Football: Cole Leininger on Ray Guy Award list

Cal junior Cole Leininger is among 80 players nominated for the 2014 Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate punter.

Leininger, among eight Pac-12 punters on the list, is sixth in the conference with a 42.1-yard average. Fourteen of his 37 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line, and he has seven kicks of at least 50 yards.

The list will be trimmed to 10 semifinalists on Nov. 14, then to three finalists on Nov. 24. The award will be presented Dec. 11 during the Home Depot College Football Awards program on ESPN.


Football: Cal defense hopes to find relief at OSU

Can the Pac-12′s worst offense be a band-aid for the league’s worst defense? Or will it be the other way around when the Bears visit Oregon State on Saturday night?

Cal, allowing 41.5 points per game, knows that Oregon State’s offensive woes may not continue indefinitely.

OSU quarterback Sean Mannion, who threw 37 touchdowns a year ago, has just seven this fall. The Pleasanton native set a single-season conference passing yardage record last season, but is coming off a 122-yard performance in a 38-14 loss at Stanford.

“It’s bad timing for him in his senior year,” OSU coach Mike Riley said after the Stanford game, “but he will bounce back big-time.”

First-year Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman — whose unit ranks last nationally against the pass — has seen enough tape of Mannion to be concerned.

“When he’s on, he can really do it,” Kaufman said of Mannion, who topped 400 yards in a game five times last season. “The thing we’ve got to do is respect the ability of what he can do.”

Of equal concern to Kaufman is what his defense can — and cannot — do.

The Bears are giving up 383.5 passing yards per game and already have surrendered 31 touchdowns through the air — one more than Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona State and USC combined have allowed.

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Cal defensive comparison: 2014 vs. 2013

Category 2014 2013
Points/game 41.0 45.9
Yards/game 533.1 529.6
Yards/play 6.2 7.1
Passing yards/game 383.5 341.0
Pass efficiency rating 151.05 165.44
Rushing yards/game 149.6 188.6
Rushing yards/play 4.1 4.9
Red zone defense .805 .865
Sacks/game 1.38 1.50
Turnovers gained/game 1.50 1.08
First downs/game 28.4 24.8
Third-down conversions .400 .414
Fourth-down conversions .700 .667

Football: Bears land elite defensive end from Atlanta

Cal got a significant recruiting commitment Wednesday when Russell Ude, a top defensive end from The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Ga., picked the Bears over a glut of top schools.

Ude, rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals.com, announced his decision on Twitter:

“They Told Me I Couldn’t Do It. Proud To Announce I Am Committed to The University of California #GodIsGood #CalGang15

Scout.com rates Ude as a three-star prospect, but either way he helps address an area of need for the Bears.

Yeah, defense.

Ryan Gorcey of Scout.com reports that Ude actually gave Cal a “secret” commitment two months ago, but decided the time was right to make it public. Oral commitments, of course, are not binding until signing day, and Ude told Scout he still intends to take other visits.

Ude is 6-foot-3 and somewhere between 245 and 260-ish pounds, depending on which website you believe.

Others liked him, too: Oregon, Washington, UCLA and USC showed interest among Pac-12 schools. Wisconsin, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Michigan State also made offers.


Football notebook: Levi’s Stadium experience considered a success but may not be repeated anytime soon

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said his players all enjoyed the experience of playing in the 49ers’ spiffy, new Levi’s Stadium.

“I’d prefer to have a home game,” he countered.

“We’ve got a beautiful stadium. I don’t like giving away home field advantage. You’re playing, for all intents and purposes, a road game. It’s just different. It’s different for your fans, and there’s some negatives from that standpoint.”

Dykes understands the weeknight game was moved partly for logistical reasons because of parking difficulties on campus, and said he anticipates there would be discussion before a future game is played there.

“It’s really not my area,” he said. “Any coach would prefer to play their home games in their home stadium.”

Interim athletic director Michael Williams understands that position, and agrees keeping games at Memorial Stadium is preferable.

“If it’s up to me, I think the benefits of playing at Memorial Stadium are huge,” Williams said. “I like the home game. Our alums certainly like to be here. Memorial Stadium is a special place.

“I don’t know that we go back to Levi’s anytime soon. I can’t say that it would never happen.”

Asked how well the Bears fared financially, Williams said he believes they made more money at Levi’s than they would have keeping the game in Berkeley.

He stressed how much the players enjoyed it, added, “For the 50 of them who were on the field and won’t play pro football, that will be a highlight forever.”

Still, Williams said, “It’s always better to play here.”


Cal’s first order of business on Friday night before its game the next day at Oregon State will be to get a good night’s sleep.

The Bears’ most recent visit to Corvallis, two years ago, had a disruptive start when the fire alarm went off in the team hotel sometime after 2 a.m. on the eve of the game.

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Football: Cal, Auburn sign two-year deal for 2019, ’20

Cal has signed a two-year, home-and-home deal with Southeastern Conference power Auburn, the national runnerup last season and the 2010 national champion.

The Bears will visit Auburn on Sept. 21, 2019, with the Tigers making a trip to Berkeley on Sept. 19, 2020.

The teams will be meeting for the first time.

Cal also scheduled three home games for the 2016, ’17 and ’18 seasons.

South Dakota will visit on Sept. 3, 2016, Weber State comes to town on Sept. 9, 2017, and Idaho State will travel to Berkeley on Sept. 15, 2018.


