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Football: BYU is Cal’s final chance for bowl eligibility

Cal coach Sonny Dykes sees something more than the tangible benefits – extra practice time, a boost to recruiting – that a win over BYU Saturday and bowl eligibility would provide his program.

“The most important thing is just the psyche of our players, feeling they really accomplished something,” said Dykes, whose program progressed from one victory last season to five so far this fall. “That part would be really critical, just from where we were to being in the bowl discussion would be a credit to those players.”

Cal (5-6) and BYU (7-4) kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, with the Bears needing that sixth win to become eligible for its first bowl game since 2011.

Given the circumstances, this ranks as perhaps the most important nonconference game Cal has ever played, or at least since 2001, when a season-ending win at Rutgers allowed the Bears to avoid their first winless season.

“This is kind of like a playoff game and we’re treating it as such,” wide receiver Chris Harper said.

“We know what’s at stake,” guard Alejandro Crosthwaite said. “We’re hungry. We all love each other – the chemistry has been ridiculous – and we want the extra month.”

Dykes addressed the bowl situation to his team just once – immediately after last Saturday’s Big Game loss to Stanford. “Everybody knew it,” running back Daniel Lasco said.

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Football: Cal vs. BYU facts

Cal vs. BYU

KICKOFF: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, Berkeley.

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

RECORDS: BYU 7-4; Cal 5-6.

SERIES HISTORY: BYU leads 2-1. Cal won the most recent meeting, 35-28, at the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl as Marshawn Lynch rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns.

STORYLINES: Cal needs a win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. The Bears started the season 4-1, but have lost five of their past six. . . . BYU, in its fourth season as an independent, has won its past three games against teams with a combined record of 8-27, including a 64-0 win last week over Savannah State, an FCS team with an 0-12 mark. . . . BYU lost four games in a row at midseason after star quarterback Taysom Hill broke his leg. But replacement Christian Stewart, originally a walkon from a Utah junior college, has thrown for 1,829 yards and 17 touchdowns the past seven games. . . . This is the first time Cal has closed its regular season with a nonconference game since facing Southern Miss in a 2004 game that was moved from Sept. 16 to Dec. 4 because of the threat of Hurricane Ivan on the Gulf Coast.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: LB Jalen Jefferson (shoulder) is questionable; LB Jake Kearney (abdomen) is doubtful; DT David Davis (knee) is out; BYU: RB Algernon Brown (ankle) and WR Jordan Leslie (ankle) are probable; LB Fred Warner (back) is out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s offensive line vs. BYU’s defensive front. The Bears need a stout effort from the men who block for quarterback Jared Goff, held to a season-low 182 passing yards against Stanford’s defense last week in the Big Game. The Cougars have similar muscle and length up front with four players standing 6-foot-4 or taller, including 6-7, 265-pound linebacker Bronson Kaufusi, who has six of BYU’s 24 sacks.

STATS THAT MATTER: Junior running back Daniel Lasco needs 15 yards to become Cal’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Isi Sofele in 2011. . . . Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff needs one touchdown pass to become Cal’s single season leader. He shares the record of 31 with Pat Barnes (1996). Currently No. 5 with 7,088 career passing yards, Goff would move to No. 3 with 273 yards. . . . Cal ranks last nationally, having allowed 3,973 passing yards through 11 games. If BYU throws for 277 yards Saturday, Cal will have allowed more yards through the air than any FBS team in history.

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Football: Big Game game thread

Click here to read my game story.

FINAL SCORE: Stanford 38, Cal 17. The Bears have lost five straight Big Games by a combined margin of 201-75. At 5-6 overall, 3-6 in the Pac-12, Cal must beat BYU next Saturday in Berkeley to become bowl eligible.

Cal  will enter that game having lost five of six games after a 4-1 start to the season.

Lasco’s 12-yard TD run in the fourth quarter marked the 10th straight game he has scored a touchdown. He had 103 rushing yards on the day.

