Football: Father of Kenny Lawler surprised by how opponents try to defend Cal receiver

Kenny Lawler Sr., father of Cal’s prolific junior wideout, is proud of his son but says opponents are going about defending him all wrong.

Kenny Sr., who played cornerback at Oregon 35 years ago, is now defensive coordinator at San Bernardino Valley JC.

“I’m overjoyed for him. I’m just a proud father,” Lawler’s dad said. “He was raised to do what he’s doing right now. He’s been doing it since he was 4 years old.

“It’s his passion and he’s worked so hard to get to where he is right now. A lot of long hours of sweat and pain have gone into it. I’m not surprised. I’ve been watching him all his life, do what he’s doing. He’s just doing it in front of the world now.”

Lawler has caught five touchdowns in Cal’s first three games and has become particularly adept at the back-shoulder fade in the end zone, where he uses his 6-foot-3 frame to shield himself from the defender while Jared Goff lofts a soft pass to his outside shoulder.

Kenny Lawler Sr., isn’t trying to undermine the Goff-to-Lawler connection, but is mystified by how opponents play it.

“I’m a defensive coordinator at the community college level and every time I see it I don’t know why teams don’t defend it better,” Lawler Sr. said. “The corner is not going to line up inside of him. The corner is going to play the back-shoulder fade. I’d put a safety over the top so if he runs a post or runs a slant there’s a safety sitting there.

“I’m going to take away the back-shoulder fade. Beat me on something else.”

Goff said defenses must pick their poison, and that Lawler is completely adept at patterns crossing the middle of the end zone.

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Football: Kenny Lawler is Cal’s touchdown maker

Cal linebacker Michael Barton fondly calls teammate Kenny Lawler “a circus freak.”

When the Bears unfold their big-top offensive show at Washington on Saturday in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams, Lawler will be center stage.

The 6-foot-3 junior receiver, equipped with long arms and hands that fill triple-XL gloves, has become one of the league’s most dangerous red-zone targets for a team averaging 51 points.

There are six Pac-12 players on the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. They have combined for eight touchdown receptions this season. Lawler, who inexplicably isn’t on the list (yet), has five TDs all by himself to share the NCAA lead.

Cal (3-0) feels it has a score to settle with the Huskies (2-1), who squelched the high-scoring Bears 31-7 in Berkeley last season. “We have a little vendetta,” Lawler said.

Despite losing four defensive players taken in the first two rounds of last spring’s NFL draft, the Huskies continue to excel on that side of the ball. UW ranks first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (11.0 points per game) and total defense (267.7 yards per game) and has yet to give up a touchdown pass.

Still, Washington defensive backs coach Jimmy Lakes said Lawler is very much on the Huskies’ radar. “He’s a very, very talented receiver,” Lakes told reporters in Seattle. “He attacks the ball in the air and goes and gets it. Very aggressive. It’s almost a DB mentality as a wide receiver.

“He’s going to be hard to cover.”

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Football: Cal vs. Washington facts

RECORDS: Cal 3-0; Washington 2-1.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 2 p.m. at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Networks/810-AM

SERIES HISTORY: Washington leads 52-38-4. The Huskies won 31-7 last season and have won the past six meetings. Cal’s most recent win in Seattle was a 56-17 victory in 2005.

STORYLINES: The Bears can be 4-0 for the first time since 2007 with a win in their Pac-12 opener. . . A victory moves the Bears within two victories of being eligible for their first bowl game since 2011. . . . The game shapes up as a duel between the Cal offense (51.0 ppg) and the UW defense (11.0 ppg). No team handcuffed the Bears’ offensively in 2014 as effectively as UW. . . .Cal running back Daniel Lasco, who ran for 1,115 yards last season, is a game-time decision. Safety Damariay Drew (foot) will start. . . . Nine players with Bay Area roots are on the UW depth chart, including defensive starters Travis Feeney of Richmond and Kevin King of San Leandro.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: RB Daniel Lasco (hip) and DE DeVante Wilson (foot) are questionable; WR Matt Rockett (knee), WR Jack Austin (foot), Saf Griffin Piatt (knee) and LB Aisea Tongilava (toe) are out; Washington: Saf Budda Baker (ankle) and OG Jake Eldrenkamp (unknown) are questionable.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal running game vs. Washington run defense. The Bears are coming off a 280-yard rushing game at Texas – their best performance in 27 games under coach Sonny Dykes. But the run game stalled in the fourth quarter, allowing UT to rally from 21 points down in a 45-44 Cal win. Washington, which held the Bears to 64 yards on the ground a year ago, is the Pac-12 leader in the category, allowing 93 yards per game.

STATS THAT MATTER: Quarterback Jared Goff, with 62 touchdown passes, needs three to break Kyle Boller’s Cal career record. Goff has thrown three TDs in each of the Bears’ first three games. . . . Junior Khalfani Muhammad is averaging 12.1 yards per rush. . . . Cal beat UW five straight times from 2002 through 2006, but otherwise is 1-26 overall against the Huskies since 1977, including a 19-game losing streak through 2001. . . . Cal leads the Pac-12 in turnovers gained (9) and interceptions (7).