Football: Dykes said Friday’s injured are OK

The parade of Cal players who were hurt Friday night against Oregon all practiced Sunday and should play when the Bears visit Oregon State on Saturday, coach Sonny Dykes said.

Receivers Kenny Lawler (ankle), Bryce Treggs (shoulder) and Chris Harper (back) all are expected back, along with defensive end Todd Barr and linebacker Jake Kearney, who also were banged up in the 59-41 loss to Oregon.

A year ago, Dykes noted that some players weren’t committed to playing through minor injuries or pain.

“It just shows our program is growing tremendously,” Dykes said. “The guys want to practice, they understand it’s important.

“It used to be a little bit of a badge of honor to get out of practice.  It just shows the buy-in is better than ever – guys are working through stuff better than ever.”

Dykes said he’s not sure about the status of defensive end Brennan Scarlett, who has missed the past three games with a sprained knee.


Football: Bears confident heading into Oregon State week

After its 59-41 loss to No. 6 Oregon at Levi’s Stadium, Cal can make this double-edged claim: No college football team in the country plays higher-scoring games than the Bears.

The average combined scoring total of Cal’s first eight games is 82.5 points, sure to exceed any weekly over/under listing from Las Vegas. The Oregon game was the third in which the Bears and their opponent reached 100 points.

That equation of potent offense and porous defense also has netted a 4-4 overall record (2-4 in Pac-12) after a 4-1 start, meaning the Bears’ road to six wins and bowl eligibility no longer has an express lane. They need to go at least 2-2, and the remaining schedule includes USC on the road and Stanford at home.

“We’ve got a confident bunch of guys in that locker room,” safety Stefan McClure said late Friday night. “We know we’re 4-4 and we’ve got four games left. We’ve got some winnable games coming up. We’ll be ready to go.”

Next up is a Saturday game at Oregon State, which scored 111 points against the Bears the past two seasons. But fans shouldn’t expect another offensive free-for-all in Corvallis. The Beavers have been better on defense than offense this season, and entered Saturday’s game at Stanford having neither scored nor allowed more than 38 points in a game.

Cal quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 360 yard and two touchdowns against the Ducks, said the Bears emerged with a boost of self-esteeem.

“We learned we can compete with anybody,” he said.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich was impressed after the Bears scored 10 more points on his team than any opponent this season.

“Offensively, those guys are lights out,” he said.

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Football: Cal-Oregon postgame notes

Stats, notes and leftovers from Cal’s 59-41 loss to No. 6 Oregon on Friday night at Levi’s Stadium:

* Jared Goff’s 360-yard passing night was his school-record 11th 300-yard game — in just 20 games over two seasons – breaking the mark of 10 set by Pat Barnes (1993-96).

* With two more touchdown passes, Goff has 26 on the season, which ranks third on Cal’s all-time list. Barnes holds the record with 31. Goff also hiked his career total to 44, moving past Aaron Rodgers (2003-04) into seventh.

* With 2,842 passing yards in eight games, Goff is on pace to pass for 4,263 yards, which would shatter his year-old school record of 3,508.

* Running back Daniel Lasco had career-high totals of eight receptions for 101 yards. He also rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries, giving him 608 yards on the season. He now has seven touchdowns.

* After averaging just 60.7 rushing yards over the previous three games, the Bears had 193 yards on the ground. Their four rushing touchdowns were the most they’ve had in a game in two seasons under Sonny Dykes.

* Cal’s 41 points marked the fifth time in 2014 the Bears have topped 40 in a game, a total the Bears never achieved last season. They hadn’t reached 40 points five times in a full season since 2006.

* The Bears have now scored 332 points — 56 more than they totaled all last season. Their 41.5 scoring average is on pace to be their highest since World War II.

* Cal was 6 for 6 in the red zone — all touchdowns. That improves its season mark to 30 for 34 (88.2 percent), including 24 touchdowns. In 2013, the Bears had 21 red-zone TDs all season and ranked last overall in the Pac-12 at 72.1 percent.

* Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, in three career games against the Bears, has thrown for 817 yards with 13 TDs and just one interception, sparking totals of 59, 55 and 59 points.

* This was the third game this season in which Cal and its opponent combined for at least 100 points — the others were the Bears’ 60-59 win at Washington State and their 59-56 overtime win over Colorado. Previously, dating back to 1937, Cal had taken part in just five games where at least 100 points were scored.


Football: Cal-Oregon game thread

The first college football game at Levi’s Stadium featured 100 points, thousands of green-and-gold clad Oregon fans and Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota’s first intercepted pass in 11 months.

The Bears put up 28 first-half points, but the No. 6 Ducks never stopped scoring on the way to a 59-41 victory.

Mariota threw five touchdown passes – three in the first half – and the Ducks (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) beat Cal for the sixth straight time. Oregon has scored 173 points in the past three meetings.

The Bears (4-4, 2-4) had their highest point total against Oregon since 2006, but never were closer than 17 points after Mariota’s 54-yard TD pass to San Jose native Byron Marshall just 95 seconds into the third quarter.

“They’ve got a couple speeds – their NASCAR super-fast speed and their normal tempo speed,” Cal safety Stephen McClure said. “We just couldn’t get off the field on third down.”

After starting the season 4-1, the Bears have dropped three straight, meaning they must win two of their final four games to become bowl eligible.

Cal lost its 15th straight game to a team ranked in the top-10 of the Associated Press poll, its 47th in 48 such matchups dating back to 1977. The Bears haven’t beaten a top-10 team other than USC since 1969.

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