Michael Duca on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–What you want to do is construct a schedule that challenges your team and give it the opportunity to give it different kinds of looks. What a way for Cal (8-3) to rack up a win over the Fresno State Bull Dogs (6-5) an 11 point victory on Saturday night at Haas with a 67-56 victory. It’s silly the way you can beat non-conference teams like this but this is the way you get into the NCAA Tournament.

 

Getting there you need to play North Carolina, Duke, Michigan in the pre season and it really doesn’t matter who else you play you can play 11, 12, 13 non conference games and you want to make sure you win most of them and you want to be sure your team is challenged a little bit in the process. 8-0 at home is good, they lost three away from home not so good but that’s how Cal constructs their pre conference schedule so that their almost entirely at home.

 

The interesting thing is a lot people are wondering how Cal would be this year without Allen Crabbe, without a two time Pac 12 player, who was a good shooter, a good scorer who left early for the NBA and is intimately acquainted with the bench up in Portland now. The answer is their doing just fine the Bears are not relying on just one guy to score for them now their spreading that scoring all around.

 

The Bears had six players in double figures earlier this week against Nevada and three of those players came off the bench. You like to have an eight man rotation that has eight guys that can score in double figures and so Saturday night against the Bull Dogs the Bears spread the scoring around quite as thickly but you did have two guys with double figures in rebounds from Richard Solomon and David Kravish both.

 

One night Justin Cobbs comes and gets you 25 points and the next night he gets eight or nine assists so Cobb can find different ways to adjust his game to what needs to be done on the floor. The conference games will be starting soon enough and there are a lot of very good teams in the Pac 12 this year. Washington is always a tough team for Cal, Oregon is a nationally ranked team, UCLA is a nationally ranked team Arizona is a top ranked team.

 

You have just a variety of squads in the Pac 12 that could give anybody fits on any given night and Cal is always going to struggle when they go to places like Utah or Colorado because of the altitude. It’s going to be a very competitive conference, it will not surprise me Cal in the top second tier after Arizona and UCLA who will be right up there with Oregon.

 

The Cal Bears Tyrone Wallace you look at him on the floor and you think he’s a tweener and it’s the same position that former Bear Patrick Christopher used to play he has the scoring ability to rebound like a power forward with Kravish and Solomon and with that many rebounds to be gathered in right around the bucket and paint he is one of those guys like Kravish was a couple of years ago who has a nose for the ball. I don’t know if Wallace studies and scouts down the other team but he’s got a playbook in his mind where to go on the floor.

 

Michael Duca covers the Cal Bears for Sportstalk Radio each week

Cal hosts Trojans in last home game

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By George Devine, Sr.

Cal ends its home season for 2013 by hosting USC at Noon on Saturday, November 9. The Trojans are coming off a 31-14 win at Oregon State on Friday, November 1 under interim coach Ed Orgeren who is 3-1. Marqise Lee is back in uniform for the visitors, and had 5 catches for 105 yards, including a 71-yare touchdown. He will be hard to stop in Strawberry Canyon. In addition, the Bears will be up against a formidable secondary which put the stop to the vaunted Beavers. USC is now 3-1 in the Pac-12 and 6-3 overall.

Cal, in losing 33-28 to Arizona, has continued its pattern of demonstrating impressive individual statistics in a series of losses (1-7). QB Jared Goff now is fifth on Berkeley’s list for single-season passing yards (2,881) but this is his team’s worst year in recent memory. Key factors are the predictability of Coach Sonny Dykes’ “Bear Raid” offense led by Goff, the inability of the offensive line to give Goff time to find his receivers, the tendency to overthrow so as to avoid effective coverage, and the inability to turn long passes into trips across the goal line. Add to that an injury-ridden defense which the San Francisco Chronicle last week referred to as “porous”, a description used earlier in this space.

Despite the loss, the score was close for much of the game and demonstrated the Bears’ most effective outing against a Division 1 team this year. A high spot for the Bears against the Wildcats was the performance of freshman Kenny Lawler, who caught three touchdown passes. He will be expected to challenge the USC defense. Another redshirt freshman, Cedric Dozier, started at cornerback against Arizona and may figure in the USC game as well.

Cal’s next two games are on the road: November 16 at Colorado and the Big Game at Stanford November 23. Kickoff times are TBD.

