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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Football: Cal vs. Oregon facts

RECORDS: Cal is 5-3, 2-3 in Pac-12; Oregon is 5-3, 3-2.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.


SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 39-36-2. Oregon won 59-41 last year at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Ducks have won six straight against Cal.

STORYLINES: Cal tries to end a three-game losing streak and earn bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011. The Bears have lost six straight games over two seasons with bowl eligibility on the line. . . . Cal has allowed 216 points in the past four games vs. the Ducks, including at least 55 in each of the past three. . . . Quarterback Jared Goff, who had trouble holding onto the football in the rain at Oregon two years ago, practiced this week while wearing gloves in case it rains Saturday night. . . . This is Cal’s 14th night game in its past 18 road games.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: LB Jalen Jefferson (shoulder) is questionable; LB Michael Barton (knee) is doubtful. Oregon: DE DeForest Buckner (wrist) is probable; RB Taj Griffin (undisclosed) and OLB Christian French (arm) are questionable; CB Chris Seisay (foot) and S Juwaan Williams (foot) are doubtful; WR Byron Marshall (leg) is out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s defensive front vs. Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams. The senior transfer from Eastern Washington was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after a 61-55 triple-overtime win at Arizona State. Adams left ASU dizzy with his scrambling ability and 315 passing yards with four touchdowns. The Bears must limit Adams’ ability to buy extra time with his feet.

STATS THAT MATTER: Goff is the 92nd player in FBS history to reach 10,000 career passing yards. He has 10,018 eight games into his junior season. . . . Oregon ranks last in the nation in touchdown passes allowed (27), 117th in scoring defense (38.4 points per game) and 125th in pass defense (318.0 yards). . . . . Oregon sophomore running back Royce Freeman, is sixth in the nation with 1,109 rushing yards and is just the fourth Ducks’ player to rush for 1,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons.


Football: Will 49ers target Jared Goff as next QB?

NFL writer Jerry McDonald writes about whether the 49ers might want Jared Goff as their next quarterback. Here’s his story:

Take a heavy dose of speculation, mix it with a little common sense and the quarterback of the 49ers in 2016 could be Cal’s Jared Goff.

That’s how Rob Rang, an insider for NFLDraftscout.com, sees it. The day before the 49ers announced Colin Kaepernick would be replaced this week by Blaine Gabbert, Rang had the 49ers selecting Goff at No. 5 overall in a mock draft for CBSsports.com

“Obviously the 49ers are looking at options other than Colin Kaepernick at this point,” Rang said Wednesday. “If their season continues as it is, they could have a top-five pick, and that’s what it would take to get one of the top quarterbacks this year, including Goff.”

Click here to read the rest of this story.


Academics: Football, men’s basketball make small improvements in grade-rate scores

The Cal football and men’s basketball teams, whose poor academic performance received scrutiny in recent years, made incremental improvement in the latest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) data released by the NCAA.

The football program improved one percent from 2014, eight percent from two years ago to a 52-percent graduation rate. The men’s basketball program scored 55 percent, up nine points from last fall and 17 points since the 2013 report.

Cal’s GSR scores remain last in the Pac-12 in football, but have inched to No. 9 in men’s basketball.

The information used to generate the GSR is based on scholarship student-athletes who arrived as freshmen or transfers from 2005-08 and completed their degrees within six years. As a result, none of the athletes involved in the current results played for either Cal football coach Sonny Dykes or basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

As recently as 2013, Cal’s GSR for football was 44 percent, worst in the Pac-12. The men’s basketball program ranked no better than second-to-last in the conference for six straight years through 2013 and had not reported a GSR score above 50 percent dating back to at least the 2004-05 school year.

Cal stresses that the classroom performance of its football and basketball players is better reflected by looking at the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR). The football team showed a 46-point APR jump from 2011-12 to 2012-13, and the university expects another leap when the next results are released in the spring.

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Football: Cal defensive tackle ready for some Duck

Moose is in the mood for Duck.

“This Saturday we’ve got a good test ahead of us. But let’s start with Duck on Tuesday,” said Cal defensive tackle Mustafa “Moose” Jalil, unveiling a huge plate of roast duck from the Mandarin House restaurant near campus.

The Bears (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) face the Oregon Ducks (5-3, 3-2) on Saturday night in Eugene, and Jalil’s news conference theatrics were intended to demonstrate that a three-game losing streak hasn’t dented his team’s confidence or resolve.

“It’s 100 percent Duck. We’re not joking about this one,” Jalil said. “Why not get the feast started?”

“That’s Moose,” shrugged Cal coach Sonny Dykes when told about the senior lineman’s stunt. “I don’t really like duck myself.”

Dykes was talking lunch fare, not his team’s Pac-12 opponent. But none of the Bears are particularly fond about a team they haven’t beaten since 2009.

Jalil said losses to Utah, UCLA and USC won’t derail the Bears’ season.

“We took three good punches in the face, but to start the season off we gave five good punches. We’ll see how good the team is when we come back Saturday and give them a punch.

“I think everyone’s jaw is a little bit hurt for the past three weeks. We’re trying to go out there mean and aggressive and truly show what 5-0 meant.”

