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Football: No Big Game kickoff announced Monday

We normally learn Monday morning the start times and TV info for Pac-12 football games scheduled for the following week.

But we have no word on Nov. 22 when Cal and Stanford will wage the Big Game at Memorial Stadium.

TV is exercising its right to hold off on scheduling for that day until at least this Saturday night, after the completion of all Pac-12 games. It’s possible final word won’t come until Sunday, or even Monday.

Word is there are five possible time slots/TV affiliations for these three games: USC at UCLA, Arizona at Utah and Stanford at Cal.

They are 12:30 p.m. on ABC regional; 12:30 p.m. on ESPN; 1 p.m. on FoxSports1; 4 p.m. on ESPN2; 5 p.m. on ABC.

We do know that the Big Game will not be televised the Pac-12 Networks. They are taking three games that day: Washington State at Arizona State (10 a.m.), Oregon State at Washington (no time yet) and Colorado at Oregon (no time).

Stay tuned.

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Football notebook: Bears prepare for USC return game

No one associated with the Cal punt coverage unit is excited to relive last year’s game against USC.

“We don’t spend much time talking about last year on anything around here,” Cal special teams coordinator Mark Tommerdahl said.

Among the many nightmares the Bears endured during a 1-11 campaign, perhaps none left them shaken in quite the same way as the three punt returns for touchdowns they gave up in a 62-28 loss to USC.

“That was once in a lifetime,” junior punter Cole Leininger said.

He certainly hopes so because Cal (5-4, 3-4 Pac-12) gets another shot at the Trojans (6-3, 5-2) and return specialist Nelson Agholor on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Agholor ran back punts 93 and 75 yards for touchdowns that day and USC scored a third by running in a blocked punt.

Leininger said it’s difficult to express his emotions about that game. “The blame’s inherently going to go on me,” he said. “Obviously, everyone had something to do with it.”

Leininger’s focus this season has been to get more hang time on his punts in order to help the coverage unit. He has improved, Tommerdahl said, but needs to be better still.

“That’s what separates an NFL guy from a great college punter,” Tommerdahl said. “You’ve got to be able to hang it up there a ton.”

Coach Sonny Dykes said it’s possible the Bears will try to kick ball away from Agholor, but added, “At some point you’ve got to get where you can cover. We’ll challenge our guys.”

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Football: How Golden Bears went from 1-11 to 5-4

Nine down and three to go, starting with USC.

That’s where the Cal football team stood a year ago at this time, and that’s where it stands again right now, with the Bears set to play the Trojans on Thursday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

And that’s where the similarities end.

Cal was 1-8 and riding a seven-game losing streak headed into the USC game last season. Seven of those defeats were by two touchdowns or more, and what followed were three more routs as the Bears finished 1-11 during coach Sonny Dykes’ first season.

Now the Bears are 5-4 and coming off a 45-31 victory at Oregon State. Five of their first eight games were decided by seven points or fewer — three of them on the final play of the game — but the Bears are the most improved team from any of the nation’s five power conferences and they are a single victory from becoming bowl eligible, a status that was mathematically off the table before Halloween a year ago.

How did they climb out of the abyss so quickly?

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, whose Wildcats topped Cal 49-45 on a Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play, said the progress has come because Dykes and his staff stayed consistent with their message.

“They’re growing up in a system,” Rodriguez said. “Once you get some confidence and get a couple wins early in the season, that goes a long way to getting the guys to believe in themselves and what they’re doing.”

Here are four specific ways the Bears have begun to grow up:

STRONGER BELIEF

A year ago, the Bears rarely expected to win, and that attitude showed in their inability to come from behind. In nine Pac-12 games — all defeats — Cal never rallied from a deficit to take the lead. Not once.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Football: Pretty good NFL day for ex-Bears

Ex-Cal stars Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch stole the NFL headlines Sunday.

C.J. Anderson and Justin Forsett had pretty nice days, too.

Rodgers set one NFL record and tied another in Green Bay’s 55-14 rout of the Chicago Bears, and Lynch scored a career-best four touchdowns in Seattle’s 38-17 win over the New York Giants.

Rodgers set an NFL record with hjs 16th touchdown pass of 70 yards or more — a 73-yarder to Jordy Nelson.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. He threw six first-half TD passes, tying an NFL mark set way back in 1969 by the Raiders’ “Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica.

Rodgers finished 18 of 28 for 315 yards, without an interception or sack. He has thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions the past three games, 10 of those TDs in two games against the Bears.

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Lynch ran for a season-best 140 yards and scored on runs of 1, 2, 3 and 16 yards.

“Like I said before, Marshawn Lynch is our engine,” Seattle’s Doug Baldwin said. “Everything runs through him.”

“You could see the impact Russell’s running was having. . . . That impact mixing with what Marshawn was doing, it just got to where they couldn’t find us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

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Anderson had the game of his life in the Denver Broncos’ 41-17 win at Oakland. The running back rushed 13 times for 90 yards and caught four passes for 73 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown from Peyton Manning that gave the Broncos the lead for good.

“I love playing at home,” Anderson said afterward. “It’s like I got my ice cream and my cake at the same time. I’m trying to soak all this in.”

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Forsett, who became the starting running back for the Baltimore after Ray Rice was indefinitely suspended, ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ 21-7 win over Tennessee. Forsett, in his eighth season, has reached career highs for yardage (721) and touchdowns (five).

“It’s been a dream come true, just to get the opportunity to come out here and play and show what I can do,” Forsett said.

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Rugby: Bears win third straight 7s crown

Second-ranked Cal routed No. 5 Arizona State 45-5 on Sunday at Witter Rugby Field to complete an overwhelming run to its third straight PAC 7s Rugby Championship.

