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Cal football: C.J. Anderson gives shout out to Tom Brady for his encouraging post-game words

After the Denver Broncos knocked off New England to earn a spot in Super Bowl 50, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sought out former Cal running back C.J. Anderson and provided him with an unexpected and inspiring message of encouragement.

“C.J. way to fight and prove everybody wrong,” Brady told him as the two embraced. “You belong in this league and you’re one hell of a player. I love the way you run. Keep climbing to be great.”

Anderson, who earned his way into the NFL as an undrafted free agent, was so grateful for Brady’s kind words that he offered his thanks on his Instagram account.

“Thanks Tom for telling me those words they will stick and I know a lot of people don’t like you but I have MAD RESPECT. Thanks I see you overcome as others in this league and now it’s my turn.”

Click here for more on what Anderson had to say about Brady.

 

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Cal football: Trevor Davis gets NFL combine invite

Wide receiver/return special Trevor Davis of Cal has been invited to participate in the NFL Combine, he announced via Twitter.

Davis joins former teammates Daniel Lasco and Stephen Anderson, who previously said they will participate in the Feb. 23-29 tryout camp in Indianapolis.

Quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Kenny Lawler, who both will enter the NFL draft following their junior seasons, also are expected to get combine invitations. The official list of invites will not be announced until next week.

Wide receiver Bryce Treggs said on Twitter that he was not invited to the combine, but that he will fully participate at Cal’s Pro Day.

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Former Cal cornerback Cedric Dozier is headed to Kansas State as  graduate transfer and will be eligible to play immediately in 2016. Dozier was a consensus four-star recruit who started regularly in 2013 and 2014, but saw his playing time drop dramatically last fall.

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Former Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, hired last week to the same position at Middle Tennessee State, told me he’s already bought a home in the Nashville area.

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Cal football: Is ex-Aggies’ coordinator in mix for Bears’ job?

Jake Spavital, who has coached Johnny Manziel, Geno Smith and Brandon Weeden  but was forced out as offensive coordinator at Texas A&M earlier this month, is a candidate for the same position at Cal, according to the website CoachingSearch.com.

Spavital, 30, spent the past three seasons at A&M, and was offensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15.

But Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin announced Jan. 3 that the two had “mutually decided to part ways.”

Spavital would bring one significant qualification to the job to replace Tony Franklin, who announced last week he was leaving Cal after three seasons to serve as coordinator at Middle Tennessee State and be closer to family. Spavital has a strong background with the Air Raid offense, having worked under Dana Holgorsen at Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia from 2009 through 2012.

He arrived at A&M in 2013 after offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury took the head coaching job at Texas Tech, and served as quarterbacks coach, working with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Spavital spent time coaching Smith at West Virginia and Weeden at Oklahoma State, even though Weeden was nearly two years older than Spavital.

Sumlin named Spavital the Aggies’ OC in 2014, but A&M offense sputtered against the Southeastern Conference elite this past season. The Aggies scored just 3 points against Ole Miss, 7 against LSU and 10 against Auburn, and Alabama returned three interceptions for touchdowns against them.

Spavital was criticized for a perceived lack of player development, but others said he met with resistance from older coaches on the staff who did not embrace his offensive philosophy. Two highly rated A&M quarterbacks transferred after the season, although one of them, Kyle Allen, called him “my guy for life” in a supportive Tweet after Spavital was let go at A&M.

A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Spavital played football at Missouri State.

He earned $486,110 last season, according to the USA Today coaching salary data base.

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Cal basketball: Utah’s Jakob Poeltl to provide another challenge to Bears’ big men

Cal leads the nation in 2-point field-goal percentage defense, which will come in handy Wednesday night at Utah. Sophomore 7-footer Jakob Poeltl averages 16.9 points for the Utes, and every one of his 193 shot attempts has come from 2-point distance.

Tipoff is 8 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Bears (14-6, 4-3 Pac-12) and Utes (15-5, 4-3) are part of a six-team mess in third place in the conference standings, one game back of co-leaders Oregon and Washington.

The challenge for the Bears will be to defend the Utes as effectively as they did on Jan. 3 in Berkeley, when they scored a 71-58 victory.

And, of course, to figure out how to do it on the road.

Cal, 13-0 at home after sweeping the Oregon schools, has won just once outside the Berkeley city limits this season. At least it was another Mountain Time Zone game – a 78-72 win at Wyoming back on Dec. 5.

