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Football: Takeaways from Cal’s 55-36 Armed Forces Bowl victory over Air Force

— What I saw that’s worth remembering from Cal’s 55-36 victory over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday:

— PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jared Goff achieved one of two things: He either established himself as a high first-round NFL draft pick or a (very) early frontrunner for the 2016 Heisman Trophy. Cal fans shouldn’t get their hopes up and count on the latter. Goff was spectacular in what is expected to be his final college game, completing 25 of 37 passes for 467 yards with no interceptions and six touchdowns. His TD total tied the second-most by a quarterback in any bowl game He broke the Pac-12 single-season TD record of 42, set last year by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, and he eclipsed the conference season passing yards record set in 2013 by East Bay native Sean Mannion of Oregon State. Goff finished the year with 43 TD passes and 4,719 yards. His crazy, three-year career totals: 96 TDs and 12,200 yards.

— FAMILY DAY: Senior wideout Bryce Treggs caught four passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, boosting his career marks to 195 receptions for 2,506 yards and 15 touchdowns. Added to Brian Treggs’ numbers from 1988-91, and the father-son receiving duo totaled 362 catches for 4,841 yards and 30 TDs.

— PLAY OF THE GAME: Cal forced Air Force kick returner Timothy McVey to fumble midway through the second quarter and Kyle Kragen recovered for the Bears at the Falcons’ 24-yard line. Goff delivered a TD pass to Kenny Lawler on the next play and the Bears forge a two-touchdown lead, 28-14. The Falcons never again were a threat.

— TURNING POINT: From the Air Force point of view, the game changed when senior safety Weston Steelhammer was ejected for a targeting penalty on Cal’s third play of the game. Besides having a cool name, Steelhammer is regarded as the Falcons’ best defensive player and the emotional and vocal leader of their secondary. Let’s face it: Air Force had little chance of defusing Goff and the Cal passing attack anyway. Without Steelhammer, the game became a track meet for the Cal offense.

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Armed Forces Bowl: Jared Goff carves up Air Force in 55-36 victory, holds off on announcing plans

FINAL: Cal 55, Air Force 36. The Bears (8-5) took their foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter, content to run clock and go home. Still, they broke the school record for points in a bowl game, breaking the mark of 52 they set against Virginia Tech in the 2003 Insight Bowl.

Jared Goff took home a pair of Pac-12 single-season passing records to go with Cal’s first eight-win seasons since 2009, its first bowl victory since 2008. Goff’s 43 touchdown passes and 4,719 passing yards eclipsed records set by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota of Oregon in 2014 and Sean Mannion of Oregon State in 2013, respectively.

As expected, Goff made no announcement about his future and the NFL.

“I’m going to sit down with my parents, discuss it and decide. You should know soon,” he said afterward.

Cal finished with 586 total yards and 27 first downs. The Bears had the ball for just 10 minutes, 14 seconds in the first half, yet led 35-21. They scored on seven of eight red-zone chances, five of them touchdowns.

UPDATE: The early word on offensive tackle Steven Moore, who came off the field with an apparent injury to his left foot or lower leg, was that it did not appear to be serious. Moore, a junior and one of four expected returning starters on the offensive line, was wearing a protective boot after the game.

— Junior wideout Kenny Lawler, banged up and quiet for weeks, obviously got healthy during the pre-bowl break. He caught five passes for 75 yards, including three of Goff’s six TDs, and has 13 touchdowns on the season. That’s one shy of Sean Dawkins’ 1992 school record of 14. Lawler has 27 career TD catches, tied for second at Cal and four behind Dawkins’ all-time mark.

Like Goff, Lawler will soon decide whether he is returning for his senior season and entering the NFL draft. The deadline for juniors to submit their name to the NFL is Jan. 18.

— Trevor Davis caught two passes and Maurice Harris pulled in four, giving Cal six receivers with at least 40 catches — the only team in the country with that distinction.

— Matt Anderson fumbled a direct snap on a fake field goal try in the first quarter, but made both of his FG tries and finished the season 18 for 21, including his last 12 in a row.

— Sophomore Tre Watson rushed for 70 yards and will head into spring ball as the No. 1 running back in a deep group that also includes Khalfani Muhammad and Vic Enwere.

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Basketball: Virginia game gives Cal chance to end drought

With Cal set to play at No. 5 Virginia this evening (6 p.m., ESPN2), we wondered when was the last time the Bears beat a top-10 nonconference opponent on the road?

Right – it’s never happened.

Of course, there have been relatively few chances. Cal has played plenty of high-profile neutral-court games in pre-conference, but rarely on a top-level opponent’s home floor.

