Football: Cal-Northwesten game thread

FINAL SCORE: Cal 31, Northwestern 24. OK, you may now exhale.

Click here to read my game story. And my notebook, focusing on freshman Luke Rubenzer.

END OF 3RD QUARTER: Cal 31, Northwestern 21. Well, at 31-7 it looked like the only way the Bears could lose this game was by giving NU some help. And they did just that, when Goff’s pass went off the hands of Lasco and was picked off by LB Collin Ellis. You remember him, right? He had two INTs for TDs against the Bears last year. The Wildcats cashed in on the next play with a nice trick play: QB Trevor Siemian throws a lateral pass to WR Jayme Taylor, who then throws back to Siemian for the TD. That got the Wildcats within 10 points with 2:06 left in the 3rd Q. Cal has responded nicely so far, moving from its own 12 to the NU35, where it will have a first-and-10 when the fourth quarter begins.

HALFTIME: Cal 24, Northwestern 7. Goff was 12 for 18 for 186 yards with three TDs, one each to Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler and Trevor Davis. Cal has a 270-153 edge in total yards, a 14-7 edge in first downs. Hasn’t all been perfect: Cal’s four running backs have combined for 47 yards on 12 carries, just under 4 yards per. Rubenzer ran 9 times for 38 yards, but hasn’t played since being picked off on a pass he should have thrown out of bounds. Cal has held the lead for 23 minutes, 42 seconds — 14 minutes longer than the Bears were ahead of FBS teams all last season. Just one penalty vs. Cal — 5 yards for offsides on a kickoff. And the defense? Cal gave up a staggering 335 points in the first half a year ago, but allowed the Wildcats just one score in six possessions.

END OF 1ST QUARTER: Cal 14, Northwestern 0. Yep, it’s true. Goff threw TD passes of 1 yard to Bryce Treggs and 7 yards to Kenny Lawler and the defense got a stop on a fourth-and-one at its own 22 to snuff NU’s only possession of the game. The revelation has been the contributions of freshman QB Luke Rubenzer, on the field for at least 10 plays. He has run the ball eight times for 36 yards and completed 1 of 2 passes for 9 yards.


Greetings from Ryan Field at Evanston, Ill.

It’s warm, humid, with scattered clouds. But the locals don’t think it will rain. We’ll see.

Will provide periodic updates all afternoon. Or follow me on Twitter at @JeffFaraudo

BTW: All present and accounted for on the Cal roster. DBs Darius White (shoulder) and Avery Sebastian (quad) both dressed and warming up, although still not convinced either will play.



Basketball: UConn women rout Cal

No. 1 UConn took charge from the start and dispatched Cal 80-47 in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The No. 21 Bears (7-3) shot 29.9 percent, including 1 for 9 from the 3-point arc.

Brittany Boyd had nine points, seven rebounds, six steals and five assists to lead the Bears, who had no player score double digits. But Boyd shot just 3 for 23

All-American Brenna Stewart had 29 points and 10 rebounds in just 27 minutes for the Huskies (12-0).


Big Game notebook: Barbour gives Dykes freedom to make any staff moves he deems necessary

Cal coach Sonny Dykes sidestepped questions Saturday about whether he might make changes on his staff, but athletic director Sandy Barbour made it clear Dyke has the freedom to do whatever he thinks is necessary.

“Those are decisions that are the head coach’s. In my mind, philosophically and practically, always will be,” Barbour said after the Bears lost 63-13 to Stanford in the Big Game to finish their season 1-11.

There will be pressure from fans — and perhaps current players and recruits — to make a change at defensive coordinator, where Andy Buh’s unit allowed a school-record 45.9 points per game.

Asked if he can guarantee any member of his staff will return next season, Dykes said, “We’ll take a look at it all. I can’t guarantee I’ll be back next year.”

Barbour called the season “tremendously disappointing” but is pleased with some progress, including in the program’s classroom performance.

“Sonny’s coming in and changing a culture, changing a program, building it right,” she said. “The part on the field is going to take a little longer.”

Stanford coach David Shaw had only good things to say about the Bears rookie coach.

“Cal has hired the right man,” Shaw said. “Sonny is going to do a great job there. They’re building. They know it’s going got be a process.”

Click here to read the rest of this notebook.


Football: Bears blasted in Big Blowout

The final game of the worst season in Cal football history went from insult to injury.

No. 10 Stanford stormed effortlessly to a 29-point halftime lead and knocked freshman quarterback Jared Goff out of the game on the way to a 63-13 rout in the 116th Big Game in front of 50,424 fans at Stanford Stadium.

