Football: Maximo Espitia reinstated, available for UW

Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who suspended Maximo Espitia for the season for a team rules violation on August 4, confirmed Thursday after practice that the junior linebacker has been reinstated and is available to possibly play Saturday against Washington.

“It was for a year and it was going to be based on some conditions for him to get released. Quite frankly, we didn’t know if it was going to work,” Dykes said. “He did everything we asked him to and then some, so we reduced the suspension. That’s the way it played out.”

The decision to reinstate Espitia, Dykes said, was made by the athletic department.

Dykes reiterated that Espitia’s suspension was not because of a legal or academic issue.

Back in August, Dykes described the situation as “pretty serious,” and said his return to the team was not automatic.

Dykes said Espitia, from Salem, Oregon, has been conditioning in the weight room for the past month and is in good shape.

“He’ll play Saturday,” Dykes said. “I don’t know how big a role he’ll have. He’ll have a role on special teams for sure. We’ll see how it plays out.”


Click here to see my answers to five questions posed by Adam Jude, UW beat writer for the Seattle Times.


And here for Percy Allen’s column in the Seattle Times on Cal quarterback Jared Goff, of whom longtime Cal broadcaster Joe Starkey said, “Goff is on track to becoming the best player this school has ever produced.”


On the Cal injury front:

* Sophomore RB Khalfani Muhammad, who broke the thumb on his left hand on Saturday at Washington State, had surgery early this week and practiced Thursday while wearing a cast. “I would expect to see him on Saturday,” Muhammad said.

* Junior safety Stefan McClure, the team’s best defensive back, remains uncertain for Saturday with a calf injury. He has missed the past three games, during which the Bears’ pass defense has been lit up. “Lingered longer than I thought it would, Dykes said. “One of those things where you’ve got to be really careful. If you bring him back too quickly you could set him back. We’ll see. We’d like to have him.”

* Junior safety Avery Sebastian, a starter in the opener a year ago before sustaining an Achilles tear, is cleared to play after missing two of five games this season due to various ailments.  ”He practiced all week and actually looked the best probably today he’s looked maybe since last year,” said Dykes, who would not rule out the possibility Sebastian could start.

* Junior WR Darius Powe, who missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, is cleared and will play, Dykes said. Powe caught nine passes in Cal’s first three games, and leads the Bears with a 20.9-yard per-catch average.

* Sophomore linebacker Edward Tandy remains out with concussion symptoms.


Football: Cal offense by the numbers


Statistics produced by Cal’s offense, which ranks No. 2 nationally at 50 points per game:

* One of just three teams in the country that have scored 50 points or more in three games; the others are Texas A&M and Ohio State.

* The Bears have 33 touchdowns and just 19 punts through five games; a year ago they totaled 32 TDs and 75 punts for the season.

* Cal is scoring a touchdown every 11.4 offensive snaps; a year ago the Bears needed an average of 32.7 plays to generate a TD.

* The Bears already have 17 offensive plays of 40 yards or more; they had 14 all of last season.


Football: Can Bears’ offense continue to #Drop50?

Former Cal student Lawrence Ross' new T-shirt celebrates the Bears' success.

Former Cal student Lawrence Ross’ new T-shirt celebrates the Bears’ success.

Cal wide receiver/kick return specialist Trevor Davis wasn’t sure he should answer honestly when asked how many points the Golden Bears are capable of scoring in a game.

“It’s kinda crazy, the number that would pop in my head . . . it wouldn’t sound right,” Davis said. “I think we can score 70 in a game.”

Davis wasn’t offering a prediction for Saturday’s home game against Washington but was guided by a growing belief that almost anything is possible for the nation’s No. 2-scoring offense.

Can you blame him? The Bears are coming off a 60-point performance in a one-point win at Washington State during which Davis caught two touchdown passes and returned kickoffs for two more scores.

In the three weeks before that, Cal’s scoring totals were 59, 45 and 55 points. At 50 points per game, the Bears trail only Baylor (51.0) among 125 FBS teams.

What is the peak potential of the “Bear Raid” offense?

“I don’t think there’s ever a ceiling until you score every possession,” said Tony Franklin, Cal’s offensive coordinator. “It’s not (realistic), but it’s the goal. It’s what they believe they should do.”

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Football: Khalfani Muhammad has surgery on left thumb, status for Washington game still uncertain

I spoke briefly with coach Sonny Dykes as he walked off the field Wednesday after practice and he told me sophomore running back Khalfani Muhammad had surgery on his left thumb earlier this week.

He also said Muhammad, wearing a cast on his left hand on Wednesday, is expected to practice Thursday. Although it seems unlikely, Dykes was noncommittal on whether Muhammad would play when Washington visits on Saturday.

Dykes said that safety Avery Sebastian practiced and will play; safety Stefan McClure remains questionable for the Huskies.


Adam Jude of the Seattle Times writes about Washington star linebacker Shaq Thompson, the one-time Cal recruit. Click here to read his story.


Football: Dykes hopes Bears’ newcomers — especially on defense — begin to benefit from experience under fire

Cal’s inflated offensive statistics aren’t the team’s only staggering numbers.

Here’s another: Forty-one players have made their major-college football debuts for the Bears this season. Compare that to an established program such as Stanford, which has had to introduce just 17 newcomers to game action this fall.

For the Bears, it’s been a matter of necessity after last season, when more than 40 players with potential eligibility departed the program early. That included non-seniors who transferred, entered the NFL draft, retired for medical reasons or were dismissed from the program.

As a result, it’s been hard to tell this season’s players without a scorecard, especially in the defensive secondary. Nine of Cal’s 15 defensive backs are first-timers, which helps explain why the Bears rank last nationally in passing yards allowed.