THIRD QUARTER: Stanford 31, Cal 10. One of the strangest third quarters in Big Game memory ends after four official video reviews in a span of 1 minute, 20 seconds. First three nullify apparent Cal touchdowns — twice on keepers by QB Luke Rubenzer, third on 21-yard pass from Goff to Lawler. Cal gets nod on last one, after successful onside kick try. Bears start fourth quarter on Stanford 39, but the gap is 21 points.

HALFTIME: Stanford 24, Cal 7. Three turnovers and the Bears are in a huge hole. Goff, who had not been intercepted since the final play of the UCLA, has two tipped passed picked off, both by LB Blake Martinez. He was also the guy who knocked the ball loose from Lasco on his aborted try to reach the end zone.

Cal’s defense has been what we knew it would be — Stanford has 275 yards and 24 points. Not as horrific as last season, but what everyone has come to expect. Kevin Hogan is 12 for 17 for 168 yards.

It’s the Cal offense that has allowed Stanford to seize control. The Bears have just seven points to show for 196 yards of offense, thanks to turnovers that are generously responsible for a 14-point turnaround (7 Cal didn’t get, 7 Stanford got).

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Football: Cal-USC game thread

Bowl eligibility for the Cal football team will have to wait for another day.

The Golden Bears were no match for USC when it mattered Thursday night, losing 38-30 in front of 64,615 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a nationwide ESPN audience.

Cal was hoping for a sixth win and the chance to play in the postseason for the first time in three years. Instead, the Trojans prevailed for the 11th straight time – matching their longest win streak in the century-old series.

The Bears trailed 31-2 late in the first half before making things briefly interesting late. Jared Goff’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 29-yarder to Stephen Anderson with 1:36 left, got Cal within eight points.

USC averted further drama by recovering Cal’s onside kick try. The Trojans then ran out the clock.

“It’s discouraging because we lost,” Goff said. “We played well at times and probably worse at more times.

“If you’re going to beat a team like USC, or any good team in this conference, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot,” he said of the Bears’ poor start. ”It put us too far behind.”

Nothing worked for Cal early in this one. Not only was the Bears’ beleaguered defense once more taken apart, but their high-scoring offense was stifled by the Trojans.

Goff was hounded much of the night and running back Daniel Lasco often found nowhere to run. Goff finished with 279 passing yards, but had just 96 at halftime. Lasco ran for 53 of his 86 yards after halftime when the Trojans were content to protect a lead.

“It shows that we’re still not there,” Lasco said.

The Bears (5-5, 3-5 Pac-12) have two more chances to secure bowl eligibility, beginning a week from Saturday against a Stanford team that beat them 63-13 a year ago. Cal closes its season a week after that with a home game against BYU.

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Basketball: Cal vs. CS San Marcos game thread

FINAL SCORE: Cal 74, Cal State San Marcos 52. Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird each scored 13 points and Jordan Mathews had 12.

Coach Cuonzo Martin was upbeat after the game, praising his team’s defense, focus, willingness to play physical and its ability to attack the 3-2 zone after a slow start.

“I thought they did a great job across the board,” he said.

The Bears open their regular season a week from Friday at home against Alcorn State as part of the 2K Classic.

“I’m really excited about this year and the team we have,” Bird said. “ I think we’re ready to get the season started.”

Wallace saw lots that he liked about the team’s performance and a few things that need more attention.

“We still need to get better rebounding,” he said after the Bears forged a modest 36-29 edge on the boards against a smaller team. “Our movement on offense . . . sometimes we tend to hold the ball when guys are open.

“Overall, we’re pretty good right now. Everybody’s playing hard. We’re trying to do the right things.”

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Football: Cal-Oregon State game thread

In a topsy-turvy season where the Cal football team has had countless chances to win and lose – and has done both in dramatic fashion – Saturday night’s 45-31 come-from-behind win at Oregon State points the Bears toward something big.

