Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cal Bear Website: Four California Football Players Earn First Team All-Pac-10 Honors

13 Golden Bears overall honored by the Pac-10

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - Four California football players have been named to the 2005 first team All-Pac-10 football team, announced Monday by the conference office. Overall, 13 Golden Bears were honored in the voting. Offensive linemen Ryan O'Callaghan and Marvin Philip, defensive lineman Brandon Mebane and cornerback Daymeion Hughes were named first-team all-conference as voted on by the 10 head coaches. O'Callaghan and Philip were both repeat selections to the first-team. Cal also had five second-team selections, including offensive lineman Aaron Merz, defensive lineman Nu'u Tafisi, linebacker Desmond Bishop, safety Donnie McCleskey and special teams player Byron Storer. California's honorable mention selections included running back Marshawn Lynch, fullback Chris Manderino, defensive back Tim Mixon and tight end Craig Stevens.  Philip started all 11 regular season games this season at the center position for the Bears. A Rimington Award Trophy finalist in 2004, Philip protected the quarterback and provided wide open holes for Cal's run game this season. The senior was on the watch list for both the Rimington and Outland Trophy watch list this season. O'Callaghan, who played in all but one game this year, was named to the Outland trophy watch list. Joining Philip and O'Callaghan on the first team are Mebane and Hughes. An anchor in the Golden Bears' defensive line, Mebane recorded 27 tackles, including eight for a loss of 44 yards. Hughes ranks third in the Pac-10 for interceptions after he returned four for a total of 141 yards, including one for a touchdown. He also recorded 59 tackles (45 solo) and accrued 12 pass break-ups and was named mid-season All-American by

Tafisi, a second-team selection, tallied 29 solo tackles this season and recorded nine tackles for loss, including a season-high four for a loss of 11 yards at Oregon. In his first season with Cal, Bishop leads the team in tackles with 81 (56 solo), in addition to picking up five tackles for a loss of 10 yards this year. In 11 games this season, McCleskey finished second on the team with 62 tackles (47 solo), four pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and one interception, which he returned for 27 yards against Oregon State. On special teams, Storer recorded nine tackles (eight solo). Lynch, who ranks No. 11 in the country in rushing with 116.89 yards-per-game, ran for 1,082 yards on 172 carries this season for the Golden Bears. He also recorded seven touchdowns in nine games. In his final season, Manderino rushed for 61 yards, scoring two touchdowns, in addition to catching 11 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Mixon ranks No. 10 nationally in returns. On the season, he had 24 punt returns totaling 357 yards and one touchdown. He also collected three interceptions, 38 tackles (36 solo) and recorded nine pass break-ups. Stevens played in all 11 games for the Bears this season, recording 165 yards on 13 catches and two touchdowns.


Salt Lake Tribune: BYU boosts Vegas Bowl ticket sales

By Patrick Kinahan and Michael C. Lewis

Less than one week after inviting Brigham Young, the Las Vegas Bowl is selling tickets at a brisk pace, executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said. As of Monday, 21,881 tickets had been sold for the Dec. 22 game. BYU has sold almost 14,000 tickets. "It's going great," said Kunzer-Murphy. "We're keeping up with the requests. BYU is just being terrific, just terrific."  Bronco Mendenhall's team returns to practice this afternoon. The Las Vegas Bowl has to wait until Sunday to announce BYU’s opponent.  Kunzer-Murphy will invite the Pac-10's California Golden Bears if the Bowl Championship Series doesn't take conference member Oregon. The eighth-ranked Ducks are hoping for a Fiesta Bowl invitation.  Minus the Pac-10 option, Las Vegas may go after Nevada or a team from Conference USA or the MAC.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Stanford Daily: Cal Classless

Cal wins fourth straight Big Game

Levy, Lynch, defense spark 27-3 Bear victory

By Daniel Novinson

Monday, November 28, 2005

Entering the 108th Big Game on Nov. 19, Stanford's seniors had never beaten California or advanced to a bowl - the Cardinal last accomplished those feats in 2001. Try as Stanford might, both streaks were extended by another year, as the visiting Golden Bears downed Stanford 27-3 on the strength of three second-half touchdowns.  "You work all season towards a game like this, and when things don't work out your way, as a football player, as a competitor, it's extremely disappointing," junior quarterback Trent Edwards said. Early in the third quarter, Cal defensive tackle Brandon Mebane sacked Edwards and knocked him out of the contest with a shoulder stinger. Sophomore quarterback T.C. Ostrander filled in for the remainder of a game in which both quarterbacks struggled. Edwards finished with only 68 total yards and Ostrander with 129.

