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Football: Will Cal play chicken in bowl season?

The San Francisco Bowl, formerly known as the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, has a new title sponsor and name: The Foster Farms Bowl.

In its 13th season overall, the Foster Farms Bowl is of potential interest to Cal fans because it will pair teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Levi’s Stadium.

Cal needs one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.

Gary Cavalli, co-founder and executive director of the Foster Farms Bowl, said the game’s mission remains the same.

“Even though the game will no longer be called the ‘Fight Hunger Bowl’ we will continue our initiatives to fight hunger in the Bay Area,” Cavalli said. “Every ticket sold to the game is a ‘meal ticket’ for a hungry family in the Bay Area, generating donations to our partner organizations – Glide, St. Anthony’s, SF-Marin Food Bank, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and Second Harvest Food Bank.”

The previous 12 games in the bowl series all were played at AT&T Park.

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Football: Ex-Cal star Mebane out for NFL season

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane will miss the rest of the season for the Seattle Seahawks after being placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a hamstring injury.

The move was expected after coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the injury suffered in Seattle’s 38-17 win over the Giants was “legit.” The team had been waiting for additional results.

Fox Sports first reported that Mebane suffered a torn hamstring. The loss of the Cal product is a blow to Seattle’s run defense, which ranks fourth in the league at 79.8 yards per game. Mebane has also been in on the most snaps of any of Seattle’s defensive tackles.

Mebane appeared to have been hurt early in the second quarter while chasing down a wide receiver screen. Eli Manning completed a short pass for Reuben Randle and Mebane appeared to grab at the back of his right leg while running after him.

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Football: Dykes chuckles at silly idea of the day

Sonny Dykes said after practice Tuesday he had not heard about Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde’s published speculation that Dykes might an interested candidate for the vacant Southern Methodist University job.

One year after talk that Dykes’ job at Cal was in jeopardy because of a 1-11 maiden season, he’s now being mentioned as a possible candidate elsewhere.

“That’s how it goes,” Dykes said. “You’re either on one list or the other.”

In defense of Forde, I guess when you’ve got to make 40 (Forde) points in your column, you’re bound to have a couple that don’t have much basis in reality.

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Football: No Big Game kickoff announced Monday

We normally learn Monday morning the start times and TV info for Pac-12 football games scheduled for the following week.

But we have no word on Nov. 22 when Cal and Stanford will wage the Big Game at Memorial Stadium.

TV is exercising its right to hold off on scheduling for that day until at least this Saturday night, after the completion of all Pac-12 games. It’s possible final word won’t come until Sunday, or even Monday.

Word is there are five possible time slots/TV affiliations for these three games: USC at UCLA, Arizona at Utah and Stanford at Cal.

They are 12:30 p.m. on ABC regional; 12:30 p.m. on ESPN; 1 p.m. on FoxSports1; 4 p.m. on ESPN2; 5 p.m. on ABC.

We do know that the Big Game will not be televised the Pac-12 Networks. They are taking three games that day: Washington State at Arizona State (10 a.m.), Oregon State at Washington (no time yet) and Colorado at Oregon (no time).

Stay tuned.

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Football notebook: Bears prepare for USC return game

No one associated with the Cal punt coverage unit is excited to relive last year’s game against USC.

“We don’t spend much time talking about last year on anything around here,” Cal special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl said.

Among the many nightmares the Bears endured during a 1-11 campaign, perhaps none left them shaken in quite the same way as the three punt returns for touchdowns they gave up in a 62-28 loss to USC.

“That was once in a lifetime,” junior punter Cole Leininger said.

He certainly hopes so because Cal (5-4, 3-4 Pac-12) gets another shot at the Trojans (6-3, 5-2) and return specialist Nelson Agholor on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Agholor ran back punts 93 and 75 yards for touchdowns that day and USC scored a third by running in a blocked punt.

Leininger said it’s difficult to express his emotions about that game. “The blame’s inherently going to go on me,” he said. “Obviously, everyone had something to do with it.”

Leininger’s focus this season has been to get more hang time on his punts in order to help the coverage unit. He has improved, Tommerdahl said, but needs to be better still.

“That’s what separates an NFL guy from a great college punter,” Tommerdahl said. “You’ve got to be able to hang it up there a ton.”

Coach Sonny Dykes said it’s possible the Bears will try to kick ball away from Agholor, but added, “At some point you’ve got to get where you can cover. We’ll challenge our guys.”

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Football: How Golden Bears went from 1-11 to 5-4

Nine down and three to go, starting with USC.

That’s where the Cal football team stood a year ago at this time, and that’s where it stands again right now, with the Bears set to play the Trojans on Thursday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

And that’s where the similarities end.

Cal was 1-8 and riding a seven-game losing streak headed into the USC game last season. Seven of those defeats were by two touchdowns or more, and what followed were three more routs as the Bears finished 1-11 during coach Sonny Dykes’ first season.

Now the Bears are 5-4 and coming off a 45-31 victory at Oregon State. Five of their first eight games were decided by seven points or fewer — three of them on the final play of the game — but the Bears are the most improved team from any of the nation’s five power conferences and they are a single victory from becoming bowl eligible, a status that was mathematically off the table before Halloween a year ago.

How did they climb out of the abyss so quickly?

