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Football: Cal LB Mychal Kendricks named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year

It’s a good day for Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Receiver Keenan Allen, left tackle Mitchell Schwartz and punter Bryan Anger also earned first-team honors, and defensive end Trevor Guyton was second-team. Stanford QB Andrew Luck was the Offensive Player of the Year and Stanford coach David Shaw was Coach of the Year.

A bit more to come …

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011
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Football: Cal’s bowl outlook and more

Just a few tidbits in the aftermath of Cal’s 47-38 victory over Arizona State …

–I talked to a few bowl officials from around the Pac-12 today and they all had really good things to say about Cal. I’ll have a story about that in tomorrow’s paper. The Bears could land in a game as high as the Alamo Bowl – the No. 2 Pac-12 bowl behind the Rose Bowl – although lots of factors come into play here. First, Stanford and Oregon would each have to get invited to Bowl Championship Series games, which boost other Pac-12 schools a little higher on the bowl ladder. The Alamo Bowl would then likely be choosing between Cal, Utah and Washington. The Holiday Bowl, which picks third, also likes Cal very much. And if the Bears slip past them, I’d be very surprised if they don’t get chosen by the Sun Bowl, in which Cal has never played. The Las Vegas Bowl is looking unlikely, and the chances of Cal playing in front of the local fans at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl appear pretty remote, though Gary Cavalli, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl executive director, is confident in landing a quality team from the conference.

A few factors to consider:
Cal has played very well late in the season and that makes a strong impression. Rick Hill, the Alamo Bowl’s director of marketing and communications, also noted that the Bears have been on ESPN the past two weeks against Stanford and Arizona State, so the San Antonio market (where the Alamo Bowl is played) has been exposed to Cal and the team has put up strong showings. But Hill also added that Washington has been televised in San Antonio even more this season.

Mark Neville, the Holiday Bowl’s director of communications, said his bowl places heavy emphasis on the “football” aspects for choosing a team – win/loss record and head-to-head matchups, as opposed to how many fans will travel, the potential for TV ratings, etc. Besides, Neville said Pac-12 (or Pac-10) schools traditionally travel well to the Holiday Bowl no matter who is chosen.

The Alamo Bowl, which pits a Big 12 school against a Pac-12 school, looks for a good built-in storyline when pairing up two teams. Since the Big 12 regular season doesn’t finish until next weekend, the Alamo Bowl won’t be extending any invites until then, which means other Pac-12 bowl selections also will have to wait in the trickle-down effect.

–Isi Sofele now ranks sixth on Cal’s single-season rushing list with 1,266 yards: The next back ahead of him is Marshawn Lynch, who gained 1,356 yards in 2006.

–No word yet on the seriousness of freshman cornerback Stefan McClure’s injury on Friday night. Obviously his health is pretty big for this team looking to the future.

–Friday’s late kickoff was absolutely brutal from a deadline standpoint, which is why I really didn’t get a chance to blog during or after the game. I was writing for our various print editions as the game was unfolding. Glad to see the spirited dialogue carried on regardless …

–Cal is taking most of next week off. We don’t know when they’ll resume practice just yet, so blogs may be light in the coming days.

That’s all for now …

Posted on Saturday, November 26th, 2011
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Football: Cal-ASU first quarter recap

Cal leads Arizona State 17-7 after one quarter, and neither team’s defense has made much of an appearance so far. The Bears scored on all three of their possessions — a 48 yard Tavecchio field goal, an 18 yard Sofele TD run and a 16-yard option keeper from Maynard, set up by a Kendricks 33-yard fumble return. But the Sun Devils are carving up Cal’s defense pretty good …

Some first quarter stats:

First downs
Cal 7
ASU 7

Rushing yards
Cal 5-79
ASU 16-91

Passing
Maynard 4-7-0
Osweiler 4-5-0

Passing yards
Maynard 52
Osweiler 72

Total yards
Cal 131
ASU 163

Time of possession
Cal 4:43
ASU 10:17

Posted on Friday, November 25th, 2011
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Football: Wednesday practice update

Here’s some random tidbits from the practice field as Cal prepares for Friday’s game at Arizona State …

–Quarterback Zach Maynard hesitated to call his deep pass to Keenan Allen on the first play of the game against Stanford his best throw all season. But there’s no denying it’s in the running. Maynard lofted a deep pass that was on the money to a streaking Allen, and it’s a play that the two worked a lot on leading into the game. “We’ve been talking about it,” said Allen, Maynard’s half-brother. “His long balls haven’t been there so we’ve worked on it at practice. I tried to tell him to slow down a little bit, let me get out there a little bit further (before throwing it).”

