Cal Dumps UCLA 28-18, awaits their bowl destination with a seventh win

By Morris Phillips

With a record-number of bowl eligible teams populating the FBS, Cal needed to go one step further to insure they will have one of the coveted 78 spots.

So beating UCLA in their regular season finale wasn’t icing on the cake, it was essential.

After spotting the Bruins a 7-0, first quarter lead, the Bears shut the door, methodically wearing down UCLA in a 28-18 victory. The Bears finish with a 7-5 regular-season record for the second, consecutive winning season, an achievement they haven’t had since 2009.

“Getting seven wins–be in position to win a bowl game–and have a chance to play somebody really good at a great location is really exciting,” said coach Justin Wilcox.

The Bears once again dealt with the scheduling oddity of finishing their season against someone other than Stanford. After winning the Big Game in dramatic fashion last Saturday–breaking a nine-game losing streak to the Cardinal–the Bears looked focused, and ready to play, no easy feat given the circumstances playing on the road on the holiday weekend.

The game time temperature was decidedly un-Southern California like 49 degrees, and drizzle was present throughout. With UCLA suffering through a fourth, consecutive losing season, the attendance suffered with fewer than 40,000 fans in the cavernous Rose Bowl.

“I think we came out and imposed our will on them. We had that mindset during practice all week,” said Chase Garbers, who made a second straight start after missing the previous four games with a shoulder injury. Garbers overcame a slow start, completing 17 of 29 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. His one-yard run in the second quarter gave the Bears a 14-7 lead they would not relinquish.

Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 111 yards and two scores, putting the starting back over 100 yards for the first time since the season opener against UC Davis. Brown’s second score, a 10-yard run, put the game away with 2:33 remaining and Cal clinging to a 3-point lead at that juncture.

Record-setting linebacker Evan Weaver lead a Cal defense that shut down the Bruins, registering six sacks, and limiting UCLA to 58 yards rushing on 35 attempts. Weaver had nine solo tackles, allowing him to pass Cal great Hardy Nickerson as the all-time, season-leader in tackles with 173.

UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson kept his team in it by completing 23 of 39 passes for 271 yards, but five sacks took their toll. Thompson-Robinson failed to finish the game, getting knocked out in the fourth quarter, one week after he was unable to finish the game against USC.

The Bears (7-5, 4-5) will wait until December 8, after the completion of the conference championship games, to find out their bowl destination. Their likely landing spots are the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix, or the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Michael Duca on Cal football and basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–Anytime you have a chance to make history and this year the Cal football Bears have made history, they are among the worst team among the FDS in every category and therefore in the long and storied history of the Big Game which is coming up this Saturday at Stanford they are the biggest underdogs ever. Do you want to know what their in store for?

This will shock you but I would tell you to take Cal and points in this game on Saturday and the only way that Cal could be able to beat the spread with their 32 points and their never going beat the spread and hold the score down and the only way your going to hold the score down is to run the football. Their going to actually concentrate on running the football and Stanford is going to expect them not to run the football.

Their going to concentrate on trying to control the ball on the ground and Cal can’t do that they only have two Pac 12 quality lineman and that’s the problem. These games, these rivalry games can throw everything out the window and they don’t even bother printing these in the racing forms because there is no forms to these games. Remember Joe Kapp’s last game was an 17-11 victory over a Stanford team that was a four touchdown favorite.

Is there any chance for Cal to pull out a miracle and shock the crowd at Stanford with a win answer: I don’t think the band will be on the field.

Cal hoops: Playtime is over the real games start next week in Maui for the Maui Invitational to face some really good teams, the Maui tournament will see Arkansas, Baylor, Cal, Chaminade, Dayton, Gonzaga, Minnesota, and Syracuse, and Cal will find out what a good team really is. This team is doing well going into the tournament they are 4-0 the last time Cal was 4-0 going into a tournament they were riding high and they were fat, dumb, and happy and they went back to Wisconsin and played a Big Ten that just physically manhandled them.