While the Bears rank second nationally in scoring at 50 points per game, the defense has struggled, allowing 164 points over three Pac-12 games.

“Defensively, we don’t have that depth and experience,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “Some of those guys have played well, that’s the exciting thing. Some others are still learning how to play and gaining experience.”

Dykes isn’t worried he’ll have to wait until next season to see improvement from those young players. “I expect those guys to keep getting better and better every week,” he said.

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Football: Trevor Davis honored by Pac-12


Cal junior Trevor Davis has been voted Pac-12 special teams player of the week after his record-setting kickoff return performance at Washington State.

Davis, a transfer from Hawaii who prepped at Alhambra HS in Martinez, returned kickoffs 100 and 98 yards in the third quarter of the Bears; 60-59 win. He became the first Cal player to return two kickoffs for TDs in the same game and, in fact, tied the school record set by Deltha O’Neal for most career TDs on kickoffs.

Davis also caught a pair of touchdown passes, including a 51-yarder to give Cal the lead for good with 3:18 left.

WSU quarterback Connor Halliday, who set an FBS record with 734 passing yards, beat out Cal’s Jared Goff for offensive player of the week honors. Goff set a Cal record with 527 passing yards and also threw five touchdowns.


Davis also was named the CBSSports.com Specialist of the Week, Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week and California Muscle-Milk Student-Athlete of the Week. He is also a nominee for the VEGAS SEVEN Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Pac-12 Player of the Week to be determined by fan voting and announced Wednesday.

Goff was a co-recipient of the College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week award and also shared the CFPA’s Quarterback Performer of the Week, both for the second consecutive week.


Football: Khalfani Muhammad has thumb injury; Dykes says running back should play against Washington

Cal coach Sonny Dykes told reporters Sunday night that sophomore running back Khalfani Muhammad came out of the Washington State game because of a thumb injury.

Dykes said Muhammad will be evaluated further, adding he doesn’t think the injury is serious and he expects Muhammad to be available to play in Saturday’s home game against Washington.

None of the other Cal players who briefly left the WSU game — defensive Mustafa Jalil, defensive end Brennan Scarlett and defensive backs Cedric Dozier and Cameron Walker — all are fine.

Dykes said he expects junior safety Stefan McClure — who has missed the past three games with a calf injury — to practice on Tuesday, with the expectation he will be ready for Washington.

Dykes was vague on the nature of the injury that prompted the Bears to leave safety Avery Sebastian at home last weekend. He said Sebastian’s performance in practice late last week suggested he wouldn’t be able to play.


Football: A few more post-WSU notes

Odds and ends from Saturday night’s 4 hour, 4 minute game at Washington State:

– Jared Goff’s five TD passes give him 22 for five games this season. A year ago, he had 18 in 12 starts.

– With 40 career TD passes in just 17 games, Goff is tied for eighth on Cal’s career list. He shares the spot with current Cal radio analyst Mike Pawlawski.

– Goff’s career passing yardage total is now 5,364, which lifts him to 10th on the Bears’ all-time list. Next up: Aaron Rodgers with 5,469 yards in 2003 and ’04.

– Goff’s 527 passing yards eclipsed his school record of 504, which he accomplished last Oct. 5 — one year ago today — against Washington State. That’s 1,031 yards in two games vs. the Cougars.

– Goff owns five of the top six single-game passing marks by a Cal quarterback.

– Cal’s 164 points over the past three games, while impressive, is nowhere close to a school record. The Bears had slightly higher totals for three-game stretches twice in 1922, and in 1920 scored 294 points in a span of three outings when they defeated the Mare Island Marines 88-0, St. Mary’s 127-0 and Nevada 79-7.

– The WSU game featured a combined total of 1,401 passing yards by Goff and Connor Halliday. The two attempted 123 passes without an interception.

– The Cougars set a school record with 812 yards of total offense — and lost.

– Cal’s secondary has been picked on by a specific opposing wideout each of the past three weeks. Arizona’s Cayleb Jones had 13 catches for 186 yards and three TDs. Colorado’s Nelson Spruce totaled 19 catches for 176 yards and three TDs. And WSU’s Vince Mayle grabbed 11 passes for 263 yards and a TD. That’s 43 receptions for 625 yards and five touchdowns from three players.

– The Bears already have scored 250 points this season — just 26 fewer than they had all of 2013.

– Whatever improvements it appeared Cal had made on defense early this season, the numbers are now fairly gruesome. They have allowed 202 points in five games — 40.4 ppg — ranking them 119th out of 125 FBS teams. Cal is last nationally in passing yardage allowed, by a margin of 82 yards per game above the next-worst team.


Football: Even after another wild victory, Bears have serious issues to fix before Washington pays a visit Saturday

Where does the Cal football team stand after scoring 164 points and allowing that same total in its first three Pac-12 Conference games?

Believe it or not, in first place in the Pac-12 North.

“We’ll start worrying about who’s in what place at the end of the season.” coach Sonny Dykes said after Cal’s 60-59 win at Washington State on Saturday night in an offensive epic that stretched on to 11:41 p.m.

At that moment, WSU’s Quentin Breshears missed wide right on a 19-yard field goal that would have reversed the outcome.

The Bears, who survived an NCAA record-breaking passing game from Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday, embraced the good fortune while continuing to distance themselves from last season’s 1-11 nightmare.

“It was kind of like the football gods were on our side,” said Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who broke his own school record with 527 yards and five touchdowns, the game-winner a 51-yarder to Trevor Davis with 3:18 left.

A third straight high-octane performance gives the Bears (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) their best start since 2008 and equals their victory total of the past two seasons combined.

It also earned them six votes Sunday in the latest AP Top-25 poll.

But Cal has chronic flaws it must address before Saturday’s home game against Washington and a subsequent gauntlet of matchups against the Pac-12’s best teams.

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