Football: Mariota, Wright earn top Pac-12 honors

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III, who will square off in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium, have been named the league’s offensive and defensive players of the year.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was voted Coach of the Year by his peers.

Oregon running back Royce Freeman was named Freshman Offensive Player of the Year and USC defensive back Adoree Jackson took Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors.

The All-Pac-12 team will be announced Tuesday night on the Pac-12 Networks’ weekly football highlight show at 8 p.m.

Mariota, frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, threw for 3,470 yards with 36 touchdowns and just two interceptions for the second-ranked Ducks. He led Pac-12 quarterbacks with 636 rushing yards and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground.

He is a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award and Maxwell Award and has led Oregon to victories over three top-25 teams.

Wright, who attended Cardinal Newman High in Santa Rosa, earned the Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award after leading the Wildcats to their first Pac-12 South title.

He led the conference with six forced fumbles, is third nationally with 14 sacks and tops all Football Bowl Subdivision players with 27 tackles for loss.

He is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award.


Football: Three Bears on All-Pac-12 Academic team

Senior center Chris Adcock and defensive backs Caleb Coleman and Griffin Piatt represent Cal on the Pac-12 All-Academic first team, announced Monday by the conference.

A three-time Pac-12 All-Academic first-team pick, Adcock has compiled a 3.54 grade-point average as a double major in business administration and interdisciplinary studies. He has earned his degree in the former and is on schedule to complete his work in the latter this month.

Coleman, a redshirt freshman cornerback with an undeclared major, has a 3.56 GPA. Piatt, who came to Cal as a walkon but has since earned a scholarship, is a junior with a 3.64 GPA as a business administration major.

Second-team Cal picks were senior offensive guard Alejandro Crosthwaite (3.14 GPA), junior defensive end Brennan Scarlett (3.14) and sophomore cornerback Cameron Walker (3.22).

Honorable mention picks were placekicker James Langford, defensive end Todd Barr, punter Cole Leininger, linebacker Hardy Nickerson and wide receiver Drake Whitehurst.


Football: Bears get commitment from JC safety


True to his word, coach Sonny Dykes landed help for the Bears’ defensive secondary on Sunday, securing an oral commitment from Derron Williams-Brown, a freshman safety at Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, Scout.com reported.

According to the Mesa athletic website, Williams-Brown had three interceptions this season on a 5-5 team, earning second-team All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference honors.

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Williams-Brown would have three years of football eligibility at Cal.

“He’s a big, physical kid with good ball skills,” Mesa coach Ryan Felker said. “This is a tough league to come in and be successful as a freshman.

“He’s a workhorse,” Felker said. “He’s going to outwork anybody, do what he needs to do.”

Williams-Brown had three interceptions and caught 11 touchdown passes as a wide receiver as a junior in the fall of 2012 at Fairfax High in Laveen, Arizona, according to MaxPreps.com.

Williams-Brown missed his senior season at Fairfax with a toe injury, according to Felker, and as a result fell off the radar a bit with college recruiters. “He didn’t fall off ours,” Felker said.

Here is a video highlight reel of Williams-Brown, courtesy of Hudl.com.


Football: Cal’s season by the numbers

Cal’s season by the numbers

1 – Victories needed to reach six wins and be bowl eligible.

2 – Senior offensive linemen – C Chris Adcock and G Alejandro Crosthwaite – the Bears must replace.

3 – Cal players with at least 50 receptions (Kenny Lawler 54, Bryce Treggs & Chris Harper 52 each).

4 – Number of 400-yard passing games by Cal opponents.

5 – 100-yard rushing games by Daniel Lasco, who rushed for 1,115 yards.

6 – Losses Cal sustained in its final seven games after a 4-1 start.

7 – Bowl eligible teams Cal played this season. The Bears lost all seven games.

8 – Games the Bears allowed their opponents 36 points or more.

9 – Touchdown catches by Kenny Lawler, tied for fifth on Cal’s season list.

10 – Departing seniors who came to Cal as scholarship players.

12 – 300-yard career passing games by Jared Goff.

14 – Touchdowns scored this season by Lasco.

15 – Pass interference penalties on Cal’s defense this season.