Football: Damariay Drew cleared to play for Bears at UW; Daniel Lasco status undecided

Starting safety Damariay Drew (foot) practiced all week and has been cleared to play Saturday when Cal faces Washington at Husky Stadium, coach Sonny Dykes said Thursday after practice.

But freshman reserve cornerback Jaylinn Hawkins is expected to have shoulder surgery, Dykes said, and the status of running back Daniel Lasco (hip muscle strain) and defensive end DeVante Wilson (foot) remains undecided.

Lasco, who missed last week’s game at Texas, will practice Friday morning in Berkeley, after which his readiness will be evaluated. Dykes said the Bears will be cautious so Lasco’s injury doesn’t linger, but he expects the senior to dress Saturday.

“Lasco will go on the trip and we anticipate him playing,” said Dykes, who made the same remarks a week ago before Lasco sat out at Texas. ”He practiced today and should full practice (Friday). We’ll see how he does Saturday.”

Dykes said he is “definitely” more optimistic about Lasco than he was a week ago.

The Bears rushed for 280 yards – most ever by a Dykes-coached team at Cal – in the 45-44 win at Texas, despite Lasco’s absence. Khalfani Muhammad delivered a career-best 164-yard performance.

Wilson’s availability also is in question. He’s done little in practice so far this week, and Dykes said what Wilson is able to show in practice Friday will help decide his status.

Both Drew and Wilson suffered foot injuries against Texas.

Safety Griffin Piatt (knee) still isn’t ready, Dykes said, and wide receiver Matt Rockett (knee) won’t travel this week. Wide receiver Jack Austin (foot) is still two weeks away and linebacker Aisea Tongilava (toe) probably needs another month.


Football: `Strong likelihood’ Cal will face Hawaii in Australia in 2016

Cal is close to agreeing to play the University of Hawaii in a football game in Australia next season, according to sources.

Both schools have had conversations with an Australian promoter and plans could be finalized within the next few weeks.

A source close to the Cal athletic department said there is a “strong likelihood” the game will be scheduled.

David Matlin, athletic director for Hawaii, recently told Hawaii News Now that the athletic department is negotiating to schedule the game. Cal athletic director Michael Williams could not immediately be reached for comment.

No date for the game has been finalized, but speculation is the Bears and Rainbow Warriors would meet Aug. 27, possibly in Sydney.

Cal currently is scheduled to open its 2016 season at home against South Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision team, on Sept. 3. If the Bears scratch that game from their schedule, they could return from Down Under and have a bye week to rest and recover from travel before playing again.

The Bears’ other two nonconference games are Sept. 10 at San Diego State and Sept. 17 at home against Texas, both return games vs. Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.

Cal’s basketball team enjoyed a successful four-game tour of Australia this summer. The Bears’ football never has played in Australia, but did face Washington State in Tokyo, Japan in 1987.


Football: Mel Kiper Jr. projects Jared Goff as No. 3 pick

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest 2016 NFL draft projections on Wednesday, and he has Cal quarterback Jared Goff going third in the first round.

Here is Kiper’s evaluation:

3. Jared Goff, QB, California Golden Bears

Goff is putting on a show so far this year, separating himself from critiques that say the system creates the QB at Cal. Goff has a hose when he wants to really cut it loose, is able to drill the ball down the field and into tight windows with ease, and he has effective movement skills and anticipation for a player with good length who seems to see the whole field. He can also move defenders with his eyes pretty well and will continue to get better.

Goff has not addressed whether he will enter the NFL draft after this season, saying again Wednesday that he is giving the topic none of his attention during his junior season with the Bears.

Kiper’s top three picks are juniors, with Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche at No. 1 and Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa at No. 2.


Football: How much did one bizarre play against Washington change everything for Cal in 2014?

Did Cal’s 2014 football season turn south because of one freaky, stunning play?

Coach Sonny Dykes suggests it’s hard to know. Quarterback Jared Goff says no.

The Bears entered their Week 6 game against Washington last season with a 4-1 record and averaging 50 points per game. They were coming off a 60-59 win at Washington State that capped a thee-game stretch where they scored 164 points – and could have won or lost all three.

Then, in the flash of barely 10 seconds, everything changed.

Shaq Thompson’s 100-yard return of a ball that popped loose from the grip of Goff, trying to stretch it across the goal line midway through the first quarter, turned what seemed sure to be a 7-0 Cal lead into a 7-0 score favoring the Huskies.

Memorial Stadium went silent and the Bears were shellshocked. They trailed 28-0 by halftime and lost 31-7.

Cal won just once more all season, finishing 5-7 and out of the bowl picture for the third straight year. Yes, the schedule got much tougher starting with that Washington game, with games left against UCLA, Oregon, USC and Stanford (just like this year).