From the time they tried to leave the locker room and until the time they got on the bus to go back home they have not forgotten that and they have brought that and a little bit more focus in the Pac 12. They realize they have a chance to be a really decent team this year. They may not be at the very top pius echelon of the Pac 12 this year looks like Arizona and UCLA are those big teams but Cal is right behind them which means all they need one or two players or wins in winning the league and that’s always been their goal.

Guard Justin Cobbs he was fine the other night after recovering from an injury. The first question we asked Cal head coach Mike Montgomery last Monday night after beating Southern Utah was what did he learn about his team after a game like that? Montgomery was honest he said, “not very much.” Southern Utah was overmatched physically and talent wise from about the time they got off the airplane.

However their coached by a former player at Stanford Nick Robinson suddenly it gave Robinson an opportunity to play a in bigger arena in front of 4,000 to 5,000 people which is more than who their going to play in front of in Utah.

Michael Duca does commentary on Cal football and basketball each week for Sportstalk Radio

Michael Duca on Cal

by Michael Duca

Cal football: In the new Cal system with old players and that’s pretty old for people who are seeing this team (1-9) but that’s just how it is. It was the team that former head coach Jeff Tedford left behind and it was not covered at just that and the skill set is somewhat underneath it. So current head coach Sonny Dykes has spent the entire year trying to shave the edges off round things so they’ll fit square holes.

Jared Goff is well on pace to throw for 58,000 yards in his career and it maybe well beyond that. Again it’s a true freshman stepping up and running a system that’s somewhat new to him, not totally new. Goff played spread in high school but he didn’t play spread for Dykes and he didn’t play it with this group of players who were drafted for pro set offense. If you look at last Thursday’s game Cal’s offense played USC pretty even.

Cal hoops: Obviously everybody figures you schedule cupcakes a certain time of the year and I don’t think St. Mary’s scheduled a cupcake at Akron last night and Cal scheduled a cupcake at Coppin State. Coppin State went up the coast up a ways and smoked the Oregon State Beavers at Corvallis. That’s a win that Cal could be pretty proud of.

It gives them an idea of what they’ve got this year, the Bears have to figure out a win without having Alan Crabtree to lean on and they could do real well without him because he was so streaky and so prone to disappearing on defense when he wasn’t hitting on offense so if he had a good game it was a great game and if he had a so so game it turned out to be a poor game.

Cal is going to need David Kravish to produce a low post presence they don’t have a lot of height, they’re very limited on who they have on the team. Head coach Mike Montgomery might go small and by small he basically means playing a four guard offense to draw the other team away from the basket. When they go to the four guard offense Kravish is the man on the island, you’ve come to the lighthouse at the opening of the harbor.

Kravish has developed greatly over the years, he came in a skinny kid with a lot of ball hocking ability and could never tell where the ball winds up on a rebound. He’s beefed up a little bit, he doesn’t get pushed around in the low post like he did a couple years ago. He’s got the potential to be a solid good ball player. It really anchors that low post offense for them.

For Monty coaches are coaches they are always excited about their team and their always looking forward to their next game and their always respectful to their opponents. This is how they are they don’t believe in whacking hornets nests and, they don’t believe in over selling their kids and in front of their kids and underselling them and they have kids playing with a chip on their shoulders and Monty is great at that.

He’s one of those guys whose never satisfied because you can only approach perfection you could never reach it.

 

Michael Duca covers Cal for Sportstalk radio

Bears punt away another one, this time to USC, 62-28

USC-CalBy Morris Phillips

Coach Sonny Dykes turned 44 Saturday, but admitted during this time of the year, football coaches don’t celebrate anniversaries, holidays or birthdays.  So when asked, Cal’s coach said his team’s dismal showing on the field didn’t add to or subtract from the occasion.

Jackson Bouza played his last game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, and despite the 62-28 loss to USC and his Bears’ 1-9 record, he remained resolute: he wouldn’t change anything about his four years at Cal.

And Jared Goff—as best as he can—is moving on after throwing for the least impactful 255 yards and three touchdowns one can imagine.  With equally-hapless Colorado up next on the schedule, Goff said he’ll be ready, regardless of what transpired with the Trojans.