18 – Starters on offense and defense expected to return next season.

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Football: Crazy passing numbers

Cal sophomore Jared Goff finished the season with 3,973 passing yards — seventh-most in Pac-12 history. The six players above him on the list all topped 4,000 yards for a season.

Goff moved to the top of the 2014 list of Pac-12 quarterbacks who threw for the most yardage this season, in part because Washington State’s Connor Halliday sat out the final three games with injury.

But the list boasts impressive numbers — eight Pac-12 passers topped 3,000 yards.

Of course, the season isn’t over for most of these players. Here they are, with their Pac-12 and NCAA rankings:

1/2: Jared Goff, Cal: 3,973 yards, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

2/4: Connor Halliday, WSU: 3,873 yards, 32 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

3/6: Cody Kessler, USC: 3,505 yards, 36 touchdowns, 4 interceptions

4/7: Marcus Mariota, Oregon: 3,470 yards, 36 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

5/8: Anu Solomon, Arizona: 3,424 yards, 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

6/19: Sefo Liufau, Colorado: 3,200 yards, 28 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

7/21: Sean Mannion, Oregon State: 3,1,64 yards, 15 touchdowns, 8 interceptions

8/26: Brett Hundley, UCLA: 3,019, 21 touchdowns, 5 interceptions


Football: Cal-BYU game thread

UPDATE: Here’s my game story:

It never rained, as predicted, at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

But Cal succumbed to the same aerial downpour it’s been pelted by all season, and failed to earn bowl eligibility after a 42-35 loss to BYU.

The Bears (5-7) needed a victory to earn their first postseason bid since 2011, but could not stop BYU quarterback Christian Stewart, a former walk-on, whose fifth touchdown pass of the game, a 38-yarder to Jordan Leslie, broke a tie with 2:39 left.

It was the third straight week Cal could secure bowl eligibility with a sixth victory, and it fell short each time.

“Getting over the hump in college football is a hard thing to do,” said second-year coach Sonny Dykes, whose team progressed from a 1-11 record in 2013. “We had opportunities to do it this year and just didn’t get it done.”

Sophomore Jared Goff threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Kenny Lawler, and had four shots at Lawler in the end zone in the final 30 seconds but could not deliver the game-tying play.

“I was trying to find a hole in there, trying to find Kenny, hoping he could make a play,” Goff said.

As usual, offense wasn’t the issue. Cal scored 459 points this season – the most since 1920 and the second-most in school history. Goff set school records with 3,973 yards and 35 touchdowns passing.

But even an offense more prolific than the ones directed by Aaron Rodgers in 2003 and 2004 could not overcome a defense that gave up more passing yards (4,406) and TD passes (42) than any FBS team in history.

“We take full responsibility for it. We know what we have to do to get better,” junior safety Stefan McClure said. “It’s all stuff we did. It’s heartbreaking, especially the way it came down to the last drive.”

BYU’s decisive drive began with 4:27 left after Dykes opted to punt on a fourth-and-1 play from the Cal 34-yard line.

Asked how close he came to going for it, Dykes said, “Looking back, obviously I wish I had. It’s one of those things if you don’t get it you probably lose the ballgame.”

So he asked his defense to get the ball back. It didn’t happen.

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Football: BYU is Cal’s final chance for bowl eligibility

Cal coach Sonny Dykes sees something more than the tangible benefits – extra practice time, a boost to recruiting – that a win over BYU Saturday and bowl eligibility would provide his program.

“The most important thing is just the psyche of our players, feeling they really accomplished something,” said Dykes, whose program progressed from one victory last season to five so far this fall. “That part would be really critical, just from where we were to being in the bowl discussion would be a credit to those players.”

Cal (5-6) and BYU (7-4) kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, with the Bears needing that sixth win to become eligible for its first bowl game since 2011.

Given the circumstances, this ranks as perhaps the most important nonconference game Cal has ever played, or at least since 2001, when a season-ending win at Rutgers allowed the Bears to avoid their first winless season.

“This is kind of like a playoff game and we’re treating it as such,” wide receiver Chris Harper said.

“We know what’s at stake,” guard Alejandro Crosthwaite said. “We’re hungry. We all love each other – the chemistry has been ridiculous – and we want the extra month.”