The Bears couldn’t even get it done as the No. 6 in the country and Jason Kidd at point guard, losing at No. 9 Kansas in 1993.

The closest they’ve come: A 90-89 victory at No. 11 San Francisco on Dec. 22, 1977.

Check out the gantlet they ran in December of 1957 – three road games against top-10 teams in a span of nine days. Whew!

Here are the Bears’ nonconference road games against top-10 foes:

Lost at No. 1 Kansas, 84-69, on Dec. 22, 2009
Lost at No. 4 North Carolina, 71-47, on Nov. 22, 1997
Lost at No. 9 Kansas, 76-56, on Nov. 19, 1993
Lost at No. 7 Indiana, 94-58, on Dec. 12, 1980
Lost at No. 2 Kansas, 58-52, on Dec. 21, 1957
Lost at No. 3 Kansas State, 58-44, on Dec. 20, 1957
Lost at No. 6 USF, 66-54, on Dec. 13, 1957

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Basketball: Bears rout Coppin State

Five players scored in double digits and Cal broke open the game midway through the first half on the way to an 84-51 win over Coppin State on Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.

Cal (9-2) plays next at No. 8 Virginia (9-1) on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers prepped for the showdown with an 86-75 win over No. 12 Villanova.

Freshman Ivan Rabb had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Bears and Jordan Mathews also scored 13. Tyrone Wallace had 12 points and freshman Jaylen Brown contributed 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Another strong effort off the bench by Jabari Bird, who had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Transfer Nick Kerr — son of Warriors coach Steve Kerr — scored for the first time for the Bears, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes.

Coppin State (2-10) was playing its second game in 24 hours after losing Friday night in overtime at USF.

The score was 12-12 after 6 minutes, but Cal outscored the visitors from Baltimore 31-10 the rest of the half to forge a 43-22 lead at the break.

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Football: Cal to face Air Force in Armed Forces Bowl

A spectator in college football’s postseason since 2011, Cal was chosen Sunday to play Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 29 at Fort Worth, Texas.

The Bears (7-5) hope to reach eight victories for the first time in six seasons.

Just two years removed from going 1-11 in coach Sonny Dykes’ debut season, Cal has not played in a bowl game since losing 21-10 to Texas in the 2011 Holiday Bowl.

Air Force (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West) lost 27-24 to San Diego State in its conference championship game on Saturday night. Cal beat SDSU 35-7 early this season.

The Falcons are one of the nation’s most prolific running teams, ranked third in the NCAA at 321.8 yards per game. They have totaled 4,183 yards on the ground.

That will test a Cal defense that ranks No. 102 nationally, allowing 203.5 rushing yards per game,

The Armed Forces Bowl will be aired on ESPN at 11 a.m. PT.

Cal is 10-10-1 all-time in bowl games and hasn’t won since a 24-17 victory over Miami at the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco — now the Santa Clara-based Foster Farms Bowl.

Cal is 6-2 all-time vs. Air Force, including a 42-36 victory in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl.

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Football notebook: Cal offensive line keeps ASU pass rush off quarterback Jared Goff

Arizona State arrived in Berkeley on Saturday night as the national co-leader in sacks with 44. But Jared Goff threw 51 passes and was never sacked in Cal’s 48-46 victory, thanks to a strong effort by an offensive line that has grown in recent weeks.

“The O-line played a hell of a game,” Goff said. “I said it last week and the week before: they’ve kind of caught their rhythm and haven’t given up much pressure at all.”

The Bears have allowed Goff to be sacked just six times the past five games, despite him attempting 214 passes over that span.

“Jared did a great job. Arizona State blitzes people from everywhere and he got rid of the ball,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “I thought our offensive line really played well. It’s tough to pass protect against those guys.”

Goff’s elusiveness made it doubly tough for the ASU pass rush. He repeatedly stepped away from would-be tacklers, but also ran for 31 yards and scored a two-point conversion on a dash up the middle.

“Jared was scrambling, rolling out, making plays,” senior wide receiver Bryce Treggs said. “He was doing stuff even I didn’t know he could do.”

*****

The Cal-Arizona State winner was expected to have the inside track to represent the Pac-12 in the Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2 at Tempe, Arizona, although it’s not a lock. The game pits the No. 7 Pac-12 team against a team from the Big 12 Conference.

Cal athletic director Michael Williams, suggesting a half-dozen teams are looking at Cal, said before the game, “We think we have a very appealing team to the bowls. We have an exciting offense. And we think since it’s been a few years since we’ve been in a bowl, we should travel well.”

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Football: Jared Goff, Cal complete amazing comeback

UPDATED

After Cal had completed an improbable 48-46 comeback victory over Arizona State on Saturday night, there was unbridled bedlam in the Bears’ locker room.

