Poor scheduling, mid-term exams and leaky run defense result in a long night for Cal in lopsided loss to USC

By Morris Phillips

The not-so carefully orchestrated clash of athletics and academics heaped upon the Cal Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Thursday created a not-so pretty result.

The Bears–preoccupied by mid-term exams and overwhelmed by the Trojans—suffered through a rough evening under the microscope of national television, losing 45-24 to USC.

Just six days after the Bears set an FBS record by running 118 offensive plays in their double overtime win over Oregon, they weren’t anywhere near where they needed to be to deal with resurgent USC and their redshirt freshman quarterback, Sam Darnold.   The tight scheduling irked Coach Sonny Dykes, and Darnold brought Dykes’ fears to life, leading the Trojans to an early, 21-0 lead from which they wouldn’t look back.

“We tried to get them as fresh as we possibly could,” Coach Sonny Dykes explained, noting that the Bears practiced in pads just once in preparation for the Trojans, but conceded that while it may have made his team fresher physically, they were far less rehearsed than he would have preferred.

In addition, Cal players had to take and prepare for midterms this week, after missing class last week in preparation for Oregon, and again this week for their trip to Los Angeles.

Add injuries (41 Cal players reportedly missed at least one practice this week) including the absence of standout receiver Chad Hansen, limited practice time, and the fact that USC had eight more days of preparation time than Cal, and you start to understand how the Bears appeared so flat in the early stages of the game.

According to San Jose Mercury News reporter Jon Wilner, there had never been a meeting of Pac-12 football teams where one team had eight more days of prep time than their opponent.   When asked Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that while Cal’s consecutive weekday games were unusual, they did fit into the parameters for scheduling agreed upon by the member schools’ athletic directors before the season.  But Scott also said, Cal’s situation would cause the conference to revisit the subject.

While Dykes continued his criticism of the Pac-12 in his postgame press conference, quarterback Davis Webb did not.  Webb refused to jump on questions regarding preparation time, and he declined to throw receiver Demetris Robertson under the bus, whose first quarter drop of a deep pass that likely would have resulted in a touchdown had it been caught, contributed to Cal’s early, three-touchdown deficit.

“We moved some receivers around this week on a short week,” Webb said.  “That’s the thing we had to deal with because of our injuries.  That’s the cards we got dealt.  We didn’t play very well with it tonight.  It starts with me.”

Webb finished 33 of 53 for 333 yards and two touchdowns, and briefly had the Bears in a competitive spot, down 28-17 early in the third quarter.  But USC’s offense was granted way too many favors by Cal’s leaky run defense that surrendered 223 yards and two touchdowns to Ronald Jones II alone.

Jones got started early with his 61-yard scamper that set up USC’s second, first quarter touchdown.   And Jones’ big runs were littered across all four of the Trojans’ first half scoring drives.  After Jones gashed Cal early, Aca’Cedric Ware took it from there, finishing with 120 yards rushing himself.

In all, USC rushed for 398 yards, eclipsing the numbers Texas and Oregon State put up in their turns against Cal’s porous run defense.

We’ve got to tackle better,” Dykes said.  “It’s up to us to teach your guys how to tackle.  If we don’t play well, then we didn’t coach well.”

Darnold ate Cal up through the air as well as the young quarterback appears to be a star in the making for the Trojans with his size, ability to throw, and decision making.  Juju Smith-Schuster was a favorite target of Darnold, compiling 66 yards receiving and 25 yards rushing.

The Bears got 89 yards rushing from Khalfani Muhammad, and Robertson recovered from his early drop to grab nine passes for 92 yards.   Hansen missed his second straight game, but the Bears are expecting their biggest threat to return for the Washington game on November 5.

The Bears are the only team in FBS to not win—or lose—two consecutive games this season.  At 4-4, Cal’s biggest opportunity comes against Washington, the undefeated leader in the Pac-12 North race to the conference championship game.



Webb, Hansen lead Cal past Texas, 50-43, in Coach Dykes’ biggest statement yet in his Berkeley tenure

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–Burnt Orange Nation didn’t come to Berkeley for this.