Bears growl but fall short against Arizona

Arizona-Cal

By Morris Phillips

In the absence of actual wins, the Cal Bears have been relegated to attempting to grab small victories wherever they can manage.

In losing to Arizona 33-28 on Saturday–and falling to 1-8 on the season—the Bears found themselves in a winnable game in the second half for the first time in Pac-12 play.  In a season this trying, adversity on the scoreboard has been a constant.  But this time out, the Bears experienced something new: down 26-21, with the ball, and a chance to take the lead, late in the third quarter.

The feeling didn’t last long as Jared Goff’s poorly thrown pass was picked by Arizona’s Jonathan McKnight deep in Cal territory.  McKnight’s pick set up the Wildcats for the winning score, B.J. Denker’s 14-yard touchdown run four plays later.   But afterwards, both teams acknowledged that they had been in a hotly-contested fight.

“The fact that we played better today against a good team shows them that we are certainly making progress and heading in the right direction,” Coach Sonny Dykes said.  “They’ll take something from that.  But our goal is to win the ballgame, regardless of who we play.”

“I anticipated some adversity,” Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez said.  “When you got a team that can throw it as well as they do and they can throw it well and have some explosive receivers, you know you’ve got a chance.”

The Bears lost their seventh consecutive game, but fell by fewer than 14 points for the first time in 2013.   Is it a victory for a school with the recent history and NFL impact that Cal has had to not get blown out?  Yeah, when this season’s team features inexperience at nearly every significant position, a new coaching staff installing a high-risk system, critical injuries and defections, it is.

Goff threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns, but saw two passes picked—both in the second half. And in the critical category for Dykes’ hyper attack, the Bears ran just 82 plays.  What’s supposed to happen under Dykes’ Air Raid didn’t on Saturday: the Bears failed to seize momentum by missing on 12 third-down conversion opportunities and fell well below the preferred 100 plus plays and an edge in time of possession.

The game was basically lost in hefty chunks of the first two quarters where Cal failed to expand on a 7-0 lead built in the first five minutes.  Instead, Ka’Deem Carey—who finished with 152 yards on 32 carries—and B.J. Denker ran the Wildcats to 19 consecutive points and a five-point halftime lead.

According to Rodriguez, in an attempt to stop Carey, the Bears loaded up inside aided by their superiorly-sized defensive tackles.  But Arizona adjusted, running Carey to the boundaries where he picked up some healthy gains.   Once Carey was established, Denker found room inside when he need to scramble, and the two-pronged attack exposed Cal’s glaring lack of quickness in their back seven once again.

Denker’s third rushing touchdown came on the read option, and given Cal’s depleted numbers on defense, the strategy of running right at the Bears seemed unfair and left Cal grasping throughout.   Arizona rolled up 448 yards in total offense, but on a stat sheet with a lot of symmetry, Arizona’s ability to run and run often was the only difference.   The Wildcats had 51 rush attempts, nearly doubling Cal’s 26, and that allowed Arizona’s engine to churn slightly smoother than Cal’s.

“Had we turned the ball over we would have lost,” Rodriguez admitted.  “We’ve got some good players but we’re not going to overwhelm anybody.  We’re just not there right now.”

Where the Wildcats are is in the thick of Pac-12 South’s race to the conference’s championship game.  Arizona won for the second straight week on the road and they get UCLA back in Tucson next Saturday with a chance to improve to 7-2 and inject their team into the Rose Bowl conversation.

The Cats were recently in Cal’s shoes, trying to rebuild in an increasingly challenging BCS conference with little or no positive reinforcement on a weekly basis.  In fact, Arizona dropped 13 of their next 15 games in a dismal stretch spanning 2010 and 2011.  But Rodriguez has won some recruiting battles over the last couple of seasons, and the Wildcats’ fortunes have switched.

On Saturday, freshman Scooby Wright dumped Darren Ervin in the end zone for a safety that gave Arizona its’ first lead, 9-7.  Fellow freshman Samajie Grant made nine catches—all in the first half—to help the Wildcats grab control..

Cal’s got loads of talent in their freshman and sophomore classes as well, and on Saturday, Kenny Lawler Jr. turned the most heads.  Lawler caught three touchdowns and his leaping one-handed grab that drew Cal closer in the third quarter was a highlight reel grab.

The Bears get a visit from USC next Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Cal returns home to host Arizona

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By George Devine, Sr.

