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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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Football: Cal vs. Colorado preview

CAL VS. COLORADO

RECORDS: Cal 1-9, 0-7 Pac-12; Colorado 3-6, 0-6.

KICKOFF: 2:30 p.m. PST, Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.

TV: Pac-12 Networks

RADIO: 810-AM

SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 4-2. The Bears won 36-33 in overtime at Boulder two seasons ago, but the game was a previously scheduled nonconference matchup. This is their first meeting in a Pac-12 game.

STORYLINES: The only two remaining teams without a conference victory clash in a matchup of Sonny Dykes and Mike MacIntyre — both candidates for the Cal coaching job last November. … This marks the second time the programs have met with first-year coaches. Joe Kapp and Cal beat Colorado and Bill McCartney 31-17 at Boulder in the 1982 opener. … The game also features a pair of true freshman quarterbacks in Cal’s Jared Goff and CU’s Sefo Liufau. … The Bears are hoping to snap losing streaks of eight games overall, 12 Pac-12 games and 14 vs. FBS foes. … Cal and CU have a combined record of 1-15 against FBS teams.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal – RB Daniel Lasco (shoulder), LB Hardy Nickerson (foot) and CB Isaac Lapite (knee) are out; LB Khairi Fortt (biceps) and RB Darren Ervin (shoulder) are probable. Colorado – Saf Parker Orms (neck) and OLB Woodson Greer (neck) are questionable.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal cornerbacks vs. Colorado WR Paul Richardson. After missing last season with a knee injury, Richardson is the Buffaloes’ best chance to beat the Bears. He has 60 receptions for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns on a team with a modest running attack. Two years ago, Richardson had a breakout game against Cal, catching 11 passes for 284 yards, including TDs of 66 and 78 yards. His 20 career TD receptions have averaged 41.8 yards.

STATS THAT MATTER: Cal has missed 59 starts due to injury through 10 games. Colorado has had just one starter (CB Kenneth Crawley) miss one game due to injury. … Goff needs 359 passing yards to break Pat Barnes’ single-season Cal record of 3,499. The Novato native must average 300 yards in Cal’s final two games to eclipse the Pac-12 freshman record of 3,740 yards set by UCLA’s Brett Hundley last season. … While Cal ranks 121st nationally in points allowed (44.7) and CU is 117th (40.4), the Buffaloes actually are giving up more in Pac-12 games (50.5 to 45.9).

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Women’s basketball: Bears fall to No. 2 Duke

The No. 9 Cal women lost 70-58 to No. 2 Duke on Sunday afternoon in front of 10,771 5,023 fans at Haas Pavilion. (The original crowd count listed here came via a Cal news release).

Afure Jemerigbe had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Bears (1-1) and Brittany Boyd had 13 points and six assists.

The Bears shot just 32 percent from the field.

Click here to read staff writer Stephanie Hammon’s full game account.

 

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Football: USC game thread

Click here for my game story. And here for my Cal notebook.

Final score: USC 62, Cal 28. The Bears (1-9, 0-7 Pac-12) now have lost eight in a row, 12 straight to Pac-12 teams and 14 in a row to FBS foes. Goff has moved into second on Cal’s single-season passing yardage list with 3,136 yards. Lawler caught two more TD passes, giving him five the past two weeks. The Bears had a season-high 195 rushing yards. USC (7-3, 4-2) are now bowl eligible.

End of third quarter: USC 55, Cal 21. Trojans going through the motions now, having pulled starting QB Kessler with 8:49 left. Allen also presumably done for the day: seven offensive touches, 192 yards. Goff has moved past Longshore into second on Cal’s single-season yardage list. Noah Beito, a redshirt freshman backup placekicker, has taken over the punting duties for Cal. The Bears have allowed 440 points this season — most ever in school history.

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Women’s basketball: Brandon’s surprise return sparks No. 9 Bears in season opening win

The No. 9 Cal women’s basketball team got an unexpected boost in its season opener Friday night with the return of star forward Gennifer Brandon.

Exactly three months after undergoing surgery to have a rod put in her right lower leg, the senior forward came off the bench to contribute to the Bears’ 70-51 win over Long Beach State.

“Just being out here today is a surprise,” Brandon said. “I’m still trying to embrace it. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The Bears, in their first game since reaching the Final Four last season for the first time, will be more severely tested Sunday when they face No. 3 Duke at Haas Pavilion.

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Football: Gruesome numbers on eve of USC

Some scary numbers related to Saturday’s Cal vs. USC game:

— Cal has not held a lead against USC in 2,191 days, since Justin Forsett scored 17-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first quarter on Nov. 10, 2007.

— Over the past five years, USC has outscored Cal 109-6 in the first half. The Bears were held without a touchdown in the first half of all five of those games.