Led by their new stars, graduate transfer quarterback Davis Webb and prolific, but unheralded receiver Chad Hansen, Cal surprised No. 11 Texas on Saturday night, breaking a 43-43 tie with 3:41 remaining on the pair’s second touchdown collaboration of the night.

The Longhorns, visiting Berkeley for the first time since 1969, and carrying a lofty ranking for the first time since 2010, figured to roll with a physical attack that would find the Bears as malleable as they were last week in losing to San Diego State.  Instead, while the Longhorns found the Bears accommodating defensively, they weren’t so offensively where Cal hatched a balanced attack without turnovers, almost out of nowhere after Cal dealt with a trio of 10-point deficits in the first half.

From that point–with Texas leading 31-21 with 7:43 remaining in the second quarter–the Bears responded with Davis and Hansen leading the way, but the absence of fumbles, interceptions along with just six penalties all night allowed the Bears to end up on top in what was as topsy turvy a ballgame one could imagine in Strawberry Canyon in the absence of an actual seismic event.

“To get those stops defensively like we did in the second half, to make some plays down the stretch, to be able to run the ball at the end of the game and run the clock out, to get that critical stop, all those things we’ll draw a tremendous amount of confidence from, and hopefully we’ll build off that,” Coach Sonny Dykes said.

The win was the biggest of Dykes’ tenure at Cal, and three plus seasons in the making.  While Texas hurt Cal with an effective run game that amassed 307 yards, the Bears hung around by refining their methods on the heels of their embarrassing loss at San Diego last week.

This time, the Bears stayed balanced, running and passing on 40 plays each.  Webb threw 73 times against SDSU and took enough hits to suggest he couldn’t last the season.  This time, Cal didn’t abandon their run game, and were rewarded on their 38th of 40 attempts with Vic Enwere’s 54-yard jaunt that iced the game despite the back’s embarrassing decision to drop the football before crossing the goal line.  Prior to that, Cal spun their wheels in the run game with 68 yards on the first 37 attempts, but Texas’ active defensive front was given just enough pause to keep them from tearing Webb apart.

Afterwards, Texas head coach Charlie Strong surrounded by journalistic barracudas, denied that his defense and DC Vance Bedford weren’t aggressive enough in pressuring Webb.  Instead, Strong referenced Webb’s ability to step away from pass rushers, often just one step, long enough to fashion his 27 of 40 night for 396 yards through the air.

Michelle Richardson on the NCAA

by Michelle Richardson


Cal’s dreadful 2013 season: I’ll be honest with Cal head coach Sonny Dykes is not suited to coach at Cal and he’s a very good coach and I think the jump from Louisiana Tech to the University of California Berkeley was too large for him he should have gone to a larger mid major conference maybe like the Mountain West Conference. Going to Cal was too big of a leap to go from the Sun Belt conference to the Pac 12 where it’s dog eat dog Dykes was just outmanned.

Fact is Dykes will have a tough time proving himself in the Pac 12 and this was just a horrible season finishing 1-11 and it’s going to take a lot for the Bears to rebound and who knows if they can to be honest with you. I honestly don’t know if the leadership is there and I was talking with Sportstalk’s Jeremy Kahn and this falls on Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and honestly to an extent Sonny Dykes because of his play calling but more so because of the price tag that they don’t have to pay him as much as if they had to go after a larger name.

There’s money still left on Cal former head coach Jeff Tedford’s contract so it’s one of those, “well this is all we could afford” and it’s a shame because Cal could have been at least competitive in the Pac 12. Cal wasn’t even competitive they were just a doormat. They won one game against Portland State earlier in the season. It’s too horrible to talk about Cal and it’s kind of a sad day that Cal is dealing with all these new sporting facilities on campus and with the new football stadium and was doing it on a shoe string and Cal eventually is going to have to put butts in the seats. They need to win a few more games than this next season.