But the prolific Bear Raid offense never was quite the same, averaging 29.9 points over the final seven games – a full 20 points lower than over the first five games.

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Football: Bears were ’embarrassed’ by 2014 UW game

Recalling last year’s 31-7 loss to Washington in Berkeley, Cal linebacker Michael Barton said, “Washington just beat us down, basically destroyed us. We’re looking for redemption.”

Cal was 4-1 and had averaged nearly 55 points over its previous four games when it was stuffed by a Washington defense that eventually had four players taken in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.

“Our guys were embarrassed. They came in here and humiliated us,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “We’ve got to play better at every position across the board than we did last year to have a chance to win.”

It won’t be easy. The Bears (3-0) are seeking their first 4-0 start since 2007. Washington (2-1) has played better each week and owns a six-game winning streak vs. Cal. The Bears have not won in Seattle since a 56-17 verdict way back in 2005.

* Coach Sonny Dykes said running back Daniel Lasco (strained hip muscle) is expected to practice more each day this week with the hope he’s ready to face UW. He said tests indicated neither defensive end DeVante Wilson (foot) nor safety Damariay Drew (foot) suffered serious injuries at Texas.

* Cal’s home game against Washington State on Oct. 3 will kick off at 1 p.m. and is being carried on the Pac-12 Networks.


Football: Troy Taylor is OK with the quarterback breaking all his Cal passing records

Seemingly week by week, Cal quarterback Jared Goff picks off the school records Troy Taylor set a quarter century ago. “They lasted a lot longer than I thought they would,” Taylor said.

Taylor, now 47, never has met Goff but he’s entirely comfortable with the player who last week eclipsed him in three more categories, including career passing yardage.

“Absolutely,” Taylor said. “He’s a great kid, a lot better than me.”

Taylor was very good, but played on Cal teams from 1986 through ’89 that had a combined record of 14-27-3. Those teams never matched the 3-0 start Goff and the Bears have assembled heading into their Pac-12 opener Saturday at Washington.

Taylor spent two seasons with the New York Jets and now is coach at Folsom High, where protégé Jake Browning last season passed for 5,790 yards and tied the national record with 91 touchdowns to earn USA Today first-team All-America honors. Browning is now a freshman starter for Washington.

So Taylor knows quarterbacking, and he’s convinced Goff is a rare talent.

“Jared’s a special guy. He’s going to play for a long time,” Taylor said. “The thing that impresses me the most is his feel for the pocket. He’s able to play in a confined area, move and find little nooks in the pocket and still keep his focus down the field.

“That’s the trait that separates the one quarterback from the other million. Not many that can do that, and he can do it.”

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Football: Washington coach Chris Petersen calls Jared Goff ‘one of the best in the country’

Washington coach Chris Petersen, at his weekly news conference in Seattle on Monday, called Cal quarterback Jared Goff “one of the best in the country, without question.”

The numbers support that: Coming off a 45-44 win at Texas in which he broke Cal career records for passing yards, total offense and pass completions, Goff now ranks No. 8 nationally in pass efficiency at 181.9. He has passed for 898 yards and nine touchdowns for the 3-0 Bears.

The Bears (3-0) and Huskies (3-0) meet in the Pac-12 opener for both on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

Here’s a portion of the transcript from Petersen’s news conference, courtesy of the Seattle Times:

(On Cal’s offense and Jared Goff) “Those guys are very, very good. I think that whole offense has taken the next step, next level … from last year. The line’s better, they’ve got a bunch of backs that run really hard, and (Goff)’s good. I mean, he’s really, really good. He gets it out really fast. He’ll hang in the pocket and sit on his back foot. That guy can throw it down the field 40 yards on his back foot, I mean, on a line. So they’re good.”

(Are Goff and Washington quarterback Jake Browning similar in the way they read progressions?) “That’s hard to say. One guy’s played three years, and the other guy’s played three games. And so it’s kind of hard to make that comparison right now. I think Goff is one of the best in the country, without question. So it’s kind of hard to make that comparison.”

(What impresses you the most about Jared Goff?) “He can make all the throws, and he gets it out very quickly, but then he’ll stay in the pocket. And he can deliver the ball sitting on his back foot down the field. Most guys hang onto it (but) they’ve got to hitch up to get that ball down there. He does not need to do that. He had two really, really big runs, scrambles in the Texas game. So he can obviously run. He’s not a guy that can’t get out of the rush’s way. I think that’s why the NFL guys are so excited about him, because he’s big and athletic, but he’s a guy that hangs in there and throws it all over.”

(On any differences he sees from Jared Goff from last year to this year) “I think their whole offense is different. They’ve been doing it now a couple, three years with a lot of those same players. I just kind of go across the board. I think their o-line and their run game is better than it was. Kenny Lawler, (Bryce) Treggs, and those guys have been around there for a while. They really execute that offense at a high, high level. I think it’s kind of all of them. All together, I think they’ve probably all gotten better.”