Football: Goff, Hogan fit in nicely among top Big Game quarterback matchups

Here is the story colleague Jon Wilner and I put together on the top quarterback matchups in Big Game history:

Smack in the middle of preparations for the latest installment of their ancient rivalry — precisely when vitriol should rule the day — Cal and Stanford are showing each other a little love, particularly at quarterback.

Cal’s Jared Goff praised Stanford’s Kevin Hogan to the top of Tightwad Hill and back prior to the 118th Big Game, while Hogan talked in glowing terms about Goff’s talent and humility.

The coaches went one better. Stanford’s David Shaw called Goff “the kind of guy you root for,” while Cal’s Sonny Dykes suggested Hogan, not Oregon’s former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, has been the best player in the conference over the past three years.

“He gives them a chance to win every Saturday,” Dykes said, “and that’s about the best thing you can say about a quarterback.”

There’s plenty to say about Hogan and Goff entering Saturday’s showdown at Stanford, including this: They form the Big Game’s best quarterback matchup this century and one of the greatest in series history.

The list, it turns out, is shorter than you might think.

The schools have produced a long line of stellar passers. But many of the greatest (Frankie Albert, Bobby Garrett, Craig Morton, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck) didn’t face an elite quarterback on the other team.

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Football: Big Game sons learned well from fathers

Here is staff writer Dan Brown’s story on Big Game fathers and sons:

The 118th Big Game at Stanford Stadium this week is besotted with players who have an Axe wedged somewhere in their family tree.

Jared Goff’s father, for example, was an All-America catcher at Cal, which is why the quarterback has been a Bears fan since birth.

Jerry and Nancy Goff even guided their son through a pivotal moment for any young Cal disciple, a Play date.

“The first time I saw ‘The Play,’ I was told about the meaning of it,” Jared Goff said this week, recalling Cal’s five-lateral miracle to beat Stanford in the 1982 Big Game. “It’s obviously one of the best, if not the best, play in college history.”

Then, breaking into the iconic call of radio man Joe Starkey, Goff added: ” ‘The band is on the field!’ and all that stuff.”

Click here to read the rest of this story.


Football: Daniel Lasco, Kenny Lawler and Damariay Drew all questionable for Cal in Big Game

Cal could be without three significant players for the 118th Big Game at Stanford on Saturday.

Running back Daniel Lasco (ankle), wide receiver Kenny Lawler (bruised buttocks) and safety Damariay Drew (knee) all are questionable, Cal coach Sonny Dykes said Thursday evening. He said all three would be re-evaluated after Friday’s practice.

Lasco, who rushed for 1,115 yards a year ago, has struggled to stay healthy all season. He has missed two games and rushed for just 331 yards.

“We’ve just had a hard time getting him back and rolling,” Dykes said. “It’s disappointing for us and disappointing for him because he’s such a good player.”

Dykes said running back Khalfani Muhammad (foot) is cleared and will play. If Lasco is shelved, the carries will be shared by Muhammad, Vic Enwere and Tre Watson, who rushed for a career-high 110 yards last week.

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Football: Jared Goff No. 2 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s QB draft list

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest rankings of the top NFL prospects at quarterback:

1. *Paxton Lynch, Memphis
2. *Jared Goff, California
3. Carson Wentz, North Dakota St.
4. Connor Cook, Michigan St.
5. *Christian Hackenberg, Penn St.
6. Dak Prescott, Mississippi St.
7. *Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
8. Cody Kessler, USC
9. Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
10. Trevone Boykin, TCU

*Player has a year of eligibility remaining.


Football: Four key ingredients for a possible Cal upset victory in the Big Game

The numbers don’t provide much hope for Cal against rival Stanford in Saturday’s 118th Big Game.

The Bears have lost five straight in the series — by an average margin of more than 25 points — and are double-digit underdogs on the road this time.

So what must Cal do to add to the lore of Big Game upsets against the 15th-ranked Cardinal? Here’s a checklist:

Play loose and confident

The pressure of playing for bowl eligibility is gone for the Bears (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12), who got over the hump last weekend with a 54-24 rout of Oregon State.

“It’s a weight lifted off our shoulders,” senior safety Stefan McClure said.

Free of that burden, the Bears must arrive at Stanford Stadium with belief in themselves. Two years ago, after a 63-13 loss to the Cardinal in coach Sonny Dykes’ debut season, then-freshman offensive guard Chris Borrayo saw a discouraged team in the locker room.

“My teammates’ heads were down. We got our (butts) kicked pretty bad by Stanford that day,” he said. “I just saw everyone’s faces were scared.”