After a 41-17 loss to Washington in Seattle, the Golden Bears return to the salubrious confines of Memorial Stadium to host Arizona at the traditional Berkeley kickoff time of 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 2.

The visitors will come into Strawberry Canyon 5-2 on the season and 2-2 in Pac-12 play, after a 44-20 win over Colorado the previous weekend. Ka’Deem Carey rushed for four touchdowns and will be the one to watch for the battered Bear defense. He is now the leading rusher around the country. In addition, quarterback B.J. Denker ran no less than fifteen keepers for 192 yards, and will likely rival Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ vaunted “Bear Raid” offense. This despite 336 passing yards for Berkeley QB Jared Goff against the Huskies.

After the Arizona game, Cal is home again for the Joe Roth Game against USC on November 9, with kickoff time TBA. That will end the home season for the Bears, who play at Colorado on November 16 and at Stanford for the annual Big Game on November 23.

Receiving game the weak link in 49ers offensive scheme of things

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA–The big difference right now from last 49ers season is in the receiving core, the 49ers just don’t have the wide receivers who can make plays at the moment. Until Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham get back their going to have to focus a little bit more on the run game and that’s what they’ve been doing in the last couple of weeks and that’s been to their advantage.

Once they focus more on running they’ll do a lot better actually in the first couple of weeks they obviously had that great game against the Packers where 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards but since then Kaepernick hasn’t thrown much more than 200 yards per game. He’s been kind of quite and part of that is that the Niners have no one to throw to.

They have Anquan Boldin who let’s face it the guy’s really good but Boldin is really the only wide receiver they have whose produced anything if you combine all the rest of the 49ers receivers catches over the course of the season if you added them up they won’t come out to what Boldin has on his own.

Vernon Davis has been great he had that fantastic first half against Arizona where he just dominated like seven catches for 170 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Those are the only two guys making catches and making plays and it’s not going to cut it for the 49ers you need more than two players to succeed in this game. You can’t have a dynamic passing attack where there is only two guys for the defense to stop.

Most defenses can figure out how to stop two guys, obviously Arizona has a pretty good defense especially in their secondary and they couldn’t stop Davis. So the 49ers can find their way in the passing game and they can make plays but over the course over four quarters Davis had they had a great first half and he was pretty quiet in the second half and the 49ers decided their running game was the way to go.

Arizona is also a pretty good running defense and the Niners wore them down, they just kept running and running and running then they eventually busted through to have an amazing 9.5 minute 18 play drive. That really sealed the game for them late and if they can do that they can beat anybody.

You have a nine and half minute long drive your going to win almost every time that means your just dominating the line of scrimmage and if you do that you win that’s usually how it works. As far as the passing game is concerned we know that Kaepernick has the ability but the 49ers problem right now is it’s Boldin and Davis and nobody else.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk radio

Another day, another A – former Oakland Athletic Brandon McCarthy spoils Matt Cain’s return with a 2-1 Diamondbacks victory

By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar

SAN FRANCISCO,CA–The San Francisco Giants (63-79) could not solve the puzzle that was Arizona Diamondbacks’ (72-69) starter Brandon McCarthy, as they fell 2-1 to the visiting D-backs. The former Oakland Athletic improved to 4-9 on the season with the win tonight from eight strong innings. In a thrilling pitchers battle, Matt Cain also threw a great game, only giving up two runs on eight hits. Unfortunately for the Giants, McCarthy was just a little bit better. With the loss tonight, the Giants are now one loss away from elimination from the post season. The Diamondbacks sit 11 games back from the continually impressive LA Dodgers.

The silver lining Giants fans can grasp from from this loss and maybe for the remainder of the season is that after missing 14 games on the DL, Matt Cain (8-9) came back and appeared to have no trouble or pain. He went six and a third, gave up two runs on eight hits and struck out three. Cain even took a hard grounder to his right calf from Arizona’s power hitter Paul Goldschmidt. “Matt did a nice job since coming off the DL. It’s been a while since he’s been out there. Pitching and defense did a great job tonight keeping that game close but we couldn’t help with the offense” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. Offensively for the Giants, Hunter Pence continued his hot streak. His two singles tonight pushed him to his 49th multihit game of the year, good enough to tie him for third in the National League. Angel Pagan continued his amazing return to the line up when he dazzled the fans with what could be called the play of the night. After a deep double by Gerardo Parra, Pagan took the ball on the bounce and shot a dart to shortstop Brandon Crawford who relayed it to catcher Hector Sanchez, who tagged out Wil Nieves, who was trying to score from first. Bochy echoed Pagans accolades, “He’s worked hard to get to this point. He looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. It’s really amazing considering the surgery he had. This is big for him as we wind down the season, he goes into next season knowing he’s healthy and 100%.”