Citing Arizona State’s quickness on defense, Maynard said it will be important for him to look off his receivers and spread the ball around.

–Some players claim they don’t pay attention to statistics. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks isn’t one of them. The senior is well aware that he ranks among the Pac-12 leaders in tackles (he’s third with 88). “It’s cool,” Kendricks said. “No. 1 would be better, but I feel like I’ve had a successful season. I’m happy.” I know Kendricks is only listed at 6-feet tall, but standing next to him for the first time, I was still struck by his size (or lack of it). I’m talking about height only – he’s listed at 240 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s viewed by NFL scouts. The guy can sure close on a ball carrier fast.

–Linebacker David Wilkerson, who has missed the past two games with a bruised knee, has returned to practice, but his status for Friday night’s game is unknown. Fellow OLB Chris McCain, still recovering from a concussion, wouldn’t return until the bowl game, if then.

–The Bears will practice Thursday morning, then hold a Thanksgiving meal later in the day before flying to Phoenix. The dinner will take place in the Student-Athlete High Performance Center, the team’s first official function in the new complex, according to coach Jeff Tedford.

Hope everybody has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
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Football: Tuesday practice update

It’s unusual for a Pac-12 football team to get two days off in a row, but Cal coach Jeff Tedford thought his team needed it after a hard-hitting game against Stanford. The Bears were back at it today. They’re practicing lightly all week before playing Arizona State on Friday night in Tempe. Tedford said three days of workouts is enough quality practice reps while at the same time giving players enough time to heal up. If you noticed, Cal had players being helped to the sideline all game long against Stanford. Lots of young guys were shuttled in along the defensive line as ends Trevor Guyton and Ernest Owusu got shaken up and missed time. Mustafa Jalil – one of Cal’s hotshot D-line recruits last winter – saw lots of time, and Tedford said he liked what he saw from Jalil, a 285-pounder who the Bears could look to play inside at tackle on occasion. “He has so much potential right now. I really wish I could be here to see him develop,” said Owusu, a senior. “I’m telling you guys right now, mark my words, he’s going to be very good.”

My story for tomorrow’s paper weighs in on Jalil and other young players who seem to set up Cal’s defense well for the next few seasons. There are holes to fill on offense for 2012 – Mitchell Schwartz and Justin Cheadle are seniors on the offensive line, and Cal will need another receiver to complement Keenan Allen with the departure of Marvin Jones. But the defense seems to have the depth to adequately fill voids.

–Speaking of players banged up in the Big Game, receiver Michael Calvin had an MRI on his injured knee that showed no tear in the anterior cruciate ligament, which is great news for the senior. Tedford said it’s possible Calvin could return – and he didn’t rule Calvin out for Friday’s game.

–So ASU is looking to bounce back following a close loss to its natural rival. Sound familiar? The Bears and Sun Devils are in the same boat in some ways, looking to rebound at Sun Devil Stadium. But ASU is in a more fragile state, having lost three straight to put coach Dennis Erickson on the hottest of hot seats. It makes me wonder how the Sun Devils will respond Friday night: Are they a lost ship that has no shot at getting back on course? Or will they come out sharp knowing that they’re still alive for the Pac-12 South championship?

Tedford sees ASU as an athletic, physical team with a solid quarterback in 6-foot-8 Brock Osweiler. “Their quarterback spreads it all over the field,” Tedford said. “They get you in (open) space. Any time these kinds of teams get their athletes in space and you’re a one-on-one tackler, you have to make sure you get them on the ground. It’s really important we tackle well in space.” Osweiler ranks second in the conference at 307 yards per game and he’s got a dangerous receiver in Gerell Robinson, fourth in the conference at 100 yards receiving per game.

