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.


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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Football: Cal-Washington game thread

The nation’s second-highest scoring offense could not find the end zone Saturday until it didn’t matter.

Cal, which entered the day averaging 50 points a game, was shut out in the first half and never threatened Washington in a 31-7 defeat before 44,449 fans at Memorial Stadium.

But none of the Bears, starting with coach Sonny Dykes, was willing to say that Cal was in over its head against a higher-level foe after starting the season 4-1.

“I thought it was more us than it was our opponent today,” Dykes said. “I want to give Washington credit — they played very well and had a good game plan. But we need to own that (loss) more than to say we played somebody better.”

The Bears had scored no fewer than 45 points in their four previous games, but UW’s defense took away quarterback Jared Goff’s ability to throw the ball downfield, and the offense rarely found any rhythm.

“Hold them to seven points?” first-year UW coach Chris Petersen said. “I didn’t think that would happen.”

Tied for first in the Pac-12 North when the day began, the Bears (4-2, 2-2) looked overmatched against the Huskies (5-1, 1-1), who won for the sixth straight time in the series. Goff was sacked four times and the Bears fumbled five times, losing three of them.

“It was us,” running back Daniel Lasco said. “Everybody was saying we can score 50 points easily. I feel like a lot of people bought into it, and they didn’t realize how hard it is to win a football game.”

“We might have gotten a little complacent,” Goff agreed. “We have full confidence in ourselves. We have UCLA this week … go get them.”

Click here to read the rest of this story.

One-time Cal commit Shaq Thompson turned the game in Washington’s direction with one play.

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Football: Cal-WSU game thread

Here is my game story from late Saturday night. As you might imagine, things got a little hectic in the second half, so my apologies I was unable to update the blog through after halftime:


This one wasn’t just crazy, it was ridiculous.

Cal, which had been part of games the previous two weeks that produced 209 total points, contributed to a new level of football insanity Saturday night at Washington State.

The Bears and Cougars combined for eight touchdowns in the first 13 minutes of the third quarter before Cal emerged from the statistical orgy with a 60-59 victory in front of 30,020 fans at Martin Stadium.

The victory wasn’t assured until WSU’s Quentin Breshears missed wide right on a 19-yard field goal – essentially a PAT – with 15 seconds left.

“It was kind of like the football gods are on our side,” Cal quarterback Jared Goff said.

Goff, who broke his own single-game Cal record with 527 yards, put the Bears ahead to stay with his fifth touchdown pass of the night, a 51-yarder to Trevor Davis with 3:18 left. Cal’s try for a two-point conversion failed.

The victory allowed the Bears (4-1, 2-1 in Pac-12) to match their victory total of the past two seasons combined and made them 4-1 for the first time since 2008. It also lifted them into sole possession of the Pac-12 North Division lead.

“We’ll start worrying about who’s in what place at the end of the season.” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said, alluding to the fact the Bears have seven games to play, starting next Saturday at home against Washington.

It was a heart-breaker for the Cougars (2-4, 1-2) and quarterback Connor Halliday, who broke the NCAA all-division single-game passing record with 734 yards. He threw six touchdowns.

Goff called the game the most fun he’s had on a football field, and his receivers agreed after the Bears, down 24-13 at the intermission, scored touchdowns on all seven of their second-half possessions.

“We always talk about going out there and scoring 60 points,” said Bryce Treggs, who caught 10 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. “We might as well go for 70. Why not?”

“Seventy-five,” chimed in Davis.

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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: Will Cal-WSU end before Sunday?

Are you ready for a late night?

Cal and Washington State kick off at 7:30 p.m. tonight, and when the game ends is anyone’s guess.

11 pm.? C’mon . . .later.

11:30? Maybe.

Midnight? Not out of the question, with two teams likely to throw a lot and score a lot.

Asked this week if he’s ever been part of a game that finished after midnight, Cal coach Sonny Dykes laughed.

“Oh yeah. Shoot, half our games at Texas Tech did,” he said, reflecting on his time as an assistant with the Red Raiders under current WSU coach Mike Leach.

“One year we played Texas A&M and we kicked at 9,” he said. “It was midnight at the end of the first quarter.”


Football: UC/CU and crazy numbers


Some nutty numbers off Cal’s 59-56 double-OT win over Colorado:

— Jared Goff’s seven touchdown passes is the second-most in Cal history, behind Pat Barnes’ record of eight in a 56-55 four-overtime win over Arizona in 1996.

— The combined 14 TD passes by Goff and Colorado’s Sefo Luifau set a Pac-12 record.

— Goff passed for 449 yards, the fourth-highest total of his career. He now holds four of the top five spots on Cal’s single-game list.

— His 35 career TD passes ties him for No. 8 on Cal’s career list . . . in just 16 games. The record, FYI, is 64, held by Kyle Boller (1999-2002).

— Goff has thrown 17 touchdown passes this season — tied for second-best in the nation. He needs 14 more to equal Barnes’ single-season record of 31 set in 1996.

— Goff has climbed to No. 5 nationally in pass efficiency at 190.2. A 17 to 3 TD to INT ratio will do that.

— The Bears’ game next Saturday at Washington State will feature two of the most prolific passers in the country. WSU’s Connor Halliday threw four Saturday in a win at Utah and has an NCAA-best 20 for the season.

— Cal is averaging 17.1 yards per completion, a far cry from last year’s dink-and-dunk offense where that number was 10.8 yards.

— The Bears have scored 159 points the past three games, more than in any three-game since span putting up 169 in 1922 in wins over Washington State (61-0), Washington (45-7) and Nevada (61-0).