The Bears, who advanced to the title match with a 34-0 semifinal win over No. 17 Utah, scored four shutouts in six matches and outscored their opponents 226-10.

Cal exited the 11-team, 33-match event with the tourney’s most tries (38), and fewest tries allowed (2).

“We were good at looking after our own possessions and that allowed us to play less defense than some of the other teams,” said head coach Jack Clark.

The Bears won their six matches with an average output of 37.6 points while yielding only 1.6 to the opposition.

“We answered the bell four times yesterday and twice today, and it’s good for all of us to finish at the top of the podium,” Clark said.

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Rugby: Cal wins its pool at PAC 7s tournament

No. 2 Cal won all four of its pool play matches to advance to Sunday’s semifinal against Utah in the PAC 7s Rugby Championships at Witter Field on campus.

The semifinal match will be held at 11:20 a.m. The winner will face either third-ranked UCLA or ASU in the 1:30 p.m. title game.

In pool play, the Bears scored 25 tries and allowed just one. They shut out Stanford 41-0, then Oregon State 31-0, and Arizona 39-0, before posting a 35-6 win over Arizona State.

“We look forward to building on our performance tomorrow,” said Cal’s Andrew Battaglia, whose five tries matched the five scored by teammate Jesse Milne. “It was great playing at home with such tremendous support from fans and teammates.”

Cal is 2-2 all-time against the Utes in 7s play, having beaten Utah in their last two meetings – in pool play at the Battle in the Bay and in the final of the 2012 PAC 7s. Utah beat the Bears at the 2010 and 2011 Collegiate Rugby Championship.

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Women’s basketball: VanDerveer shares with Gottlieb

A terrific story by Janie McCauley of the Associated Press.

Read and ask yourself, “Would a men’s basketball coach ever do this?”

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By Janie McCauley, Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. — Sleep-deprived and feeling a bit down, coach Lindsay Gottlieb took a stroll last March a day after California’s season ended in the NCAA tournament. She was still absorbing being abruptly thrown into the offseason.

Her phone buzzed with a text message. Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, whose team was still playing, wrote: “Do you have any scholarships left?”

Gottlieb had an open spot — but wanted to know who her colleague was talking about. VanDerveer provided a quick rundown on a 6-foot-3 forward from New Zealand named Penina Davidson. Gottlieb texted back with one word, “Interested!!!!!!” with “about 5,000 exclamation points,” she said.

The rival coaches worked together to find Davidson a new home when the young woman’s test scores didn’t get her into Stanford, a thoughtful gesture by both sides not seen every day in college athletics.

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Basketball: Cal vs. CS San Marcos game thread

FINAL SCORE: Cal 74, Cal State San Marcos 52. Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird each scored 13 points and Jordan Mathews had 12.

Coach Cuonzo Martin was upbeat after the game, praising his team’s defense, focus, willingness to play physical and its ability to attack the 3-2 zone after a slow start.

“I thought they did a great job across the board,” he said.

The Bears open their regular season a week from Friday at home against Alcorn State as part of the 2K Classic.

“I’m really excited about this year and the team we have,” Bird said. “ I think we’re ready to get the season started.”

Wallace saw lots that he liked about the team’s performance and a few things that need more attention.

“We still need to get better rebounding,” he said after the Bears forged a modest 36-29 edge on the boards against a smaller team. “Our movement on offense . . . sometimes we tend to hold the ball when guys are open.

“Overall, we’re pretty good right now. Everybody’s playing hard. We’re trying to do the right things.”

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Football: Scarlett has season-ending ACL surgery

Cal defensive end Brennan Scarlett, regarded as perhaps the team’s best defensive player, underwent season-ending ACL surgery last week, coach Sonny Dykes announced after practice Thursday.

Scarlett injured the knee Oct. 4 during the Bears’ 60-59 win at WashingtonState, but returned to play in the game. Dykes later described the injury as a sprain, but Scarlett missed all four subsequent games.

Surgery to repair the partially torn ACL went well, Dykes said, and revealed no other damage in his knee.

“On the road to recovery,” Dykes said.

A junior from Portland, Oregon, Scarlett will be sidelined until next summer. “Hopefully, July he’ll be fully released and ready to go,” his coach said.

Initially, Scarlett expected to return this season without surgery.

“We were going to try to work through it and brace him and practice him and get him stronger,” Dykes said. “After discussing it with him and his family and doctors, we came to the conclusion it was best to go ahead and have the surgery.”

Scarlett is disappointed, but coping, reported Dykes, who expects him to play his senior season.

“He was really starting to come into his own and starting to play well, so I think it’s frustrating for him,” Dykes said. “He’ll get through it and I expect him to have a great year next year.”

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Basketball: Freshman Brandon Chauca awaits clearance

UPDATED

Cal will play its second and final exhibition game Thursday at Haas Pavilion against Cal State San Marcos, but it’s unclear whether freshman guard Brandon Chauca will be available.

Chauca, from Alexandria, Va., still has not gotten certification from the NCAA and is awaiting clearance.

“Always with an NCAA issue, you’re concerned, but I think it will get resolved,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. Wednesday.

Chauca did not play in the Bears’ opening exhibition last Friday, a 94-50 win over Cal State East Bay.

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San Marcos, which plays at the NAIA level, opened its season with a 73-67 win over Fresno Pacific. Senior guard Blake Nash scored 26 points for the Cougars, coached by former UCLA assistant Jim Saia.

Thursday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be aired by the Pac-12 Networks. Former Cal coach Mike Montgomery will provide TV analysis for the game, with Ted Robinson handling play-by-play.

The Bears open their regular season a week from Friday at home against Alcorn State as part of the 2K Classic.