For Arizona, Brandon McCarthy (4-9) went eight strong innings, surrendered six hits and only one run. Paul Goldschmidt and Gerardo Parra provided the offense for the Diamondbacks as they went 5 for 8 with three singles, a double and a triple and driving in both Arizona runs. McCarthy was replaced in the ninth by another former Athletics, Brad Ziegler, who threw an easy 1-2-3 inning for his ninth save of the year. With his win tonight, McCarthy was questioned as to how he was able to come into AT&T and pitch as well as he did, “It’s just trying to execute as many pitches as I can. Focus on what I can control.” Bochy also had high praises for the Arizona starter, saying “We couldn’t figure out McCarthy. His pitches moved a lot and we didn’t hit any balls hard tonight.”

The scoring started in the bottom of the third when Brandon Crawford scored after Marco Scutaro hit his 110th single of the year to center field to give the Giant’s a 1-0 lead. Crawford had led off the inning with a single of his own and was scooted over to third by a sac bunt from Matt Cain and a grounder to first by Angel Pagan. The Diamondbacks got on the board then next inning when Gerardo Parra hit a line drive to Hunter Pence in right field and scored Paul Goldschmidt to tie the score at one apiece. Goldschmidt gave Arizona the lead for good when in the fourth when he hit shot to the deepest part of the AT&T park that scored Adam Eaton from first to seal the victory with a final score of 2-1.

The Giants will try to stave off elimination tomorrow as they take on Arizona’s Wade Miley (9-10, 3.78) and put Madison Bumgarner (11-9, 2.91) on the mound. Game time 1:05pm PST.

SaberCats fail to upset Rattlers, eliminated from playoffs

August 4, 2013
US Airways Center
By Emily Zahner and Kahlil Najar

PHOENIX, AZ—The San Jose SaberCats were eliminated from the Arena Football League playoffs Sunday night, as they were defeated by the defending champion Arizona Rattlers 59-49. San Jose’s QB Russ Michna completed 20 of 36 passes for 238 yards and five total touchdowns (one rushing), but mistakes cost the Cats and Michna’s impressive play was not enough to move on to the second round.

Coming in to tonight’s game, every favored team had advanced to the next round, creating an opportunity for the SaberCats to become the first upset of the playoffs. Last season, the Arizona Rattlers dealt the SaberCats a heart breaking defeat, but on the backs on QB Russ Michna and wide receivers Jason Willis and James Roe, the Cats clawed their way back into the post season to find some revenge. With the top two scoring teams in the league, this first round game was expected to be high scoring and intense. With the odds against them, the Cats would turn the ball to Michna, who began this game with a successful 4-0 record against Arizona.

In the first possession, the Cats struggled and prevented from building the momentum they were looking to carry into this game. San Jose was unable to make any forward progress, and on the turnover, the Rattlers took no time to get the first score, going up 7-0 just seconds into the game. It didn’t take the Cats long to get on the board, as the next possession they were able to convert for a score. At the end of the first, the game was tied 14-14, but it took less than two minutes into the second for the Rattlers to score again. After questionable officiating and physical play, the first half came to a close with the Rattlers leading 28-21.

A potential turning point of the game for the Cats occurred in the third quarter when Arizona’s kicker Garret Lindholm missed the opportunity for a field goal and defensive back Clevan Thomas returned the miss 49-yards for a San Jose touchdown. This turned the momentum to the Cats, and one score later, they had brought the score to 35-35. Arizona’s QB Nick Davila faltered, and threw an interception to Huey Whitaker who returned the pick-6, giving San Jose their first lead 42-35. Arizona kept pressing, and at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the score was tied 42-42.

In the fourth, the Cats turned the ball over at the one yard line that the Rattlers managed to return to regain the lead, and it was all Rattlers from there. Russ Michna had to take matters into this own hands, running for the touchdown with 3:27 left in the game, shortening the deficit to 56-49, but it wouldn’t be enough. More mistake by the defense cost San Jose, and Arizona punched their ticket to the next round with a final score of 59-49. The San Jose SaberCats end their thrilling season 13-6.