Dykes addressed the bowl situation to his team just once – immediately after last Saturday’s Big Game loss to Stanford. “Everybody knew it,” running back Daniel Lasco said.

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Football: Cal vs. BYU facts

Cal vs. BYU

KICKOFF: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, Berkeley.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Networks; 810-AM.

RECORDS: BYU 7-4; Cal 5-6.

SERIES HISTORY: BYU leads 2-1. Cal won the most recent meeting, 35-28, at the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl as Marshawn Lynch rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns.

STORYLINES: Cal needs a win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2011. The Bears started the season 4-1, but have lost five of their past six. . . . BYU, in its fourth season as an independent, has won its past three games against teams with a combined record of 8-27, including a 64-0 win last week over Savannah State, an FCS team with an 0-12 mark. . . . BYU lost four games in a row at midseason after star quarterback Taysom Hill broke his leg. But replacement Christian Stewart, originally a walkon from a Utah junior college, has thrown for 1,829 yards and 17 touchdowns the past seven games. . . . This is the first time Cal has closed its regular season with a nonconference game since facing Southern Miss in a 2004 game that was moved from Sept. 16 to Dec. 4 because of the threat of Hurricane Ivan on the Gulf Coast.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: LB Jalen Jefferson (shoulder) is questionable; LB Jake Kearney (abdomen) is doubtful; DT David Davis (knee) is out; BYU: RB Algernon Brown (ankle) and WR Jordan Leslie (ankle) are probable; LB Fred Warner (back) is out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s offensive line vs. BYU’s defensive front. The Bears need a stout effort from the men who block for quarterback Jared Goff, held to a season-low 182 passing yards against Stanford’s defense last week in the Big Game. The Cougars have similar muscle and length up front with four players standing 6-foot-4 or taller, including 6-7, 265-pound linebacker Bronson Kaufusi, who has six of BYU’s 24 sacks.

STATS THAT MATTER: Junior running back Daniel Lasco needs 15 yards to become Cal’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Isi Sofele in 2011. . . . Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff needs one touchdown pass to become Cal’s single season leader. He shares the record of 31 with Pat Barnes (1996). Currently No. 5 with 7,088 career passing yards, Goff would move to No. 3 with 273 yards. . . . Cal ranks last nationally, having allowed 3,973 passing yards through 11 games. If BYU throws for 277 yards Saturday, Cal will have allowed more yards through the air than any FBS team in history.


Football: Luke Rubenzer happy with his opportunities as Cal’s change-of-pace QB, eager to improve

No one was more surprised by how much Luke Rubenzer played in the Big Game than Luke Rubenzer.

“Yeah, a little bit,” the Bears’ freshman backup quarterback said. “I knew I was going to get in with some of those big sets, but I didn’t know how often we were going to use them.”

Rubenzer carried the ball a career-high 12 times for 60 yards, providing the Bears a change of pace on offense, and was 5 for 9 passing for 49 yards, but with two interceptions.

“Running the ball I felt like I took advantage of my opportunities,” Rubenzer said. “Obviously there’s a little work that has to be done with some of the pass plays. It was fun. It was good to get out there.”

Less fun was having two touchdown runs erased by the video replay crew. Two days later, the Pac-12 office acknowledged that one of those two runs – along with Jared Goff’s subsequent 16-yard TD pass to Kenny Lawler – shouldn’t have been overturned.

“I was a little frustrated. It’s just something out of my control,” Rubenzer said. “I knew I was definitely in on the second one. They came out and said that, too.”

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Football: Cal’s possible bowl destination — Tempe?

Courtesy of Jon Wilner, my BANG colleague, click here for his projections on where Pac-12 football teams will go bowling.

He envisions Cal potentially going to the Cactus Bowl, Jan. 2 in Tempe:

Record: 5-6/3-6
Schedule: vs. Brigham Young
Projected bowl: Cactus
Comment: A victory over BYU makes the Bears eligible. They’re a relatively hot commodity after a season that exceeded expectations. Because of the one-game difference in league record with Stanford, the Bears can leapfrog the Cardinal into the Cactus.

Of course, all of it hinges on the Bears winning Saturday.