What normally is a big game with USC was anything but on Saturday for Cal.  Instead, it was hard to watch, hard to play in, and even harder to explain afterwards.  The Bears snuck back into the game briefly at 21-14 in the second quarter, only to experience an avalanche of USC points that left them trailing 55-14 midway through the third quarter and well on their way to an eighth straight loss.

Given that backdrop, Dykes, Bouza and Goff deserve all the credit for attempting to put a hopeful spin on their dire situation.  But that they did in the postgame interview room with all three steadfastly maintaining that better days are ahead for Cal football.

“In a weird sort of way, the experience they have gotten this year and the hard luck will help our team respond faster,” Dykes said.  “We are going to get this thing right, I don’t have a doubt in my mind.  I feel more strongly about that right now than I did December 5th when I was hired.”

But before the Bears can prepare for a feast, they might have to—even privately–come to grips with how they got so hungry in the first place.

The Bears haven’t won a game against a Divison I opponent in over a year.  They’ve lost all but one game this season by at least 14 points, and have routinely fallen behind from the start.  On Saturday, USC’s Javorius Allen blew through the Cal defense for 43-yard touchdown run, and the Trojans had a 21-0 lead over Cal before the first quarter had expired.

Injuries and inexperience are hurting Cal more than anything.  That continued on Saturday when middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson was felled by a foot injury.  Nickerson, himself just a redshirt freshmen, had been counted on to call the defensive signals and get the Cal defenders in the right alignment pre-snap.  Without him, that job fell to true freshman Chad Whitener, and the Bears’ defense suffered as USC averaged nearly nine yards per carry, and saw maligned quarterback Cody Kessler have an error-free game.

“We missed a lot of checks, and rolled the coverage the wrong way several times,” Dykes said when asked about Nickerson’s early exit. “We got out of position as a result, and when you get out of position, you are trying to recover, and when you are trying to recover, you are diving a people’s legs and it looks bad.”

For Cal, with injuries and inexperience commonplace—Dykes reminded everyone that only three seniors have places among Cal’s top 44 players—capable special teams are still supposed to be a given.  That’s one of Dykes’ hallmarks along with his high-octane pass attack.  Dykes explained that his Louisiana Tech teams always excelled on punt and kickoff coverage, and here at Cal, he starts several practices each week with special teams’ drills.

Ah, special teams can save the day.   Just not on Saturday.

First the Bears allowed Nelson Agholor to return a punt 75 yards for a score less than two minutes into the game.  Then USC’s Soma Vainuku blocked a punt in the second quarter that teammate Josh Shaw returned 14 yards for a 35-14 Trojans’ lead.  Just a couple minutes after that, Agholor struck again, this time with a 93-yard punt return.

Goff gamely attempted to keep his team in the game, and got a big assist from emerging freshman receiver Kenny Lawler, who has caught five touchdown passes in two games.  But Goff plays in a high risk, high reward system that so far hasn’t reaped many rewards.  Once again, the Bears couldn’t strike deep, and Goff had to look short.  So while Goff chucked it downfield 52 times, he only had 255 yards passing.   When the turnovers and sacks are factored in (and on Saturday the Bears had just one sack, and no interceptions) Goff’s five-yard average per pass attempt just isn’t high rewards enough for a major college team to have success.

With the loss, the Bears haven’t beaten USC since the epic triple-overtime win in 2003.  The Bears hadn’t surrendered as many as 62 points to the Trojans since the 1930’s.  And yes, three punt return touchdowns for USC ties an NCAA record and equals a Pac-12 conference record that stood unmatched since 1954.

Next week, the Bears travel to Boulder to face Colorado, which probably will be Cal’s last opportunity for a win this season with No. 4 Stanford after that in the season finale.

Michael Duca on Cal football

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–What was it that there are only 14 players on the Cal Bears squad from the last two years recruiting classes. You can not say that this is a Mother Hubbard situational where the cupboard was left totally bare but it wasn’t left Golden Bear that’s for sure.

The Bears are a work in process and I’m not sure it’s a work in progress but the Bears hope it is the spread offense the Bears knew from that Holiday Bowl a number of years ago that Cal couldn’t defend against and apparently based on going against the spread offense in practice every week their defense is pretty depressed about that whole concept.

