, pushing the ball back to the 44, and Maynard fumbled after being sacked. Goodwin raced 37 yards to the 7 and Cody Johnson powered to the 4 before the quarter ended. Texas leads 14-10.

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Football: Game-day reading

Here’s my story from this morning’s edition on how Cal junior running back Isi Sofele feels a responsibility to help carry the Bears against a stout Texas defense.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune, here are Five Things to Watch in the Holiday Bowl.

Elsewhere . . .

– The Pac-12 and Big Ten are moving to strengthen their historic alliance, including plans for annual preseason matchups of every team from both conferences in games that would be played at the Rose Bowl, or perhaps Soldier Field, Wrigley Field or even Yankee Stadium. Here is the Pac-12′s news release.

– And here’s a real surprise: Oregon unveils new Nike uniforms for its Rose Bowl matchup vs. Wisconsin. It’s called the Nike Pro Combat system of dress technology. Are they cool or have you had enough of the Ducks’ marketing excess?

 

 

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Football: Bears, Longhorns ready to play

The two coaches who will lead Cal and Texas into Wednesday’s Holiday Bowl sat alongside one another at a morning press conference, and Mack Brown of the Longhorns opened with a humorous but frank monologue.

“It’s really unique in this press conference that you’d sit next to the opposing coach and everybody says, `What do you think of their quarterback?’

`He’s great.’

`What about their receivers?’

`They’re really good.’

“I can’t answer things about the other team,” Brown said. “I think it’s the only time we’ve ever done this. Most coaches aren’t speaking the day before a game to each other, much less braggin on each other when we get up here.”

So, with that bit of honesty as a backdrop, I can tell you both coaches were polite, cooperative and detailed in their answers during a 37-minute podium interview session, then took a few more questions in smaller groups afterward.

But there wasn’t any dirt thrown around on the eve of kickoff.

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Football: Navy’s USS Boxer hosts Cal, Texas; Recruiting asst. Kevin Parker honored by players

Two days from clashing in the Holiday Bowl, the teams and staff from Cal and Texas enjoyed lunch Monday on the USS Boxer, an 844-foot long, 40,500 ton Navy ship that accomodates more than 3,100 crew and troops.

The Wasp-class large-deck multi-purpose amphibious assault ship, basically an aircraft carrier for helicopters, had plenty of room for the several hundred guests that included both team parties, as well as military dignataries and sailors.

The teams were escorted up the gangplank onto the ship, where they were greeted by officers and sailors. Both schools’ bands performed on Pier 13 to kick off the festivities.

The luncheon featured a series of speeches by blazer-wearing bowl hosts and their various sponsors, but the highlight was the presentation of the Admiral Grant Sharp Trophy, given to member of each program for unselfish commitment, ability to motivate and display of teamwork with little acclaim.

Players voted on the award and the Bears honored recruiting assistant Kevin Parker, an Oakland native, who serves as big brother and off-field mentor to Cal players.

“Very emotional. It means the world to mean,” Parker said a few minutes later. “I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, I think, at Cal. This shows me that everything I do is appreciated. My mom always told me your actions speak for themselves.”

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Football: Cal’s team flight to San Diego delayed one hour, arrives safely

Cal’s team charter flight from Oakland to San Diego this morning was delayed for one hour after the captain announced an engine check light went on just before takeoff.

The plane remained on the tarmac for a few minutes,then moved off the runway so the maintenance crew could perform its checks. After the delay, the team arrived safely in San Diego at about 12:30 p.m.

The flight carried coaches, including head coach Jeff Tedford, staff members and about 35 players. The rest of the players were joining the team in San Diego after a pre-Christmas holiday break.

Cal (7-5) plays Texas (7-5) on Wednesday in the Holiday Bowl.