With one win in their final three games, the Bears will be eligible for their first bowl game since 2011. Pretty heady stuff for a team that was 1-11 a year ago and rarely competitive.

“It’s definitely kind of a turning point in our season,” quarterback Jared Goff said after Cal squandered a 27-10 third-quarter lead, then rallied from a 31-27 hole to snap a three-game losing streak.

The Bears (5-4, 3-4 in Pac-12) scored 18 points in the final 8:42 to win in the state of Oregon for the first time since 2007 after six straight defeats.

They were prepared for a night like this after four conference games decided by four points or less, including a Hail Mary heartbreaker at Arizona, a double-overtime defeat of Colorado and a 60-59 triumph at Washington State.

“The good thing is we’ve been in enough games like this, we’ve been able to preach just keep playing,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “We did lose the momentum and the crowd got involved. But I’m proud of the guys for keeping their wits about them.”

A loss could have been catastrophic, requiring the Bears to win two more against a season-ending gauntlet that begins (after a bye) with a Nov. 13 game at USC, before home matchups against Stanford and BYU.

“I’m excited right now, but come (Sunday), we start focusing on USC,” said Daniel Lasco, who rushed for a career-high 188 yards and three touchdowns.

“This was a huge win. We all knew it coming into the game. We were sitting at 4-4 and I kept telling the team we’re 0-0. Now we’re 1-0. This train isn’t going to stop right here.”

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Football: Cal vs. Oregon State facts

Cal vs. Oregon State

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore.

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

RECORDS: Cal 4-4, 2-4 in Pac-12; Oregon State 4-3, 1-3.

SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 34-32. Oregon Steve has won two in a row, including 49-17 in 2013.

STORYLINES: With four games left, Cal must win at least twice to become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2011 season. After OSU, the Bears have a bye, then play at USC and at home vs. Stanford and BYU. . . . Cal has not won a game in the state of Oregon since 2007, losing the past six to OSU and Oregon by a combined margin of 271-76. Only one of those six was closer than 28 points. . . . OSU senior quarterback and Pleasanton native Sean Mannion needs 194 passing yards to eclipse the Pac-12 career record of 12,327, set by USC’s Matt Barkley (2009-12). . . . OSU has won just one of its past nine Pac-12 games.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: S Avery Sebastian (quadriceps), WR Trevor Davis (neck), WR Kenny Lawler (ankle) and DE Brennan Scarlett (knee) are out. Oregon State: RB Storm Woods (knee) will play; DE Jashwa James (knee) is questionable; DE Lavonte Barnett (ankle) is doubtful; WR Richard Mullaney (elbow), OL Gavin Andrews (ankle), C Isaac Seumalo (foot), TE Kellen Clute (knee), DT Jalen Grimble (knee), DT Noke Tago (knee) are out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s defensive front vs. Oregon State’s offensive line. The Beavers started three sophomores on their O-line last week and got nowhere against Stanford’s stout defense. OSU has absorbed 23 sacks and ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing. Cal’s defensive key is to stop the run and put pressure on quarterback Sean Mannion, who has a big arm but limited mobility. The Bears have defended the run well this season, but are 106th nationally with just 11 sacks.

STATS THAT MATTER: Cal has generated 19 offensive plays of at least 40 yards this season, compared to just 14 all of last season. . . . QB Jared Goff needs 217 passing yards to move past Gale Gilbert into sixth on Cal’s career list. . . . Cal has scored 26 touchdowns on drives of less than 2 minutes, second in the Pac-12 (behind Oregon with 28). OSU has just seven TD drives of that brevity. . . . Freshman reserve QB Luke Rubenzer, in just 48 combined rushes and passes, has produced five touchdowns for the Bears.

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Football: OSU game critical if Bears want a bowl game

The trick for the Cal football team is to turn four into five.