Players chanted and sang and coach Sonny Dykes danced in their midst wearing a smile so wide it probably left his face hurting.

“It’s a once in a lifetime thing right there, the locker room celebration we had. It doesn’t get much better than that,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, for sure.”

Down 21 points midway through the second quarter and trailing 27-10 at halftime, Cal forged its biggest comeback since fighting back from a 21-0 hole against Air Force in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl.

They won when sophomore Matt Anderson kicked a 22-yard field goal with no time left.

“I didn’t really even see the kick go through,” Anderson said. “I just got swarmed. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”

The Bears (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) already were bowl eligible for the first time since 2012. But a loss to the Sun Devils (6-6, 4-5) would have sent them into the postseason on a discouraging 1-6 final skid following their 5-0 start.

Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, standing behind reporters in the press box before Anderson’s game-winning kick, squeezed his eyes closed and said, “Please, these kids deserve this.”

Two years after going 1-11 in Dykes’ debut season, the Bears had a victory they will place above all others.

“Oh, it’s No. 1, absolutely,” Goff said.

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Basketball: Brown, Wallace lead Cal to easy win

Freshman Jaylen Brown had career-high totals of 18 points and 11 rebounds and No. 14 Cal eased past Sam Houston State 89-63 in front of an announced crowd of 8,492 fans at Haas Pavilion on Monday night.

The Bears (4-0) used a fastbreak-fueled 15-0 run late in the first half to take charge. Cal scored eight points in a span of 75 seconds to break open a 23-20 game.

Brown dunked a putback, then stole the ball and fed Tyrone Wallace for a fastbreak basket, before Wallace returned the favor with a steal and feed to Brown for a dunk. Wallace scored seconds later on a 2-on-1 break off a pass from Sam Singer.

The Cal lead reached 38-20 before the Bearkats (2-2) from the Southland Conference ended a 6½-minute drought.

Jordan Mathews also scored 18 points and Wallace had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Cal resumes play on Thanksgiving at the Las Vegas Invitational against San Diego State (3-2). The Bears will play Friday against either West Virginia (4-0) or Richmond (3-1).

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Football: Cal routs Oregon State behind 6 TD passes by Jared Goff to become bowl eligible

All the heartbreak and all the school records didn’t matter to Jared Goff.

After Cal routed Oregon State 54-24 on Saturday night in front of 41,874 fans at Memorial Stadium, Goff didn’t talk about the six touchdown passes he threw.

But he couldn’t stop going on about the Golden Bears winning for the sixth time this season to become eligible to receive their first bowl invitation since 2011.

“It’s really cool. It’s really exciting in there,” the junior quarterback said, nodding toward the locker room. “The whole atmosphere is really awesome right now. I’m just trying to enjoy it.

“It’s a culmination of three years’ hard work since a lot of us got here. I’ve said it a million times, when we were 1-11 (in 2013) and we lost (the 2014 season finale) to BYU, all the hard work is going to pay off.”

It paid off in the Bears’ fifth try this season – and eighth over two years – to become bowl eligible.

By snapping a four-game losing streak, Cal (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) earned a spot in a bowl game for the first time in coach Sonny Dykes’ three seasons. The Bears’ most recent bowl appearance was a 21-10 loss to Texas in the 2011 Holiday Bowl.

“I’m proud of our players,” Dykes said. “We challenged them after four tough weeks to relax and play good football. There was an energy on the sideline that was real positive.

“They believe in each other and it was real satisfying to see them perform well tonight, kind of get the next step in our program, which is get to a bowl game.”

Bowl selections will be announced Dec. 6.

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Football notebook: Daniel Lasco returns, but Cal ground game still limping

Cal senior running Daniel Lasco, who barely played the previous five games because of a hip injury, carried 15 times for 64 yards and scored a 6-yard touchdown in the Bears’ 27-21 loss to USC.

“Personally feels good just to be back and be able to contribute,” said Lasco, who was injured in the Bears’ win over San Diego State on Sept. 12. “I still don’t feel like I’m there yet.  A lot of times I had one person to beat and didn’t get the job done.”

Overall, however, the Bears’ recent run game woes continued. After running for 67 first-quarter yards, they managed just 50 more the rest of the day.

Cal averaged nearly 210 rushing yards in nonconference play, including 280 at Texas, but is posting just 118.6 in five Pac-12 games.

“I thought we ran it good early in the game,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “Then there were three or four series in a row where we had a hard time getting much going in the run game.

“We have to be able to run it. I thought we ran it OK, but not as well as we needed to.”

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