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Football: Cal receiver Stephen Anderson says, `We are still hungry, we are still confident’

Three straight defeats to teams that have at least made visits to the top-10 of the national rankings this year have not killed Cal’s belief in itself.

Receiver Stephen Anderson said he saw no one feeling sorry for themselves during team meetings on the day after the Bears lost 27-21 to USC.

“It’s never a good feeling when you lose a game, but  there are definitely positives that can come out of it,” Anderson said. “There were little things here and there that have prevented us from capitalizing on big opportunities.

“We still are hungry. When we had our meetings today, I didn’t see any heads down or bad body language. I ‘d say we’re still confident.”

Cal (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) plays Saturday night at Oregon (5-3, 3-2), which has beaten the Bears in six straight meetings. But Cal scored 41 points against the Ducks in a loss at Levi’s Stadium last season, and Oregon’s defense has been one of the nation’s worst this season.

The defending Pac-12 champs rank 117th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 38.4 points, and are 125th against the pass, surrendering 318.0 yards per game. The 27 touchdown passes allowed by Oregon are the most by any FBS team in the country.

“We had some things that we exploited last year that worked. We threw a lot formations at them,” Anderson said. “To be honest, going into that game they weren’t taking us seriously. This year there’ll be a different type of mood because they aren’t as successful.”

It will be up to a Cal offense that hasn’t scored more than 24 points in losses to Utah, UCLA and USC to take advantage of the opportunity.

The Ducks can still put up points, and posted scores of 43, 59, 55 and 59 against Cal the past four seasons.


Coach Sonny Dykes said linebacker Jalen Jefferson sustained a shoulder injury against. Dykes is awaiting results of an MRI test, but anticipates Jefferson practicing at some point this week.


Football notebook: Daniel Lasco returns, but Cal ground game still limping

Cal senior running Daniel Lasco, who barely played the previous five games because of a hip injury, carried 15 times for 64 yards and scored a 6-yard touchdown in the Bears’ 27-21 loss to USC.

“Personally feels good just to be back and be able to contribute,” said Lasco, who was injured in the Bears’ win over San Diego State on Sept. 12. “I still don’t feel like I’m there yet.  A lot of times I had one person to beat and didn’t get the job done.”

Overall, however, the Bears’ recent run game woes continued. After running for 67 first-quarter yards, they managed just 50 more the rest of the day.

Cal averaged nearly 210 rushing yards in nonconference play, including 280 at Texas, but is posting just 118.6 in five Pac-12 games.

“I thought we ran it good early in the game,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “Then there were three or four series in a row where we had a hard time getting much going in the run game.

“We have to be able to run it. I thought we ran it OK, but not as well as we needed to.”

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Football: Frustrated Golden Bears lose third in a row as drought vs. USC reaches 12 games


Disappointment and anger after its two previous defeats turned to unbridled frustration for Cal on Saturday after a 27-21 loss to USC in front of 52,060 fans in the Joe Roth Memorial Game.

There was frustration over an official’s call but even more over another offensive performance that has the Bears wondering what has gone wrong.

“I think we’re all frustrated,” coach Sonny Dykes said after the Bears lost their third game in a row and dropped their 12th straight to the Trojans. “We should be playing better than we’re playing on offense, no question about it. We’ve got to get it figured out.”

The Bears, who averaged 51 points in their first three games of the season, were held to season-low totals for yards (389) and points and have failed to reach 25 points the past three games.

“As an offense, we believe we’re underachieving tremendously,” senior receiver Bryce Treggs added. “We have way too much talent, we’re way too good to only be scoring 21 points.”

The Bears (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) had so many possibilities after starting the season 5-0. They were disappointed with themselves for turning the ball over six times in a 30-24 road loss to then-unbeaten Utah and upset by their worst effort of the season in a 40-24 loss at UCLA.

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Football: Cal hopes to end two skids when it takes on revived USC

The unpredictable nature of the Pac-12 Conference has taken bites out of more than fallen powerhouse Oregon.

Cal and USC – who collide Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium — have felt its teeth as well.

The Bears (5-2, 2-2) won their first five games to climb into the Top-25, dropped a thriller on the road to unbeaten Utah, then got pushed around in a loss at UCLA.

“The hard thing about our conference,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said, “is if you don’t play well, you don’t just get beat, you get embarrassed.

“I’ve been at places where you can sit and circle and say, `We need to play well in these games,’ and the rest you know you’re going to win. That’s not the case in this league.”

That’s rarely the case while playing the Trojans (4-3, 2-2). They began the season as Pac-12 favorites, but have lost three of their past five games – and coach Steve Sarkisian, who was fired three weeks ago because of alcohol problems.

“We’re an ultra-talented conference. You have to treat every game like a championship game,” USC interim coach Clay Helton said. “There’s too many good quarterbacks, too many good skill teams. Cal is one of those teams.”

The Trojans will test the Bears’ sense of belonging among the league’s best. In a 42-24 rout of then-No, 3 Utah last week, USC looked like the team everyone expected to see this fall – explosive on offense, dynamic on defense.

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