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, whose Wildcats topped Cal 49-45 on a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play, said the progress has come because Dykes and his staff stayed consistent with their message.

“They’re growing up in a system,” Rodriguez said. “Once you get some confidence and get a couple wins early in the season, that goes a long way to getting the guys to believe in themselves and what they’re doing.”

Here are four specific ways the Bears have begun to grow up:

STRONGER BELIEF

A year ago, the Bears rarely expected to win, and that attitude showed in their inability to come from behind. In nine Pac-12 games — all defeats — Cal never rallied from a deficit to take the lead. Not once.

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Football: Pretty good NFL day for ex-Bears

Ex-Cal stars Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch stole the NFL headlines Sunday.

C.J. Anderson and Justin Forsett had pretty nice days, too.

Rodgers set one NFL record and tied another in Green Bay’s 55-14 rout of the Chicago Bears, and Lynch scored a career-best four touchdowns in Seattle’s 38-17 win over the New York Giants.

Rodgers set an NFL record with hjs 16th touchdown pass of 70 yards or more — a 73-yarder to Jordy Nelson.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. He threw six first-half TD passes, tying an NFL mark set way back in 1969 by the Raiders’ “Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica.

Rodgers finished 18 of 28 for 315 yards, without an interception or sack. He has thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions the past three games, 10 of those TDs in two games against the Bears.

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Lynch ran for a season-best 140 yards and scored on runs of 1, 2, 3 and 16 yards.

“Like I said before, Marshawn Lynch is our engine,” Seattle’s Doug Baldwin said. “Everything runs through him.”

“You could see the impact Russell’s running was having. . . . That impact mixing with what Marshawn was doing, it just got to where they couldn’t find us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

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Anderson had the game of his life in the Denver Broncos’ 41-17 win at Oakland. The running back rushed 13 times for 90 yards and caught four passes for 73 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown from Peyton Manning that gave the Broncos the lead for good.

“I love playing at home,” Anderson said afterward. “It’s like I got my ice cream and my cake at the same time. I’m trying to soak all this in.”

*****

Forsett, who became the starting running back for the Baltimore after Ray Rice was indefinitely suspended, ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ 21-7 win over Tennessee. Forsett, in his eighth season, has reached career highs for yardage (721) and touchdowns (five).

“It’s been a dream come true, just to get the opportunity to come out here and play and show what I can do,” Forsett said.

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Basketball: Cal vs. CS San Marcos game thread

FINAL SCORE: Cal 74, Cal State San Marcos 52. Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird each scored 13 points and Jordan Mathews had 12.

Coach Cuonzo Martin was upbeat after the game, praising his team’s defense, focus, willingness to play physical and its ability to attack the 3-2 zone after a slow start.

“I thought they did a great job across the board,” he said.

The Bears open their regular season a week from Friday at home against Alcorn State as part of the 2K Classic.

“I’m really excited about this year and the team we have,” Bird said. “ I think we’re ready to get the season started.”

Wallace saw lots that he liked about the team’s performance and a few things that need more attention.

“We still need to get better rebounding,” he said after the Bears forged a modest 36-29 edge on the boards against a smaller team. “Our movement on offense . . . sometimes we tend to hold the ball when guys are open.

“Overall, we’re pretty good right now. Everybody’s playing hard. We’re trying to do the right things.”

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Football: Scarlett has season-ending ACL surgery

Cal defensive end Brennan Scarlett, regarded as perhaps the team’s best defensive player, underwent season-ending ACL surgery last week, coach Sonny Dykes announced after practice Thursday.

Scarlett injured the knee Oct. 4 during the Bears’ 60-59 win at WashingtonState, but returned to play in the game. Dykes later described the injury as a sprain, but Scarlett missed all four subsequent games.

Surgery to repair the partially torn ACL went well, Dykes said, and revealed no other damage in his knee.

“On the road to recovery,” Dykes said.

A junior from Portland, Oregon, Scarlett will be sidelined until next summer. “Hopefully, July he’ll be fully released and ready to go,” his coach said.

Initially, Scarlett expected to return this season without surgery.

“We were going to try to work through it and brace him and practice him and get him stronger,” Dykes said. “After discussing it with him and his family and doctors, we came to the conclusion it was best to go ahead and have the surgery.”

Scarlett is disappointed, but coping, reported Dykes, who expects him to play his senior season.

“He was really starting to come into his own and starting to play well, so I think it’s frustrating for him,” Dykes said. “He’ll get through it and I expect him to have a great year next year.”

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Football: Cal-OSU video rewind

Thought you might enjoy this 5-minute video, assembled for Cal’s athletic YouTube page, recapping the Bears’ 45-31 win at Oregon State.

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UPDATE: Cal QB Jared Goff will appear on the Jim Rome show Wednesday morning (today!) at 10:40 a.m. The showed is aired in the Bay Area on 1050-AM. Short notice, but I just found out.

UPDATE II: Just listened to Goff on Rome. No real new ground covered for local listeners, but Goff talked about the Bears’ improvement from last year, his better grasp of the offense with a year’s experience and the impact of Ted Agu’s death. For the national audience not familiar with Cal football, lots of good stuff.

Rome gave Goff high marks for the interview: “Awesome,” he said after the 10-minute conversation. “Jared Goff’s really impressive. He’s a sophomore and he’s 20.”