Football: No panic for Cal, but a sense of urgency

There is no panic, no desperation as the Cal football team embarks on its eighth try over two seasons to gain bowl eligibility, says receiver Bryce Treggs.

“But there’s kind of a sense of urgency within our team,” said Treggs of Saturday night’s game against Oregon State at Memorial Stadium.

The Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) have lost four straight since opening 5-0 to reach the cusp of qualifying for their first bowl game since 2011. One more victory will do the trick.

Cal had chances to get a sixth win in its final three games a year ago, and lost all of them.

“Every week after a loss, you kind of feel pressure to win the next week. This week we’ve kind of put that behind us,” said Treggs, acknowledging that is easier said than done. “We just have to come together, be mature and overcome this adversity we’re going through.”

Win or lose this week, the Bears have two more chances: A week from Saturday at seventh-ranked Stanford in the Big Game, and Nov. 28 at home against Arizona State.

Clearly, this is their best opportunity.

The Bears were an underdog in six of those previous seven “eligibility” games. They opened as 17½-point favorites over the Beavers (2-7, 0-6), who have scored just 25 points in their past three games and are playing without their injured starting quarterback. The betting climbed to 21½ by Thursday.

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Football: Cal vs. Oregon State facts

RECORDS: Cal is 5-4, 2-4 in Pac-12; Oregon State is 2-7, 0-6.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.

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

SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 35-32. Cal won 45-31 last year, but Oregon State has won 12 of the past 16 meetings. The Bears have not beaten the Beavers in Memorial Stadium since 1997.

STORYLINES: This marks the Bears’ eighth chance over two seasons to secure a sixth win and bowl eligibility. They lost four of the previous seven by eight points or fewer. . . . While Cal has averaged just 24.2 points during its four-game losing streak, Oregon State ranks 119th nationally at 17.2 for the season . . . Cal’s lone win in November in nine tries over the past three seasons was its 45-31 victory at Oregon State last fall. . . The Beavers have dropped their past 12 conference games. . . . OSU, under first-year coach Gary Andersen, is playing without injured starting quarterback Seth Collins for the third straight game.

ALZHEIMER’S AWARENESS: Cal has designated the game as its second Alzheimer’s Awareness game. Cal players will wear #ENDALZ patches on their uniforms and coaches will wear purple Alzheimer’s Association wristbands. The cause is important to Cal coach Sonny Dykes, whose mother Sharon suffered from the condition before her death in 2010. Fans also will receive the wristbands and the first 2,500 students be given “Cal Fights ALZ” t-shirts. Cal is partnering on the event with the national Alzheimer’s Association. For more information, go to alz.org.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: WR Kenny Lawler (buttocks) is questionable; Oregon State: QB Seth Collins (knee), RB Ryan Nall (undisclosed), CB Dwayne Williams (undisclosed) and Saf Justin Strong (head) are out; CB Treston Decoud (head) is probable.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s offensive line vs. Oregon State’s defensive front. The Bears have struggled up front at times during their four-game losing streak, but this is an opportunity to assert themselves against a Beavers’ defense that ranks last in the Pac-12 with just 11 sacks and 10th against the run, allowing 202.3 yards per game. Cal hasn’t rushed for more than 139 yards in a Pac-12 game this season.

STATS THAT MATTER: Cal has more red-zone touchdowns (30) than the Beavers have red-zone opportunities (24). . . . Oregon State freshman quarterback Nick Mitchell has thrown one career touchdown pass, compared to 77 for Cal’s Jared Goff. . . . Goff needs 129 passing yards to reach 3,000 for the third straight season. Previously, there were just two 3,000-yard passers in school history. . . The Bears scored 30 points or more in seven of nine Pac-12 games a year ago, but just twice so far this season.


Football: WR Kenny Lawler improving, likely to play

Cal wide receiver Kenny Lawler is making progress after injuring his buttocks a week ago at Oregon and is likely to play Saturday night when the Bears take on Oregon State at Memorial Stadium.

But coach Sonny Dykes said a final decision about Lawler’s availability will be made after Friday’s workout.

Lawler is the Bears’ leading receiver with 44 catches for 558 yards and nine touchdowns. He did not play in the second half at Oregon and has just 17 catches for 159 yards and one touchdown during Cal’s current four-game losing streak.

If Lawler cannot play, Maurice Harris would be moved to his “Z” outside receiver position, backed by Chad Hansen.

Dykes said all of Cal’s other players who recently were banged up are cleared and will play. They are:

— CB Darius Allensworth (foot)

— Saf Stefan McClure (shoulder)

— DT Tony Mekari (knee)

— LB Jalen Jefferson (shoulder)

— DT Mustafa Jalil (knee)

— LB Michael Barton (knee)

— DT James Looney (knee)


Aaron Cochran emerged from a week of competition as the starter Saturday at left tackle, Dykes said. Brian Farley had a rough game at Oregon, prompting the coaching staff to open the position to competition.