The Bears held Utah to 38.5 percent shooting in the first meeting, and did a solid job on Poeltl, projected as a first-round NBA draft pick. He scored 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting, but did not take over the game.

Coach Cuonzo Martin said slowing down Poeltl is easier said than done because he “impacts the game in so many ways.” Poeltl is coming off a 29-point, 10-rebound effort in the Utes’ 80-75 overtime win at Washington.

Cal’s tag-team 7-foot duo of Kingsley Okoroh and Kam Rooks will once more use their length – and their fouls – to try keeping Poeltl off balance.

“I thought Kam and King did a really good job of just being big and making him take tough shots,” Martin said. “You can’t let him get low post easy catches. You have to make him to go his second and third options.”

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Cal basketball: Cuonzo Martin makes the right moves

With his team’s postseason hopes – and his young program’s reputation — possibly at stake, Cuonzo Martin delivered his best week as coach at Cal.

The Bears were coming off three straight road defeats and, at 2-3 in the Pac-12 were mired in the lower division of the standings. All-Pac-12 point guard Tyrone Wallace was on the shelf with a broken hand. Arizona was coming to town.

Expected to challenge for the Pac-12 title and make noise in the postseason, Cal needed a big week. A loss or two and everything could steamroll in the wrong direction. Not just the Bears’ NCAA tournament prospects, but the way they are viewed by recruits and NBA scouts – both of whom were well-represented at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.

The Bears won twice, including a 74-73 victory over Arizona that lifts them within a game of first place, albeit as part of a six-way tie for third.

Here’s how Martin helped make it happen:

— With leading scorer and lone senior Wallace sidelined, Martin gave junior backup Sam Singer the structure to operate effectively at the point. The Bears worked to exploit their size advantage against Arizona State and Singer responded with eight first-half assists that set a good tone.

— Even when 7-footers Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks inevitably got into early foul trouble against Arizona’s talented frontcourt, Martin kept one of them in the game most of the rest of the way, showing confidence they could stay on the floor and be effective.

— To keep a big lineup on the floor, he moved sharpshooter Jordan Mathews to the sixth-man role, knowing the tough-minded junior would not be bothered by it. Mathews responded with a season-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers, against Arizona.

— After playing seldom-used Brandon Chauca as Singer’s backup vs. ASU, Martin made a bold move and went to freshman forward Jaylen Brown in that role vs. Arizona. The 6-foot-7 Brown excelled, dishing a career-best seven assists to give Singer rest and provide a different look for the Wildcats.

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Cal climbed to No. 38, respectively, in the RPI computer Monday morning after its weekend home sweep. The Bears (13-0) remain perfect at home.

Now they hit the road again, and we’ll begin to find out if the Bears can continue their climb up the Pac-12 ladder.

Cal’s wins over the Arizona schools followed an 0-for-2 trip to Oregon which dropped the Bears’ record outside Berkeley to 1-6. They take an 0-3 conference road record to Utah on Wednesday and Colorado on Sunday.

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Ivan Rabb is the only Pac-12 player among 10 midseason candidates for the Waymon Tisdale Award, given to the nation’s top freshman. The Oakland native is averaging 12.6 points and 8.4 rebounds and shooting 64.2 percent.

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Cal football: Daniel Lasco shines at Shrine Game

Former Cal running back Daniel Lasco, injured for much of last season, showed a little of what he can do Saturday by rushing for a game-high 62 yards to help the West team to a 29-9 victory in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Lasco included a 42-yard run among his six carries.

Meanwhile, defensive end Kyle Kragen had 2 1/2 sacks and 3 total tackles for Team National in its 18-17 victory over Team American at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Stub Hub Center at Carson. Bryce Treggs also played in the game, catching one pass for 15 yards and returning a kickoff for 26 yards for Team National.

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Cal basketball: Bears upset No. 12 Arizona

For most of the 11,858 fans at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, this was the kind of moment they expected to share with the Cal basketball team: A pulsating 74-73 upset victory over Pac-12 Conference favorite Arizona.

Freshman Jaylen Brown, whose free throw with 18.4 seconds left provided the margin of victory, felt exactly the same way.

“This is definitely a signature milestone check for me coming to Cal,” said Brown, a top-5 national recruit whose arrival on campus helped send expectations skyrocketing. “This is a game we expected to win, a game we wanted to win.”