— Cal has held a halftime lead just once the past nine years vs. USC: 9-6 in 2006.

— USC has outrushed the Bears 972 yards to 277 the past five years. Cal averaged just 2.1 yards per rush in those five games.

— The Bears have scored nine touchdown the past nine games against the Trojans.

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Football: USC game preview

The equation appears problematic for the Cal football team: USC has sacked the quarterback more than any team in the Pac-12 Conference and the Golden Bears have allowed more sacks than anyone.

“It’ll be a challenge,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes conceded.

Still in search of their first conference victory, the Bears (1-8, 0-6) face a USC team (6-2, 3-2) that might have improved more over the past month than any in the Pac-12. And a USC team that owns nine consecutive wins over Cal.

“I don’t know if we’re concerned as much as about beating USC as getting a win for ourselves,” freshman quarterback Jared Goff said. “Beating anyone in the Pac-12 would be a big game at this point.”

Click here for the rest of this story.

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CAL VS. USC

RECORDS: Cal 1-8, 0-6 Pac-12; USC 6-3, 3-2.

KICKOFF: Noon, Memorial Stadium.

TV: Fox

RADIO: 810-AM

SERIES HISTORY: USC leads 65-30-5. The Trojans have won the past nine meetings — their longest streak vs. Cal since winning 11 in a row from 1959 through 1969. USC has allowed the Bears a total of just 38 points the past five games.

STORYLINES: Thirteen Cal seniors play their final home game, although only DE Dan Camporeale, NT Deandre Coleman and PK Vincenzo D’Amato are first-line players. … Cal hasn’t beaten USC since a 34-31 triple-overtime win in 2003 fueled by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. … The Trojans, playing a 13-game schedule, need one more victory to become bowl eligible. They are 3-1 since coach Lane Kiffin was fired, replaced on an interim basis by Ed Orgeron. … Saturday is coach Sonny Dykes’ 44th birthday.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal – LB Khairi Fortt (biceps), RB Daniel Lasco (shoulder), RB Daniel Ervin (shoulder), OG Matt Cochran (ankle) and WR Richard Rodgers (thumb) are probable. USC – DE Morgan Breslin (hip), Tre Madden (hamstring), TE Randall Teller (knee) and CB Anthony Brown (ankle)  are out; DE Leonard Williams (shoulder) is doubtful; OT Kevin Graf (ankle) and Saf Su’a Cravens (groin) are probable.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s front seven vs. USC’s run game. After surrendering a combined 393 rushing yards to Washington’s Bishop Sankey and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey the past two weeks, Cal tries to stop USC’s running back by committee. Tre Madden (4), Silas Redd (2), Javorius Allen (1) and Justin Davis (1) have combined for eight 100-yard rushing games, although Madden is out. Redd and Allen totaled 273 last week against Oregon State.

STATS THAT MATTER: It’s been 2,191 days since Cal held a lead against the Trojans. Justin Forsett’s TD run in the first quarter on Nov. 10, 2007 put Cal in front 7-0 in a game USC won 24-17. … USC allowed 93 points in games vs. Arizona State and Arizona, and just 75 total points in its other seven games. … Cal has surrendered 385 points, more than in all but three full seasons in a football history that dates to 1886. … Freshman Jared Goff needs 119 passing yards to become just the third Cal QB to reach 3,000 for a season. With 141 yards, he will move into the No. 2 spot on the school’s single-season list.

 

 

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Football: Cal post-game notebook

Cal’s blocking and tackling — the two basic building blocks of football — both were better Saturday in a 33-28 loss to Arizona.

Coach Sonny Dykes said the offensive line had its best day and the defense tackled better than it has all season.

He chalked up the improvement to continuity. “We’ve had some consistency in some of the players,” he said, referring to the fact that the Bears haven’t been forced by injuries to make lineup changes the past couple weeks.

Quarterback Jared Goff, who was not sacked, called offensive line’s performance “probably their best game so far. They did a great job of protection.”

Click here to read the rest of this Cal notebook.

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Football: Arizona game thread

Click here to read my game story and for Ray Chavez’s terrific photo of Kenny Lawler’s left-handed, diving touchdown catch.

FINAL SCORE: Arizona 33, Cal 28: Competitive for the first time in Pac-12 play, the Bears (1-8, 0-6) nonetheless lost their seventh straight game and extended losing streaks to Pac-12 opponents (11) and FBS foes (13). Goff threw a career-best four TDs — three of them to Kenny Lawler — but was intercepted twice. Goff finished with 289 yards. Lawler became the first Cal player with three TD receptions in a game since DeSean Jackson in 2006. Arizona (6-2, 3-2) won its third straight game.

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