“Everybody’s trying to play five more games and we only have four on the schedule,” running back Daniel Lasco said. “We have to figure out a way to (win) two more.”

Each of the four remaining games counts the same, but if the Bears (4-4, 2-4 Pac-12) realistically hope to reach six victories and become bowl eligible their game Saturday night at Oregon State (4-3, 1-3) is critical.

The rest of the schedule gets no easier, with games at USC and at home against Stanford and BYU. To get that fifth game, the Bears can do no worse than split these four.

Quarterback Jared Goff said the Bears don’t have the luxury of picking which games they want to win.

“I’d like to win four of them, really. Even more important than that, we would like to win this one this weekend,” Goff said. “We can’t really think about the future. You can’t really try to add it up: `We have to win this one, we can’t win that one.’ ”

No they can’t, but there’s no denying the USC and Stanford games will be challenges for the Bears. The Trojans have won 10 straight in the series, and the Cardinal set a Big Game record with a 50-point margin of victory last season.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Football: Cal-Oregon game thread

The first college football game at Levi’s Stadium featured 100 points, thousands of green-and-gold clad Oregon fans and Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota’s first intercepted pass in 11 months.

The Bears put up 28 first-half points, but the No. 6 Ducks never stopped scoring on the way to a 59-41 victory.

Mariota threw five touchdown passes – three in the first half – and the Ducks (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) beat Cal for the sixth straight time. Oregon has scored 173 points in the past three meetings.

The Bears (4-4, 2-4) had their highest point total against Oregon since 2006, but never were closer than 17 points after Mariota’s 54-yard TD pass to San Jose native Byron Marshall just 95 seconds into the third quarter.

“They’ve got a couple speeds – their NASCAR super-fast speed and their normal tempo speed,” Cal safety Stephen McClure said. “We just couldn’t get off the field on third down.”

After starting the season 4-1, the Bears have dropped three straight, meaning they must win two of their final four games to become bowl eligible.

Cal lost its 15th straight game to a team ranked in the top-10 of the Associated Press poll, its 47th in 48 such matchups dating back to 1977. The Bears haven’t beaten a top-10 team other than USC since 1969.

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Football: Cal-UCLA game thread

There was relief among Cal’s football players that teammate Trevor Davis wasn’t more seriously injured Saturday, but no solace otherwise after a 36-34 loss to UCLA at Memorial Stadium.

“Bottom line: we lost the game,” linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

After six lead changes kept a crowd of 49,257 wondering if the Bears could steal an eighth straight home victory from the Bruins, the place went silent for 10 minutes when Davis was injured on a kickoff return with 3:34 left.

The Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) had gone ahead to stay moments earlier on a 26-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn.

Davis was taken to a local hospital for tests, but was moving his extremities and talking, coach Sonny Dykes said.

That was practically the only good news Saturday for the Bears (4-3, 2-3), who now take a two-game losing streak into a Friday matchup against No. 9 Oregon at Levi’s Stadium. The Ducks have beaten Cal five straight times, including by a whopping margin of 157-48 the past three years.

The math the Bears face in pursuit of six victories to be bowl eligible is becoming more difficult.

“Oregon’s going to be a must-win game for us,” linebacker Michael Barton said. “I think it’s going to be the defining point of our season.”

That might have come Saturday had Cal been able to finish its final drive of the game. Undaunted by the injury to their teammate, the Bears moved quickly from their own 23-yard line to the UCLA 36 when quarterback Jared Goff threw deep down the right sideline to Kenny Lawler, who was working against man coverage.

Marcus Rios intercepted the pass as he tumbled over the pylon at goal line, and Cal’s comeback bid was finished with 51 seconds left on the clock.

“Jared saw press coverage, saw the matchup he liked,” Dykes said. “The guy made a play on the football.”

Goff said it was the same play in which he threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Lawler, giving the Bears a 34-33 lead with 6:50 left.

“I thought I’d get it again,” he said. “I kind of forced it.”

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