Louisville basketball with 21 straight wins: Louisville has something to prove and their trying to prove that their not a fluke but their also playing UNC in UNC. UNC is a basketball school that’s what they do they’ve got a football team the only other team that rivals them is their soccer and that’s women’s and men’s soccer but definitely women’s soccer. Louisville has a very good coach in Rick Pitino. I’m telling you it’s going to be closer than you think but I still give the win to UNC.

UNC will win because Louisville has lost so many players to the draft after their championship run last year.

Charleston Classic concludes: It’s always to go to Charleston and see my old alum the New Mexico Lobos and we live on the east coast so we don’t get to see them except for television so it was good to see them play and they played Daividson and Davidson is outmanned on this. Davidson what they lack in size they have in heart so I believe the Lobos will win but Davidson will give them all they have.

New Mexico they lost on Saturday to UMass 81-65 on Friday they came off a triple overtime loss to UAB that doesn’t take nothing away from UMass and UMass is a very good team and their in the tournament right now and their going to play Clemson and their going to hear it from UMass and their going to be a turning team to look out for.

So don’t take UMass lightly and UMass whose 4-0 will be dominating this tournament and please understand that the Lobos are playing a week late and the triple overtime they had against UAB is a tough one. Their playing Davidson and they got their legs back and they will definitely beat Davidson and not taking anything away from Davidson they lack a little shot against New Mexico but they’re all heart.

Michelle Richardson does commentary on the NCAA each week for Sportstalk Radio

Big Game aftermath: Cal, Dykes have a lot of work to do

By Morris Phillips

The 116th Big Game needed to be Cal’s last stand, their final opportunity—win or lose–to show that their football program was headed in the right direction with major improvement coming in 2014.

Instead, the Bears suffered the worst loss in Big Game history, allowing a Stanford-record 42 points in the first half alone.  Combined with Oregon’s loss to Arizona, Cal found itself trapped in the Cardinal’s big moment with nowhere to go until the final horn sounded.

Talk about a violent manner in which to swing an Axe.  According to Coach Sonny Dykes, his program is currently under reconstruction, in large part due to what transpired on Saturday at Stanford Stadium.

“Actually, we’re going to learn how to pick up our locker room.  We’re… going to learn how to go class. We’re going to fix our graduation rates, graduate.  We are going to appreciate being a Cal student, be supportive of other Cal students.  We’re going to get faster, stronger in the weight room.  We’re going to get bigger and improve our diet.  We’re going to be more committed to getting sleep, rest, recovery.  We’re going to learn how to play on offense and defense,” Dykes said.

Less than a year after accepting the job at Berkeley, Dykes admitted that he’s starting over.  And typically, that means there’s nowhere to go but up.  But when you hit rock bottom this hard, typical doesn’t apply.  When asked who among his staff would return next season, Dykes was brutally honest.

“I’ll take a look at it all,” Dykes said.  “I can’t guarantee I’ll be back next season.”

Given the millions of dollars invested in Dykes, former coach Jeff Tedford and the rebuilt Memorial Stadium, don’t expect Dykes to go anywhere but back to work.  Cal can’t afford to start over like they did in 2001 when Tom Holmoe was shown the door after a one-win season. In fact, Dykes said that process would begin soon after the bus ride back to Berkeley, saying that it couldn’t wait until Sunday afternoon or Monday to commence.

The Bears came into Saturday’s game knowing that Stanford’s physical attack could embarrass them as it had other opponents.  So Dykes and the Cal defense loaded up to stop to run only to see Stanford take to the air and take advantage of the Bears’ young secondary.  The transition for the Cardinal was seamless as star receiver Ty Montgomery racked up five touchdowns and the Stanford offense over 600 yards.

The highlights—seen by far more than the 50,000 in the stadium and those that sat through the broadcast buried deep in the recesses of expanded cable—were noticeable for the lengthy plays produced by Stanford with Cal players trailing in their wake.  Not only has Cal sunk this low, but at the same time, hated rival Stanford has reached its zenith, possibly on its way to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances, and all of that was neatly summed up in a brief video package of Cal quarterback Jared Goff taking hits and Montgomery running into the end zone.

