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Football: Cal-BYU game thread

UPDATE: Here’s my game story:

It never rained, as predicted, at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

But Cal succumbed to the same aerial downpour it’s been pelted by all season, and failed to earn bowl eligibility after a 42-35 loss to BYU.

The Bears (5-7) needed a victory to earn their first postseason bid since 2011, but could not stop BYU quarterback Christian Stewart, a former walk-on, whose fifth touchdown pass of the game, a 38-yarder to Jordan Leslie, broke a tie with 2:39 left.

It was the third straight week Cal could secure bowl eligibility with a sixth victory, and it fell short each time.

“Getting over the hump in college football is a hard thing to do,” said second-year coach Sonny Dykes, whose team progressed from a 1-11 record in 2013. “We had opportunities to do it this year and just didn’t get it done.”

Sophomore Jared Goff threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Kenny Lawler, and had four shots at Lawler in the end zone in the final 30 seconds but could not deliver the game-tying play.

“I was trying to find a hole in there, trying to find Kenny, hoping he could make a play,” Goff said.

As usual, offense wasn’t the issue. Cal scored 459 points this season – the most since 1920 and the second-most in school history. Goff set school records with 3,973 yards and 35 touchdowns passing.

But even an offense more prolific than the ones directed by Aaron Rodgers in 2003 and 2004 could not overcome a defense that gave up more passing yards (4,406) and TD passes (42) than any FBS team in history.

“We take full responsibility for it. We know what we have to do to get better,” junior safety Stefan McClure said. “It’s all stuff we did. It’s heartbreaking, especially the way it came down to the last drive.”

BYU’s decisive drive began with 4:27 left after Dykes opted to punt on a fourth-and-1 play from the Cal 34-yard line.

Asked how close he came to going for it, Dykes said, “Looking back, obviously I wish I had. It’s one of those things if you don’t get it you probably lose the ballgame.”

So he asked his defense to get the ball back. It didn’t happen.

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Football: Cal’s possible bowl destination — Tempe?

Courtesy of Jon Wilner, my BANG colleague, click here for his projections on where Pac-12 football teams will go bowling.

He envisions Cal potentially going to the Cactus Bowl, Jan. 2 in Tempe:

Cal
Record: 5-6/3-6
Schedule: vs. Brigham Young
Projected bowl: Cactus
Comment: A victory over BYU makes the Bears eligible. They’re a relatively hot commodity after a season that exceeded expectations. Because of the one-game difference in league record with Stanford, the Bears can leapfrog the Cardinal into the Cactus.

Of course, all of it hinges on the Bears winning Saturday.

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Football: Will Cal play chicken in bowl season?

The San Francisco Bowl, formerly known as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, has a new title sponsor and name: The Foster Farms Bowl.

In its 13th season overall, the Foster Farms Bowl is of potential interest to Cal fans because it will pair teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Levi’s Stadium.

Cal needs one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

Gary Cavalli, co-founder and executive director of the Foster Farms Bowl, said the game’s mission remains the same.

“Even though the game will no longer be called the ‘Fight Hunger Bowl’ we will continue our initiatives to fight hunger in the Bay Area,” Cavalli said. “Every ticket sold to the game is a ‘meal ticket’ for a hungry family in the Bay Area, generating donations to our partner organizations – Glide, St. Anthony’s, SF-Marin Food Bank, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Second Harvest Food Bank.”

The previous 12 games in the bowl series all were played at AT&T Park.

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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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