With an ESPN audience and the season’s first capacity crowd watching, guard Jordan Mathews scored 20 of his season-high 28 points in the second half and Cal’s foul-plagued big men stayed on the floor to contain the 12th-ranked Wildcats’ huge, physical frontline.

Arizona (16-4, 4-3) had one last shot, but guard Gabe York briefly lost the handle on the dribble, then reversed his direction and drove right. Defended tightly by Jabari Bird, he missed a 6-foot runner with 2 seconds left.

The Bears (14-6, 4-3) celebrated with their fellow students, who rushed the floor and soaked in the victory for more than five minutes.

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin called it “a great win for our guys, for our program,” and saluted the three-decade dominance of the Wildcats. Celebrities in the crowd included Joe Kapp, Jared Goff, Missy Franklin and Bob Melvin, but also former Arizona coach Lute Olson, who built the Wildcats from nothing into a national power.

“We hope to be that one day, but it takes time,” Martin said. “Continue to chop wood.”

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Cal basketball: Can Bears avoid an epidemic of fouls while defending big and potent Arizona?

Arizona is big and experienced and accustomed to winning.

The 12th-ranked Wildcats also shoot free throws well – especially their starters – which will present quite a challenge to a Cal team that has committed 96 fouls the past four games.

The teams picked to finish 1-2 in the Pac-12 before the season began, have found the going a bit tougher since conference began. The 12th-ranked Wildcats (16-3, 4-2) sit in a three-way tie for second place. Cal (13-6, 3-3) is part of a five-way logjam for fifth.

They meet Saturday evening at Haas Pavilion (5:30 p.m./ESPN), and the Bears understand they are facing a team featuring four senior starters.

“Obviously, they’re the team to beat because they won the league last year,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “When you have that level of experience that means you’re battle tested. For us, it’s playing as hard as we can play, executing our game plan.”

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Cal football: Tony Franklin makes surprise exit

Tony Franklin, who spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator for Cal’s football team, has resigned to take the same position at Middle Tennessee State, Cal announced Friday.

Acknowledging that people might view the step-down move with suspicion, Franklin said leaving Cal was “totally my idea.”

Franklin, 58, stressed that the decision truly was based on his desire to be closer to family. He grew up in Kentucky, and his parents, his wife’s parents and other relatives live in that area.

“I didn’t leave for Middle Tennessee. I left Cal to go home,” Franklin said. “I made a decision to go home before I got the job at Middle Tennessee. … It’s time to go be a good son, a good dad and a good granddad.”

Franklin said he first told coach Sonny Dykes about his possible plans a week ago and discussed it with him further several days ago. Franklin has served as Dykes’ offensive coordinator since 2010, starting at Louisiana Tech.

“I think he probably understood it was a good time for me to do this. He didn’t want me to leave, but he understood. He gets it,” Franklin said.

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Cal basketball: Bears hold off ASU, 75-70

The new-look Cal basketball team showed off an inside-out offense but the Bears still needed to overcome recent demons to claim a 75-70 win over Arizona State in front of an announced crowd of 9,096 at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night.

With junior Sam Singer replacing injured all-Pac-12 point guard Tyrone Wallace and freshman forward Ivan Rabb scoring a career-high 20 points, the Bears (13-6, 3-3 Pac-12) snapped a three-game losing streak and stayed unbeaten in 12 home games.

But it wasn’t easy.

ASU (11-8, 1-5) fought all the way back from a 14-point deficit with just under 13 minutes left, knotting the score at 65-all before the Bears seized control.

The Bears, who shot just 58 percent from the free throw line in road losses to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford, hit six straight – two each by Jaylen Brown, Jordan Mathews and Singer – in the final 27 seconds to ice the win.

The Sun Devils, who beat Cal by 35 points here last season, made just one field goal in the final 4½ minutes.

“It says we’re tired of losing,” Rabb said of the way the Bears played down the stretch. “We dialed it in on defense at the end – that’s how you win games.”

Singer does not provide the explosive scoring that Wallace gives the Bears, but he had eight assists to go with six points and six rebounds in 35 solid minutes. He also helped limit ASU point guard and leading scorer Tra Holder to nine points on 2-for-11 shooting.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” said Singer, who moved into the starting unit after Wallace broke his right hand in practice on Saturday. “I’ve learned a lot from guarding him in practice, learned a lot in conversations with him. He told me to keep being aggressive. I just tried to take little pieces of his game.”

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