The Bears have not been aggressive and their going to have to be on the defensive side of the ball, the offensive line is young and needs to develop and Jared Goff is their number one quarterback for the next number of years and he’s very well suited to the system, very well suited to the school, he had a full year of credits under his belt before he played his first game.

The Bears don’t have any issues on that side Brandon Bigelow has to develop a little bit more as a running back and that comes from the line developing ability to run block and in particular to pass protect it seems to me like I’ve seen Goff make a number of freshman like decisions out there on the field and it’s often because three or four non distinctly non freshman like human beings are trying to pulverize him.

One thing that people really don’t understand about the transition this why I kept focusing on the offensive line when I was talking is that former Bears head coach Jeff Tedford played pretty much a standard pro sets scheme and in that scheme your line blocks straight ahead or zone blocks within arms reach of you. When your playing the spread it’s not about zone blocking and it’s not about blocking straight ahead it’s about gap control.

It’s a whole different way of thinking about the offensive line responsibility it’s a whole different way of thinking of neutralizing defense in particular when you consider how inexperienced Cal’s own defense is it’s hard to imagine and being a very good scout team to train that offense in running the spread.

The last word on Cal is they have no place to go but up.

Michael Duca covers Cal football for Sportstalk Radio

Cal just playing out the schedule to see if they can pick up a win

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by Michael Duca
BERKELEY–The only way you can win a football game is you keep the other teams from scoring more than you do and while it may seem to some have already suffered through watching the defense is only a concept. Defense is only something that requires high quality players who are able to compete with each other and it seems each week. Cal has not had that luxury.
They’ve had so many injuries, they’ve lost seven of their original starters, 11 projected players on defense, yeah it’s just going to be like this for the rest of the year. I would be surprised if they’re able to actually put another game in the victory column before this year ends which would mean that one could take the position that this might be the worst Cal football  season in memory. There only win would have come not against a BCS team.
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes knew that he was going to run the spread and he knew it was going to take certain kinds of players to run the spread it’s not that easy to convert a fairly standard pro set team to a spread offense because a spread is all about gaps, control much more than straight ahead blocking to open wide for a running game. While Cal has finished with a lot of pro quarterbacks if you take a look at the years you have former Cal coach Jeff Tedford whose well known to be a quarterback developer.
He had 1000 yard rushers every year Cal was a run oriented offense but passed off the run and with the spread to run off the pass and establish the pass the first thing you have to do it with is that line literally spreads that’s why it’s called that. It takes a different kind of player and a different skill set and you inherit players who are recruited for one system there’s likely not the best suited players for the other kind of system.Their not smart football players but it doesn’t mean their not good athletes which there are different skill sets involved.
Dykes knew in last Saturday’s game versus Washington that Cal quarterback Jared Goff is the future quarterback and he wants to make sure that he doesn’t get injured either physically which is not that big a risk in a blow out game because as the game goes on you want to finish healthy. Physiologically more important you want to maintain a quarterbacking concept which is being in an attack mode and Goff is a true freshman.
You have to be a little bit more careful, Dykes knows what he’s doing at quarterback.
Michael Duca covers Cal football for Sportstalk Radio

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.

Bears get declawed by Guiton and the Buckeyes, lose 52 – 34

by Kahlil Najar

BERKELEY – Kenny Guiton threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first six minutes of the game and the Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0) trampled over the Cal Bears (1-2) 52-34. Guiton went 21 for 36 and threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns including two to Devin Smith who went for a total 149 yards including a school-record 90 yard bomb for Ohio State’s first touchdown. Cal’s freshman phenom Jared Goff threw for 371 yards and connected on three touchdowns to three different receivers.

On his performance tonight, Goff sighed and said, “I felt like we had a good chance to make some plays early on. We kind of fell behind the eight ball there going down 21-0. That kind of hurt. But I was proud of the way we fought back. We never quit.”  That never quit attitude was echoed by Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, “I never felt comfortable with the win until there was three minutes left. I’m happy we faced them early because they’re going to be really good down the road.”