Here’s what Osweiler had to say about Cal …

Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
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Football: No Monday practice

Just FYI, there was no Cal practice or media availability today, so I’ll be back with a blog post Tuesday. But check out this informative slide show from the Arizona Republic on the recent struggles of Arizona State, Cal’s upcoming opponent. Bad times in Tempe …

Posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011
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Football: Fullback Will Kapp has broken ankle

We just finished a media teleconference with Cal coach Jeff Tedford. He says fullback Will Kapp suffered a broken ankle last night, which seemingly ends the senior’s season. Receiver Michael Calvin will undergo an MRI on his injured knee either Monday or Tuesday to determine his condition.

Posted on Sunday, November 20th, 2011
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Football: Postgame recap of Cal’s 31-28 loss to Stanford

I see there’s some encouragement from the fan base over the Bears’ effort in a 31-28 loss to Stanford on Saturday night. It was a solid effort by Cal, no doubt. After Andrew Luck found his rhythm in the third quarter, I thought a blowout was in the making. But the Bears jumped back in the game.

“We played a good game on both sides of the ball,” quarterback Zach Maynard said. “Stanford’s a great team and we couldn’t afford to make the mistakes we made. Other than that, we played a good game.”

A couple things to be encouraged about:

–Maynard turned in a pretty strong game, finishing 20 for 30 for two touchdowns and no interceptions. What a start to his game … he hit Keenan Allen for a 42-yard gain on the first play, and then made a bad pitch to Isi Sofele that Stanford recovered for a turnover. “That was just a bonehead play by me,” Maynard said. But he completed some big passes.

–Allen enjoyed an incredible first quarter, catching six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. He was everything that Stanford coach David Shaw feared he might be – an athletic downfield threat that Cardinal defensive backs would have trouble matching up against.

–Cal finishes out the regular season next week against an Arizona State team that is struggling. The Bears are 7-1 against the Sun Devils under Jeff Tedford.

A couple of things to be discouraged about:

–After the first quarter, Allen didn’t catch a single pass. In fact, Maynard threw his way just twice after halftime. Tedford said he didn’t think Stanford did anything specifically that took Allen out of the game. Maynard’s take: “Keenan’s a great receiver and they double- and triple-teamed him to keep him from getting the ball.”

–The defense played hard and came up with some big stops. But there were way too many Stanford receivers who broke free with no one around them, particularly fullback Ryan Hewitt, who continuously hurt the Bears by leaking out of the backfield for short passes and turning them into bigger gains.

–Cal has got to find a way to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals in the red zone. Two drives stalled inside Stanford’s 10-yard line in the first half, and those ended up being difference-makers …

Here’s a final version of the notebook I wrote for Sunday’s paper, focusing mainly on Allen.

That’s all for now …

Posted on Sunday, November 20th, 2011
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Football: Stanford leads 28-13 after 3 quarters

Stanford leads 28-13 at the end of the third quarter, as the Cardinal has definitely taken control since halftime.

Couple of things going on here:

–Andrew Luck is starting to pick apart the Bears’ pass defense. Cal isn’t putting enough pressure on him, and what rush they do get, Luck is able to calmly avoid and still find an open guy. Plus, Cal is having some defensive breakdowns. Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo has been wide open downfield twice — once Luck missed him and once Toilolo dropped an easy catch. … On Stanford’s last touchdown, the fullback released to the right and there wasn’t a defender in sight. Easy score.

–Cal got inside Stanford’s 10 twice in the first half and settled for field goals. As well as they moved the ball in the first two quarters, they should have had more points. You knew Stanford’s offense would crank it up eventually …

Posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2011
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Football: Big Game halftime stats

Here’s some halftime stats, folks. Stanford led 14-13 but has jumped ahead 21-13 midway through the third quarter. Sorry for the shortage of blogs, but late kickoffs leave lots of writing to do as the game is going …

First downs
Cal = 13
Stanford = 14

Rushing yards
Cal = 20-37
Stanford = 15-112

Passing
Maynard = 11-14-0
Luck = 8-15-1

Passing yards
Maynard 168
Luck 81

Total yards
Cal 205
Stanford 193

Time of possession
Cal 17:54
Stanford 12:06

Posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2011
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