Football: Bears expect running game to rev in ’15

Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ dream for the perfect ending to a football game is not as glamorous as you might imagine.

“We want to become that kind of team where we can get the ball back with 4 minutes to go and hand it off six times and get out of the ballgame,” he said.

As the Bears prepare for their Sept. 5 opener at home against Grambling State, their goal on offense this season is to become a team that dictates when it wants to run the ball.

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Football: Fall camp winds down

Cal is practicing just once Friday — a closed morning sessions at De La Salle High — then will enjoy a team activity at a Bay Area water park.

The action was a bit more intense during Thursday morning’s practice at Memorial Stadium, where junior safety Damariay Drew got a little too enthusiastic while closing out on Kenny Lawler after the receiver made a catch over the middle.

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Basketball: The numbers Down Under

The Bears will return home having learned a lot about themselves during a four-game tour of Australia, including how they must get off to better starts.

Cal trailed early in three of four games Down Under, winning the first two times that happened. The Bears could not finish the deal Friday at Wollongong, losing 110-99 to the Illawarra Hawks, no doubt easily the best opponent they faced.

Fouls – the stunning total of 40 of them – did in the Bears against the pros from the National Basketball League team. Australian commentators sympathized with Cal’s players, who were not prepared for even the lightest touches being whistled as fouls.

But the Bears must take a piece of the responsibility. They were lost defensively early, allowing the Hawks to consistently find open 3-point shots. And when they became came alive defensively, they often were too aggressive.

Eight Cal players finished with at least four fouls, with Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Tyrone Wallace and Kingsley Okoroh each fouling out.

But there was a lot for coach Cuonzo Martin to like about his team’s performances. Although Brown, the 6-foot-7 freshman forward, showed himself to be an elite talent, Cal displayed terrific unselfishness and scoring balance.

Consider these final four-game scoring numbers:

Jaylen Brown 17.8 points per game
Jabari Bird 15.5 ppg
Tyrone Wallace 14.8 ppg
Jordan Mathews 13.8 ppg
Ivan Rabb 12.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg


Basketball: Bears fall 110-99 in overtime

Cal battled back from 17 points down, but lost 110-99 in overtime to a veteran Illawarra Hawks professional team in the finale of the Bears’ four-game Australian tour at Wollongong on Friday.

The Bears, who won their first three Down Under, were led by 24 points from junior guard Jordan Mathews. Freshman Jaylen Brown added 19 points, Jabari Bird had 17, Tyrone Wallace had 14 points and six assists, and freshman Ivan Rabb had his third double-double of the trip with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

The epic game ended at 3:23 a.m. PDT.

Ultimately, Cal could not overcome being whistled for 40 personal fouls, which allowed the Hawks to shoot 55 free throws. The hosts outscored the Bears 40-19 at the free throw line.

Four Cal players – including Brown, Rabb and Wallace – fouled out, and four more finished the game with four fouls.

“It was a good test for us,” Brown told the Aussie commentators afterward. “The Australian team was really good. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. There’s nothing to hang our heads down about. I think we did pretty well.”

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Football: Walk-on McMorris trying to find his place

He weighs 310 pounds and was considered too small to play major college football.

Well, too short, anyway.

Walk-on Malik McMorris is the Bears’ big fall camp experiment, a 5-foot-11 freshman defensive lineman from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, who is trying to find a niche as a fullback.

McMorris had scholarship offers from Army, Cal Poly, UC Davis and Holy Cross. He was recruited to Berkeley, not by the coaching staff, but by former Mater Dei teammates Chase Forrest, Addison Ooms and Matt Rockett.

“I think Malik’s pretty similar to me – a lot of people told him he’s too small and couldn’t play at the next level,” said Rockett, a 5-9 sophomore wide receiver. “I know Malik and I know what he’s capable of. I told him, `This is your shot. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.’ “

“If he was 6-2 he could have gone anywhere in the country,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “But he’s not. We’re lucky he’s here.”

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Basketball: Golden Bears lead by 25 points after three quarters, hold on to win Down Under

* NOTE: Tonight’s game vs. Illawarra Hawks tips off at 1 a.m. PT.

Cal built a 25-point lead after three quarters and held on to beat Australia’s Center of Excellence 94-86 on Thursday in Canberra, improving to 3-0 on its tour Down Under.

Jabari Bird led Cal with 19 points and five rebounds and Tyrone Wallace contributed 17 points and four rebounds.

Freshman Jaylen Brown, the Bears’ leading scorer in their first two games, scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half. The 6-foot-7 small forward is averaging 17.3 points through three games. Fellow freshman Ivan Rabb coupled 15 points with 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the trip and is averaging 13.points and 9.7 rebounds.

Jordan Mathews added 10 points.

Cal turns around quickly to play its final game in Australia against the Illawarra Hawks of the professional National Basketball League on Thursday night at Wollongong. The Bears figure to face their most serious challenge of the tour in front of what the team website reported is a sold-out arena.

The Hawks feature a veteran roster of post-collegiate players, including former Vanderbilt star Andrew Ogilvy, a 6-10 center, who averaged 15.3 points in three college seasons through 2010.

Former Illawarra players include Cal grads Butch Hays and Ayinde Ubaka.

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Football: Bob Ladoceur shares wisdom with the Bears

The Bears held their second of three practices this week at De La Salle High in Concord on Wednesday morning, and got a visit from the man who built the school’s football dynasty.