Football: Raymond Hudson whiffs on biggest assignment

Recruited to Cal as a tight end, sophomore Raymond Hudson has been moved around to play all sorts of variations on that position: the Y receiver, H back and blocking fullback in the bone alignment.

Last Saturday night, he got a new assignment, then ran into some trouble when he forgot to tell his mother about it.

Lynne and Richard Hudson were at Autzen Stadium to watch their son’s game against Oregon, and were a little surprised when Raymond sliced in from his spot on the right end of the line to block a Ducks’ punt.

“My mom was a little mad at me, actually, because I usually call her during the week and tell her if there are any changes,” Hudson said. “For some reason, I never told her I was on this. I just left it out.”

Fortunately, Hudson’s parents didn’t miss the moment. “She didn’t think it was me at first because she didn’t know I was on it,” Hudson said. “She said it was a nice little surprise.”

It was a surprise for Hudson as well. He’d never played on the punt return or punt block unit – not at Cal, nor at Foothill High in Pleasanton. The change was made the week before to create a better matchup against Oregon’s punt protection alignment.

“My job was to come through and blow up the personal protector,” Hudson said. “He miscounted and stepped forward to block another guy. I went to the middle of the wedge – just came through. The ball was kind of in the right place at the right time.”

Actually, Hudson was. He thought he’d just gotten a finger on it, but knocked the ball down, setting up Cal’s first touchdown in a 44-28 loss.

Because roommate Matt Rockett blocked a punt for the Bears earlier in the season, Hudson now jokes, “We’re the punt blocking house.”

Later in the Oregon game, linebacker Hamilton Anoa’i blocked Oregon’s only other punt try, and Hudson recovered. He was rewarded with Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Asked if Anoa’i lives with them at the punt blocking house, Hudson said, “We’ll make room.”


Football: Cal defense not entirely sure what to expect from depleted Oregon State offense

The assignment facing Art Kaufman and the Cal defense is how to stop an Oregon State team whose offense – while perhaps feeble in recent weeks – promises to be unpredictable.

The Beavers are without their most dangerous offensive weapon, freshman quarterback Seth Collins, who accounted for 60 percent of the team’s yardage through seven games before going down with a knee injury.

Also out is 6-foot-2, 255-pound tight end-turned-running back Ryan Nall, sidelined by an undisclosed injury.

OSU offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin has hinted at a “surprise” on Saturday. That could include shifting freshman wideout and former prep sprint champion Paul Lucas, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a senior, to running back.

So, for defensive coordinator Kaufman, it’s not as simple as frothing over an opponent that has averaged barely eight points the past three games.

“This is an Oregon (State) team that we have seen, but an offense that we have not seen,” he said. “And a quarterback we have not seen. You don’t know what the matchup is.”

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Football notebook: Cal’s Dykes can empathize with first-year Oregon State coach Gary Andersen

Cal coach Sonny Dykes has his own problems right now, but still feels empathy for first-year Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, whose team visits Berkeley on Saturday night.

Two years after enduring a 1-11 season in his debut season with the Bears, Dykes sees Andersen going through a similar experience with the Beavers, who are winless in Pac-12 play and coming off a 41-0 home loss to UCLA.

“The first year of a program’s always tough, there’s always a learning curve,” he said. “It takes time to get a program established, especially in this league, and especially when you don’t walk into 20 first-round draft picks.”

It almost sounded as though Dykes was talking about his own team. The Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) began the season with five wins, but clearly aren’t entirely established after dropping their past four.

As Cal tries again this week for a sixth win to become bowl eligible. Dykes does not expect panic to set.

“We’ve been honest and realistic with them about what we have to improve. They get it,” he said.

The Bears are 18½-point favorites to beat the Beavers (2-7, 0-6), who got more bad news Tuesday with Andersen’s announcement that freshman quarterback Seth Collins won’t play. Collins hyper-extended his left two weeks ago in practice and did not play against Utah or UCLA.

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Football: None of Cal injuries appear serious, Dykes says

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said Sunday evening he doesn’t believe any of the players who were banged up in the 44-28 loss to Oregon are seriously injured.

Here are the details about the injuries that Dykes provided during his weekly teleconference call with reporters:

WR Kenny Lawler — bruised butt cheek

Saf Stefan McClure — shoulder

CB Darius Allen — foot

DT Tony Mekari — knee

Dykes said he hopes all four will be ready to play Saturday against Oregon State.

DT David Davis and DE Todd Barr both are fine after leaving the field during the Oregon game, and participated in Sunday’s practice.

Dykes also reiterated he expects DT James Looney (knee) to be ready for Saturday.


Football: Are Golden Bears facing self-doubt?