Coach Sonny Dykes’ debut season with the Bears ended Saturday afternoon with another skewering of the Cal defense and a 10th straight defeat.

“I can make a bunch of excuses,” Dykes said. “My job’s to get the team ready to play and clearly they haven’t been ready to play. I haven’t done a very good job.”

Stanford’s 63 points were the most either team has scored in the rivalry game that began in 1892. The previous record was 48.

Cal (1-11, 0-9 Pac-12) finished without a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) for the first time since before 1900, extending losing streaks to 14 games against Pac-12 opponents and 16 against FBS teams.

By the time the Bears visit Northwestern on Aug. 30, 2014, to open next season, it will have been 684 days since their most recent victory over an FBS team, a 31-17 win at Washington State on Oct. 13, 2012.

Click here for the rest of this story.


Football: Big Game thread

FINAL SCORE: Stanford 63, Cal 13. The 63 points are the most scored by either team in the Big Game, dating back to 1892. Goff finished with 3,508 yards, a Cal single-season record.

The Bears finish 1-11, 0-9 in the Pac-12 — the first time since before 1900 they have failed to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision/Division I opponent. They closed the season on a 10-game losing streak, extending droughts against Pac-12 foes (14 games) and FBS opponents (16).

Cal allowed more than 40 points for the ninth time in 12 games and gave up 551 points on the season — third-most in Pac-12 history.

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Football: Big Game preview


RECORDS: Cal 1-10, 0-8 Pac-12; Stanford 8-2, 6-2.

KICKOFF: 1 p.m. at Stanford Stadium.

TV: Fox Sports 1

RADIO: 810-AM, KNBR-1050

SERIES HISTORY: Stanford leads 58-46-11. The Cardinal has won the past three meetings, including 21-3 last season at Berkeley. Cal’s most recent Big Game victory was a 34-28 win at Stanford in 2009.

CAL STORYLINES: The Bears are 31.5-point underdogs and need an upset of historical proportions to avoid their first season without a major college victory since the start of the 1900s … Cal is 0-4 on the road this season, with an average margin of defeat of 26.8 points … With eight projected starters out this week, the Bears’ season total for “missed starts” climbs to 73.

STANFORD STORYLINES: The Cardinal will take the field approximately 30 minutes after kickoff of the Oregon-Arizona game. An Oregon loss, combined with a Cardinal victory, would give Stanford the North division title and a berth in the league championship game … Stanford, which is coming off a 20-17 defeat at USC, has not lost back-to-back games since the 2009 season.

CAL INJURY UPDATE: WR Chris Harper (hip), LB Khairi Fortt (biceps), LB Hardy Nickerson (foot) and CB Isaac Lapite (knee) are out. RB Darren Ervin (shoulder) is probable.

STANFORD INJURY UPDATE: DE Ben Gardner (pectoral muscle) and CB Alex Carter (concussion) are out. K Jordan Williamson (leg) is questionable.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s run game vs. Stanford’s defensive front … After struggling on the ground all season, the Bears gained 190 yards against USC and 197 vs. Colorado the past two weeks. Junior Brendan Bigelow rushed for 107 yards at CU — the Bears’ first player to crack 100 yards this season … The Cardinal leads the Pac-12 and is tied for third nationally in run defense (91.6 yards per game) … Over the past three games, Stanford has allowed 1.4 yards per rush … Cal rushed for three yards against Stanford last year..

CAL STATS THAT MATTER: Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff needs 186 passing yards to break Pat Barnes’ single-season school record of 3,499, set in 1996 … The Bears are last in the conference in turnover margin (minus-1.36 per game) and 11th in sacks allowed per game (3.0 per game.)

STANFORD STATS THAT MATTER: Stanford is second in the conference in sacks (3.2 per game) … The Cardinal has won 14 consecutive home games, the second-longest streak in the nation (South Carolina) … Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney is averaging 157.8 yards per game in the past month.


Football: Underdog Bears enter Big Game still seeking spark they can harness to build a future

Jeff Tedford in his debut season at Cal in 2002 had Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh five years later at Stanford had USC.

But what has first-year Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ team achieved this season that might provide a spark for the program’s future?

So far, nothing tangible. At 1-10 and without a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, Dykes and the Bears have one more chance to make a splash.

“If we beat Stanford,” linebacker Michael Barton said, “we’ll have a lot of steam rolling into next year.”

But as 32-point underdogs Saturday, the Bears are the biggest long shot in Big Game history.

Click here to read the rest of this story.


Football: Colorado game thread

FINAL SCORE: Colorado 41, Cal 24. Click here for my game story. And here for my Cal notebook.