Former DLS head coach Bob Ladoceur spoke to the Cal team after its workout, and Bears linebacker Michael Barton said the experience brought back special memories from his time in high school.

“Oh, it was awesome,” Barton said after the Bears’ afternoon practice at Memorial Stadium. “He’s one of my biggest role models in life, teaching me more about becoming a man than football. Applying football to life lessons was the most important thing I learned from coach Ladoceur.”

Barton said Ladoceur’s words had all his Cal teammates tuned in.

“Usually, when someone is coming up to speak to the team, guys are just looking down, kind of whispering here and there,” Barton said. “It was the first time I’ve seen guys just looking straight up, eye to eye with the utmost respect. He’s one of the most respected people in all of football, period.”

He said his former coach introduced himself to Cal’s players, including a mention of The Streak – the Spartans’ 151-game record-setting win streak that spanned 12 seasons.

“That’ll get your attention,” Barton said, laughing. “Some of the guys on the team wanted me to introduce them after. They really enjoyed it. They really took it to heart.”

Ladoceur’s message was straight forward: Work hard and work together.

“He was just explaining how there’s no real secret formula for success or else he would have written a book and become famous and retired years ago,” Barton said. “He was just talking about what it takes to make a great team, what he’s learned from his success.

“Every team will be different, he said. Our team is not going to be like any other Cal Bear team that ever existed. He said what’s going to help us is us being brothers and doing our jobs.”

The Bears hold an open practice Thursday morning at 10:15 at Memorial Stadium. They are back at De La Salle for a closed Friday morning practice.


Football: McClure says he’ll be ready for Grambling

Senior safety Stefan McClure, who has been handled with kid gloves while coming back from spring surgery on his right quad, finally was out of his red jersey Tuesday at practice.

Still no contact, but coach Sonny Dykes said he expects McClure to get some live action early next week and is confident he could be ready to play Sept. 5 in the opener against Grambling State.

No doubt about it, McClure said.

“I’ll be ready for the first game,” he said. “If we had a game this weekend, I’d be ready to go.”

McClure said his quad feels great, but that he’s anxious to be freed up to practice full out.

“It is driving me crazy. I want to get back out there,” he said. “They’re still not letting me hit anybody – no contact. I’m doing everything that’s not live, so it’s good.”

Without McClure and Griffin Piatt – who is farther behind in his recovery from knee surgery – the Bears have experimented with a variety of players at safety. Quarterback Luke Rubenzer is getting first-team reps and Damariay Drew – back after a year away to resolve legal issues – was impressive early.

But Drew missed at least five straight practices and was wearing a red jersey Tuesday, limiting his activity. Dykes, who had been vague for several days about Drew’s situation, said, “We’re trying to limit his collisions right now. He’ll be fine.”

Sounded like code for a possible head injury.

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Football: Who are the Pac-12’s best players? Where does Cal quarterback Jared Goff fit on that list?

Athlon Sports polled 19 media members who follow the Pac-12 (including me), asking us to rank the best players in the conference.

Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright was a near-unanimous pick, earning 16 first-place votes to easily outdistance runnerup Myles Jack, a linebacker from UCLA.

USC quarterback Cody Kessler earned two first-place votes and finished third in the poll, with Cal QB Jared Goff fourth. The only other Cal player to receive votes was wide receiver Kenny Lawler, who finished tied for 30th.

A few curiosities:

— USC players grabbed five of the top 16 spots.

— QB Vernon Adams, who just arrived at Oregon this week as a graduate transfer from Eastern Washington, checks in at No. 20.

— Stanford QB Kevin Hogan, despite a sparkling career win-loss record, is tied for 25th.

Here’s the full list:

1. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona (16 first-place votes) 282; 2. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (1) 234; 3. Cody Kessler, QB, USC (2) 208; 4. Jared Goff, QB, Cal 181; 5 tie. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah & Su’a Cravens, LB, USC, 175; 7. DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon, 160; 8. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon 154; 9. Adoree Jackson, CB/WR, USC 151; 10. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA 82.

11. Max Tuerk, C, USC 81; 12. D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State 61; 13. Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado 48; 14. Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford 44; 15. Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA 43; 16. JuJu Smith, WR, USC 27; 17. Nick Wilson, FB, Arizona 24; 18. Budda Baker, Saf, Washington 21; 19. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford 20; 20. Vernon Adams, QB, Oregon 19.

21. Byron Marshall, WR, Oregon 16; 22. Hunter Dimick, DE, Utah 9; 23. Cayleb Jones, WR, Arizona 8; 24. Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon 7; 25 tie. Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State and Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford 6; 27 tie. Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State, Pharoh Brown, TE, Oregon, Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA 5; 30 tie. Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State and Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal 4.

32 tie. Gionni Paul, LB, Utah, Tom Hackett, P, Utah, and Jake Brendel, C, UCLA 3; 35. Joshua Garnett, OL, Stanford 2; 36 tie. Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado, Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Tyler Johnstone, OT, Oregon, and Deon Hollins, LB, UCLA 1.

My votes: 1. Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona; 2. Jared Goff, QB, Cal; 3. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA; 4. Cody Kessler, QB, USC; 5. DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon; 6. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; 7. Su’a Cravens, LB, USC; 8. Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford; 9. Max Tuerk, C, USC; 10. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford; 11. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA; 12. Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal; 13. Devontae Booker, RB, Utah; 14. Adoree Jackson, DB, UCLA; 15. D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State.