— Daniel Lasco had 200 yards rushing (108) and receiving (92) and now has 347 rushing yards over four games, averaging 6.3 per attempt. Click here to see Lasco’s school-record 92-yard TD reception, during which he eluded several CU defenders, then leveled one to break into the open.

— Nine different Cal players have caught touchdowns this season, led by Kenny Lawler, who had two vs. CU and five for the season.

— Penalties continue to be a problem for the Bears. They had 12 for 113 yards against Colorado and have been flagged for 373 yards in four games.


Football: Cal-Colorado game thread

FINAL: Cal 59, Colorado 56, 2 OT. Well, that was fun. Two weeks in a row. Sheesh. What could happen next week? Don’t ask — the Bears play a night game at Washington State, where we may see 135 pass attempts. (Just from the Cougars).

Here’s the top of my game story:

Cal football’s 713-day drought without a Pac-12 victory is history and coach Sonny Dykes couldn’t be happier.

“When you’re not very good, which we weren’t last year, then a lot of the wins you get are first this, first that. I’m kind of ready for that to be over,” Dykes said after the Bears’ 59-56 double-overtime defeat of Colorado snapped a 15-game conference losing streak.

James Langford kicked a 34-yard field goal in the second overtime and Jared Goff threw seven touchdown passes as the Bears won their first Pac-12 game since beating Washington State 31-17 on Oct. 13, 2012.

Of course, this wasn’t just any victory, but a bookend to the weirdest eight days the Bears have experienced in decades. A week after blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead in a 49-45 loss at Arizona, the Bears (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) made sure late-game magic isn’t just the domain of their opposition.

“It’s probably up there with last week for the craziest game I’ve been a part of,” said Goff, who threw three of his touchdowns in the final 2:56 of regulation and in overtime. “Obviously, it feels better this time.”

Dykes could barely harness his emotions after the teams combined for four touchdowns in the final 3:23 of regulation to set up the Bears’ first overtime game since 2011 at Colorado. “I think I’ve aged like a hundred years the last two weeks,” he said.

Langford, the senior from Pleasanton, was feeling a bit surreal himself. He called the scene after his game-winning kick “a blur,” but did remember hitting the ground after a Colorado defender ran into him.

“I didn’t see it go through the uprights,” he said. “All the noise confirmed it for me.”

Then his delirious teammates arrived, planting him once more. He called the experience “totally priceless,” admitting his cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

The combined point total (115) Saturday in front of 39,821 thoroughly entertained fans at Memorial Stadium was the highest in a Cal game since 1920, when the Bears thrashed Saint Mary’s College 127-0.

This one was more fun.

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Football: Cal-Arizona game thread

FINAL SCORE: Arizona 49 Cal 45. Impossible, right? Well, I’ve never seen anything like it, and neither has anyone else I talked to in the press box tonight. The Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) scored 36 fourth-quarter points, including four TD passes from redshirt freshman Anu Solomon. He finished with 520 passing yards and five TDs. None was bigger or more improbable than his 47-yard “Hail Mary” to Austin Hill after taking the final snap with 4 seconds left. The Bears (2-1, 0-1) were ruined. “So painful,” said quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 380 yards and three TDs.

Click here to read my game story.

END OF THIRD QTR: Cal 31-13. It may not be over. The Wildcats have definitely had the better of things this quarter — Solomon beginning to find a rhythm running and throwing — and they begin the period with a second-and-10 from the Cal 14.

Cal totaled just 44 yards of offense in the quarter, compared to 169 for the Wildcats.

HALFTIME: Cal 28-6. Cal’s best half of the Sonny Dykes era. Griffin Piatt’s third interception in three games — on the goal line with 47 seconds left in the half — kept the Wildcats out of the end zone after they threatened again.

Goff was 13 for 17 for 294 yards and three TDs. In the second quarter he threw a 26-yarder to Stephen Anderson that was Anderson’s first career TD catch and his first catch of any kind this season. He also connected with Chris Harper on a 30-yard TD that made it 28-6.

Lasco has 11 carries for 74 yards and Cal has outgained Arizona 375 yards to 190.

END OF FIRST QTR: Cal 14-0. The Bears played a nearly perfect first 3:07 of the game, scoring two touchdowns on just four plays that covered a total of 165 yards. Daniel Lasco got the first on a 44-yard TD run, then Jared Goff threw 80 yards to Bryce Treggs on a one-play scoring drive with 11:53 left in the quarter.

Cal outgained the Cats 210 yards to 56. Goff was 7 for 8 for 149 yards. Lasco had six carries for 56 yards.


Welcome to Arizona Stadium in Tucson. We are about 90 minutes from kickoff of the Pac-12 opener between Cal (2-0) and Arizona (3-0).

A warm early evening with a few clouds. Things can change in a hurry in the desert, but this doesn’t look like a night that will bring rain.

A couple of depth-chart notes: sophomore Jake Kearney gets his first start at the SAM linebacker spot. Jalen Jefferson moves to the WILL, and Ray Davison, who had started at the SAM, is listed as No. 2 at WILL.

Cedric Dozier is listed as a starter at one cornerback spot over Darius Allensworth, although they likely will be on the field together when Cal is in a nickel formation, which could be often.

Arizona dressed in all-white uniforms, Cal in gold on gold with blue helmets.

COIN FLIP: Cal wins the toss and will receive. Same as the past two games, when the Bears opened with long drives to touchdowns.

Enjoy the game.