The Cal football team’s newest adversary: Doubt.

After a 44-28 loss at Oregon – the Bears’ fourth straight defeat after a 5-0 start – coach Sonny Dykes admitted seeing something different in his team.

Cal jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead over the defending Pac-12 champions, but the Ducks rallied decisively, zooming to a 31-10 lead by halftime.

“I thought our guys had a lot of confidence going into the game. It was good to get off to a good start,” Dykes said Saturday night. “We’ve just got to respond better at that time. They got back in the ballgame and we’ve got to continue to play with that confidence.

“For whatever reason, a little bit of doubt might have set in. That’s something that should never happen.”

Asked about losing confidence as a unit, receiver Stephen Anderson said, “It has points where it fades a little, but not enough to where we just drop like we’ve shown.”

For sure, something dramatically changed. Over the next 19-plus minutes, the Ducks (6-3, 4-2) outgained the Bears (5-4, 2-4) by a whopping margin of 341 yards to 40 while scoring 31 straight points.

By the time it was over, Oregon had rung up a school-record 777 yards of total offense, including 477 on the ground. The Ducks averaged 8.4 yards per snap had 26 plays of at least 10 yards — twice as many as the Bears managed.

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Football: Oregon thrashes Bears 44-28

The rain didn’t matter this time.

Oregon spotted Cal to a 10-point lead Saturday night at Autzen Stadium, then took charge with a 31-point first-half blitz on the way to a 44-28 victory in front of 56,604 fans.

Two years after the Ducks drowned the Bears 55-16 in an Oregon downpour, it was Cal’s inclement play – not the sometimes rainy conditions – that set the tone.

Oregon ran up 446 yards in the first half – more than the Bears had given up in six of their previous eight games — and sent Cal (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) to its fourth straight defeat. The Ducks wound up with a school-record 777 yards of total offense.

“We did not play well defensively,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “I didn’t think we played well on either side of the ball. It didn’t have anything to do with the weather.”

The Bears get another shot at a sixth win and bowl eligibility next Saturday in Berkeley against an Oregon State team that dropped to 0-6 in Pac-12 play after a 41-0 loss to UCLA. Cal has now lost seven straight games over two seasons when trying to become bowl eligible.

“It’s going to test our character. It’s something coach Dykes just talked to us about. How are we going to respond? It’s a three-week season,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “If we want to go to a bowl game we’ve got to start winning.”

The Bears still have not beaten any of the league’s perennial heavyweights in three seasons under Dykes. They are now 0-11 against Oregon, USC, UCLA and Stanford in three seasons, and 1-8 in the month of November.

The Ducks (6-3, 4-2) beat the Bears for the seventh straight time, and have outscored them 317-132 during the streak.

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Football: What happened to Cal’s explosive offense?

Cal’s opponents in the Pac-12 Conference are scoring two touchdowns fewer per game than a year ago when the Bears were among the nation’s most toothless defenses.

So why are they taking a three-game losing streak into Saturday night’s game at Oregon?

Surprisingly, the once-potent Bear Raid offense is to blame.

A year after inspiring the T-shirt, “Stay Calm and #Drop50,” the Bears are averaging barely half that total in conference play. They produced at a 51-point clip through three non-league outings, but their scoring has dipped to 26.6 the past five games, ranking them No. 9 in Pac-12 play.

While Pac-12 games already have generated 19 performances of 40 points or more, Cal (5-3, 2-3) has not scored more than 34 in a conference outing and has stalled at 24 or less the past three weeks while losing to Utah, UCLA and USC. It adds up to a decline of 11 points per game from a year ago.

“We’ve got to score more points,” said Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who says some of what’s happened simply can be traced to facing three opponents who have made appearances in the top-10 of the national rankings.

Senior running back Daniel Lasco isn’t buying the rationale.

“We’ve played good defenses the last couple weeks, but I don’t believe that should be our excuse,” he said. “I believe we have the best offense in the nation when we play up to our level.”


How Pac-12 teams are scoring in conference play (with 40-point games in parenthesis):

1. Stanford (4) 42.5 points per game
2. Washington State (3) 39.6
3. UCLA (2) 37.8
4. Oregon (2) 37.2
5. Utah (1) 35.4
6. Arizona State (2) 34.6
7. USC (2) 30.8
8. Arizona (2) 29.0
9. Cal (0) 26.6
10. Washington (1) 24.8
11. Colorado (0) 25.2
12. Oregon State (0) 17.4


Here is a checklist of possible factors contributing to the Bears’ offensive slippage:

— Familiarity: “Teams are starting to understand their concepts,” Pac-12 Networks analyst Glenn Parker said. “They’re at their best when they’re simple and what they do is based on what the defense gives them. Teams have gotten better at disguising what they want to do in response to the quarterback.”

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