THIRD QUARTER: Colorado extends lead to 27-10 after 24-yard FG by Oliver late in quarter. Might as well be a 37-point lead. Cal has 239 total yards through three quarters, Colorado has 419. Kline, who came in late in the quarter, is 2 for 3 for 21 yards, but also fumbled a snap and was sacked. Goff was 15 of 30 for 100 yards — 3.3 yards per attempt.

HALFTIME: Colorado leads 24-10, and Cal lent a helping hand. Darius Powe mishandled a CU onside kick that totally fooled the Bears, giving the Buffs the ball again after they’d scored on Liufau’s 10-yard TD pass to RB Tony Jones. Then a costly roughing the passer penalty on senior DE Dan Camporeale on a third-and-12 incompletion gave CU a first down at the Cal 11 and set up Christian Powell’s 2-yard TD run that made it 24-10 with 50 seconds left in the half. First-half yards: Colorado 324 yards, Cal 192 yards. Goff is 11 for 21 for 79 yards. Muhammad, with the 55-yard TD run, has 54 rushing yards. Bigelow has 8 carries for 51 yards. Cal cannot sustain drives and has had the ball for just 9:48 of 30 minutes.

END OF FIRST QTR: Colorado leads 3-0 and it could be more soon. Buffs at the Cal 10-yard line after 62-yard completion to Nelson Spruce, who beat Cedric Dozier down the right sideline. Stat totals are lopsided: CU 191 yards, Cal 59. Goff is 4 for 8 for 27 yards and has punted twice. Bigelow looks good with 3 carries for 25 yards. Liufau is 8 for 11 for 151 yards for CU, including 6 completions for 82 yards to Paul Richardson. Cal has now been outscored 160-41 in the first quarter this season.

COIN TOSS: Colorado wins the toss and elects to receive. Cal will get ball first in second half.

WELCOME: Here at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. We have blue skies with some clouds. Virtually no chance of rain. Temperatures are cool, but great football weather. Whether we have great football remains to be seen.

Lucas King will start at the WILL linebacker spot for Khairi Fortt (biceps) whose status is questionable. Otherwise, things are pretty much as you’d expect.


Football: Will there be another first quarter meltdown by the Bears at Colorado?

Can Cal prevent Colorado from becoming the ninth opponent in 11 games to score a touchdown on its first offensive series of the game?

As much as anything, the game’s opening defensive sequence for Cal holds the key to its fortunes. There is no question, the Bears’ terrible starts have contributed mightily to their 1-9 record.

Consider these numbers:

  • Nine of Cal’s first 10 opponents have scored on their first offensive drive, eight of them notching touchdowns.
  • Seven of those TD drives spanned 73 yards or more, four of them 85 yards or longer, so this isn’t a matter of losing the early field-position battle.
  • Northwestern, Portland State and Ohio State, over the season’s first three weeks, scored on drives that averaged just under 85 yards . . . and it took them an average of only 3 plays to reach the end zone.
  • USC last week had six touchdowns after its first four offensive series, despite being forced to punt once. How is that possible? Three of those TDs, of course, came on punt returns that didn’t even require the Trojans offense to take the field.

So why have the Bears consistently fallen on their faces coming out of the gate?

Coach Sonny Dykes insists it’s not because the players aren’t mentally prepared.

“I don’t know if that’s the case,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a lack of preparation — our guys prepare well.”

So what then?

“We’ve got to execute. That’s been our issue,” Dykes said. “You can go back game to game to game and it’s a lack of execution, whether it’s getting fooled early on a play-action pass against Northwestern on the first series or it’s Washington State and (us) driving down to the 5-yard line and fumbling.

“That’s what’s hurt us.”

It’s done more than that — it’s killed their chances.

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Football: In the backfield again — at least part-time — is Brendan Bigelow ready to break out?

Among everything that’s befallen the Cal football this season, is there anything more surprising than this fact: Brendan Bigelow has not scored a touchdown through 10 games.

He’s run the ball 77 times, caught it 28 times and returned four kickoffs. That’s 109 touches without getting into the end zone.

Bigelow teased Cal fans — and the new coaching staff — with his two long touchdown runs at Ohio State last season, a game in which he carried the ball just four times, but gobbled up 160 yards.

He seemed sure to be — we all believed — a centerpiece of the new Bear Raid offense. At the very least, he figured to be an explosive component of that offense, sure to break a few long runs, score his share of touchdowns.

But things got so bad for the junior running back that he was moved to slot receiver at midseason in an attempt to find a way to take advantage of his great speed.

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