On the ground the Bears were not able to muster one rusher over 100 yards while Ohio State’s Jordan Hall ran for 170 yards and nabbed three touchdowns of his own to help the Buckeyes extend their winning streak to fifteen games.

After a quick three and out from the Bears, Guiton and the Buckeyes only needed two plays and 32 seconds to give them a 7-0 lead on the 90 yard touchdown catch by Devin Smith. Thirty seconds later after another fast three and out, Ohio State took over at their own 27 yard line and Guiton found Devin Smith open again this time for a 47 yard strike to bring the score to 14-0. Cal tried to get back into the game and stop the bleeding but Jared Goff was hit hard by OSU linebacker Ryan Shazier and jarred the ball lose and Ohio State was able to recover the ball on the Cal 23. It took OSU six plays to score again on a one-yard pass to Chris Fields to make it 21-0 Ohio State after only six minutes.

Goff showed his composure on the Bears next possession as he escaped a ferocious pass rush from Ohio State and found a wide open James Grisom for a 61 yard touchdown to put the Bears on the board and make it 21-7. After both teams exchanged turnovers, Ohio State charged down the field and Drew Basil connected on a 39 yard field goal. The first quarter ended with a 42 yard pass from Goff to Chris Harper to give Cal their second touchdown of the quarter and make it a 24-14 Ohio State lead.

In the first quarter alone both teams combined for 38 points and 445 yards of offense. The second quarter saw both offenses slow down as Ohio State grabbed one touchdown and the Bears connected on two field goals to keep the game close at 31-20 at halftime.

Ohio State broke it open in the third when they scored three touchdowns, two of which belonged to Jordan Hall who was able to grab the scores deep in Cal territory but was also able to slow the game down by keeping the ball on the ground. Cal scored one more time in the fourth on a Daniel Lasco one-yard run to bring the final score to 52-34.

The game wasn’t without it’s dramatics as towards the end of the first half Sonny Dykes called for a fake punt on fourth and seven and Cal Quarterback Jared Goff snuck in for punter Cole Leininger and connected on a 11 yard pass to Stefan McClure.

Defensively, the Bears have allowed at least 500 yards of offense every game this year. Dyke’s addressed the issue and said, “We’re a very young football team…we just got to group up. We’ve got to improve. That falls on us as coaches to coach better and bring our players along and put them in a good position to be successful.”

The Bears don’t have much time to get regroup and get ready as they head up to Oregon to take on the Number Two Ducks in Eugene.

Cal to face Portland State

By George Devine, Sr.

After losing their initial non-conference game against Northwestern, 44-30, the Golden Bears will host the Vikings of Portland State at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 7, at Memorial Stadium. PSU, a member of the Big Sky Conference, showed its mettle in defeating Eastern Oregon (NAIA), 57-17, in its first game of the season.

The game showed off the talents of the Vikings’ offense, which racked up 672 yards, 450 of them on the ground. That will challenge the Bears to ramp up their defense which allowed two Northwestern touchdowns late in the game to change the outcome. Moreover, Sonny Evans’ charges, who were easily picked off by Northwestern, will have to polish their “Bear Raid” offense – led in dramatic fashion by true freshman QB Jared Goff — against the likes of Aaron Sibley who ran an interception 64 yards into the end zone, in addition to Corey Crowder and Jeremy Lutali who each intercepted the Mountaineers. Portland State notched five turnovers in all.

Besides sharpening their general offensive skills, Cal will have to continue the inventive approach that Evans has signed his name to, what with the fake field goal that had kicker Vincenzo D’Amato actually receiving a lateral from holder Jackson Bouza and sending it back to Bouza, who reached the end zone. It is the kind of thing Evans became known for in his last post at Louisiana Tech, and it has left the Berkeley fans hungry for more.

After the Portland State game, Cal hosts one more non-conference foe, Ohio State, at 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 14. The remaining games, all Pac-12 conference games, are as follows, with kickoff times TBD:

September 28 @ Oregon
October 5 Washington State
October 12 @ UCLA
October 19 Oregon State
October 26 @ Washington
November 2 Arizona
November 9 USC
November 16 @ Colorado
November 23 @ Stanford