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Football: Big Game brings out big praise from David Shaw on Cal QB Jared Goff

Stanford coach David Shaw told reporters this week if he had one game to win, he’d pick between his own Kevin Hogan and Cal’s Jared Goff to start at quarterback.

Stanford is 2-0 against Goff, but Shaw likes everything about the Cal junior, who has thrown for 3,324 yards and 30 touchdowns this season.

“You have to get a calculator with Goff’s numbers,” Shaw said. “He’s awesome. He’s tall, he’s long. He has a quick release. He can paint the sidelines from the far hash. That’s big-time.

“Down the field, the balls are beautiful. They’re tight, coming down right where you want them. The kid’s really good. He’s the kind of guy you root for. He’s a humble kid. We’re going into this game with a lot of respect for this guy. He is that good.”


Football notebook: Cal fifth-year senior Stefan McClure longs to touch The Axe

Fifth-year senior safety Stefan McClure has been at Cal so long he jokingly says Saturday will be his 22nd Big Game. But for McClure, there is nothing funny about the recent competitive gulf between the Bears and rival Stanford.

Cal has lost five straight Big Games and McClure said he’s never touched The Axe, the prize that goes to the winner in the 118-year-old series.

“I haven’t even seen it in person, face to face,” he said. “I’ve only seen it through pictures or on TV. It’ll be a great feeling to touch The Axe. We’ve got to get it back.”

Having secured eligibility for a bowl game with their win over Oregon State last weekend, the Bears (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) now have a single agenda for Saturday.

“This is my third one. I’d like to win this one, obviously,” said junior quarterback Jared Goff, who could be facing Stanford for the last time if he elects to enter the NFL draft next spring. “We’re coming off a big win so we’re going to have to show a little bit of maturity to put that behind us.

“They’re going to play well. We’re going to play well. It’s going to be fun.”

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Football: Sonny Dykes says Cal is `where I want to be,’ and AD Mike Williams wants to keep him

Cal fans already are wondering if Saturday’s trek to Stanford could be Jared Goff’s final Big Game. The junior quarterback has not hinted whether he knows what he’ll do, but could be enticed to enter the NFL draft next spring.

Now coach Sonny Dykes’ future in Berkeley may also be in question.

Three different online media reports in recent weeks suggested he is frustrated he doesn’t yet have a contract extension and could be open to listening to other job offers, especially if they come from his home state of Texas.

Dykes says it isn’t true.

“This is where I want to be,” he said in an interview with this newspaper late last week, when asked to respond to the reports and the questions they raised. “It’s where I am. I came here and it’s where I want to be.”

Said athletic director Mike Williams, “It’s my intention to keep him here.”

When Dykes made his remarks, Cal hadn’t yet posted last Saturday’s 54-24 win over Oregon State, which makes the Bears (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) eligible for their first bowl invitation since 2011.

Even then, Dykes said the growth of young players in the program has provided him with “more optimism” at certain positions.

“We’re going to lose some good players (after this season), but we’re going to replace them with some good players,” he said. “Our young guys are good. We’re recruiting well. I’m excited about the future.”

The Oregon State win, on the heels of four straight defeats, provided Dykes with some relief and some satisfaction, he said. “We’ll be satisfied when we win every game.”

For now, Dykes and the Bears would settle for winning the next one.

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Athletics: Cal sweeps Pac-12 awards for football, basketball

A busy Monday on the awards front for Cal.

The Bears swept Pac-12 weekly awards in football and men’s and women’s basketball.

— Football: Jared Goff was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after passing for a season-high 453 yards and six touchdowns in the Bears’ 54-24 victory over Oregon State that gave the Bears a sixth victory and made them bowl eligible for the first time in four seasons. Goff was 26 of 37, and hit 22 of 25 attempts during one stretch.

— Men’s basketball: Tyrone Wallace was given the season’s first Pac-12 Player of the Week award following a 20-point, six-rebound, nine-assist stat line in Cal’s 97-65 season-opening win over Rice. Wallace, a senior point guard and all-Pac-12 selection, shot 9 for 12 from the field and his assist total was a career high. This was the fourth time over three seasons that Wallace has won the award.

— Women’s basketball: Courtney Range won the Pac-12 Player of the Week award after contributing 23 points to a win over Austin Peay, then 19 points and 13 rebounds to the Bears’ road win over then-No. 8 Louisville. Meanwhile, Kristine Anigwe won Pac-12 Freshman of the Week by averaging 15.0 points in the two victories.