When you take into account that 17 and 18-year olds have short attention spans, watch television and are impressionable, you start to get a sense of what a win-win the whole afternoon was for Stanford, and just the opposite for Cal.

First, Dykes and the Bears have to learn from their mistakes and improve.  The Cal depth chart this season was littered with inexperienced first-and-second year players even before numerous injuries robbed the team of its veteran players.  In a Pac-12 conference that’s bigger than it’s ever been and likely more talent-heavy than it’s ever been, the combination proved to be pure disaster for Cal.

In addition, Dykes’ Bear Raid system is a high-risk operation with its spread sets and frequent passing. But it’s not anything new to opposing coaches and defenses.  Repeatedly, those defenses bent but didn’t break against Cal, by dialing up pressure that Cal’s offensive line, labeled as lacking physicality by even its’ own coaches, couldn’t withstand.  On Saturday, the Bears were awful on third-down, failing to convert on 11 of 13 opportunities.  If the Bear Raid can’t gain rhythm, can’t stay on the field and wear on opposing defenses, little if anything is realized.

In summary, Cal’s got a long way to go.  Dykes appears forthright and committed, but he needs help from his players and coaching staff.  Even with all the pluses afforded Cal through the university and athletic department, it won’t be easy, and it won’t be any less lengthy a process given that the competition in the Pac-12 is as steep as it’s ever been.

Bears fall again in the “Battle of the Bad”

By Morris Phillips

Cal saw its opportunity to finally grab a win blowing in the wind on Saturday.  The Bears traveled to Boulder, Colorado and the gusty winds during the game blew so fierce that simply completing a pass became a chore for quarterback Jared Goff and his receivers.

But the same couldn’t be said for Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau and the Buffs.

Liufau threw for a career-best 364 yards and Colorado posted a big second quarter in a 41-24 win over Cal.  The Bears were in the contest briefly tied at 10  in the second quarter, but fell to 1-10 with one game at Stanford remaining in what has been a dismal season in Berkeley.

Described by the Denver Post’s John Henderson as the “Game of the Weak” and “The Battle of the Bad,” the Cal-CU game matched one team with 14-game conference losing streak against a team that hadn’t beaten a Division I opponent in well over a year.  But the Bears blinked first, allowing the true freshman to complete 23 of 36 passes, including three touchdowns, in miserable conditions.

Liufau didn’t need much help outside Paul Richardson and Nelson Spruce, who combined for 19 catches and 280 yards in offense.  Neither receiver were the recipient of Luifau’s touchdown passes, but Spruce sealed the deal when he scooped Cal’s onside kick in the fourth quarter and raced into the end zone to put Colorado up 41-17.

“That was the first time the University of Colorado has seen a Pac-12 win at home.  So I think that’s a stepping block for us,” Coach Mike MacIntyre said.

Goff struggled to throw the ball in the wind, completing just 23 of his 45 attempts, while getting picked once.  Coach Sonny Dykes briefly replaced Goff with Zach Kline, but went back to Goff, who engineered a couple of cosmetically-enhancing touchdowns late.

With passing difficult, the Bears found space running the ball with Khalfani Muhammad and Brendan Bigelow.  Bigelow rushed for 107 yards and a score, and Muhammad’s 54-yard touchdown run in the second quarter brought the Bears even, if only briefly.

Colorado responded with 24 straight points and midway through the fourth quarter, the outcome was assured.

The Bears dropped their 13th consecutive game against Pac-12 competition and probably won’t see much improve in the remainder of 2013.  Not only have the Bears dealt with the losses, they’ve performed poorly in the classroom, causing Athletic Director Sandy Barbour to address the issue and promise academic improvement.  And then this week, an unspecified member of the team was suspended indefinitely for his role in a locker room fight that saw freshman running back Fabiano Hale end up in a local hospital.

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.

Cal hosts Trojans in last home game


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


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

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