"Trent's a great leader," senior linebacker Jon Alston said. "I thought T.C. came in and did well but we've had a lot of key injuries and it's difficult."

Three minutes into the second half, Cal sophomore tailback Justin Forcett received a right-side pitch and exploded past Stanford's defenders for a 21-yard blow that put Cal ahead 13-3. Bear quarterback Steve Levy scrambled for 31 yards on two consecutive plays to set up Forcett's score.

"Steve Levy - that guy did a great job," Stanford head coach Walt Harris said. "Those scrambles were a huge part of that drive that broke our backs." Cal iced the contest with two fourth-quarter scores. First, freshman tailback Marshawn Lynch - who finished the contest with 121 rushing yards en route to over 1,000 yards on the season - punched in a three-yard run with seven minutes remaining.

Then, with just two minutes left and a 20-3 lead, Cal dug deep in the playbook for a halfback pass, and running back Terrell Williams found tight end Craig Stevens in the corner of the end zone.   “It's just what Cal does apparently - Tedford's thing," Alston said. "One could say that it was somewhat classless, but, hey, it's a rivalry."

A failure to convert opportunities repeatedly haunted Stanford. Senior cornerback T.J. Rushing dropped a would-be interception that hit him in both arms and the chest on the drive that ended in Forcett's score. Later, senior kicker Michael Sgroi pushed a 41-yard field goal wide right that would have cut the deficit to just a touchdown with 9:31 to play. Cal drew first blood when Levy hit freshman receiver DeSean Jackson for a 56-yard play action touchdown over Rushing's outstretched arms. Senior safety Trevor Hooper blocked the extra point, and Cal led 6-0 with 9:29 remaining in the first. The Cardinal cut the Bears' lead to 6-3 with senior kicker Michael Sgroi's 37-yard second-quarter field. Neither team mustered another score in the half, as both defenses looked dominant early. The cross-bay rivals combined for six sacks and only 83 rushing yards and 221 total yards in the first 30 minutes. While Stanford yielded two second-half touchdowns, Cal's defense remained stout throughout the contest. Stanford finished with only 26 yards on 36 rushing attempts, and Cal's defensive front sacked Ostrander and Edwards a combined nine times. "Primarily offensively, we did not match up physically," Harris said. "They had bigger, better, stronger, faster guys."

Chronicle: Miscellaneous Cal Football Notes

Cal received 10 votes on the AP poll.


Jake Curtis on Cal’s Bowl Possibilities: “Cal will go either to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, or the Las Vegas Bowl.  If Oregon gets a BCS berth, the Bears head to the Sun Bowl on December 30 against a Big Ten team.  If the Ducks don’t get a BCS berth, the Bears go to the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 against BYU, whose athletic director is former Cal coach Tom Holmoe.”

Friday, November 25, 2005

Contra Costa Times: Cal's Lupoi battered but definitely not beaten

Foot injury ends DLS graduate's college career, but he's pushing forward

By Jay Heater

Tosh Lupoi might remember this Thanksgiving not for the usual family gatherings and blessings, but as a time when his dream died. Broken and battered from six years of college football at Cal, the former De La Salle High School star came face-to-face with the reality that his shot at professional football was toast. Even though Cal will advance to a bowl game, Lupoi's season is over. Once again, he snapped a bone in his left foot, this time against USC on Nov. 12, and the injury brought his college career to an end. Considering that he broke the bone the first time in June 2004, it's an injury that might plague him again in the future. On top of all his other injuries, the senior defensive end had to face a sobering conclusion. "I have to look myself in the mirror and know that my body is not allowing me to proceed with my dream," he said. It's a concession that would leave many athletes and their supporters in a fog. But Lupoi's Thanksgiving remained a holiday for the hope of a bright future. He is finishing off his master's degree in education and he runs a successful business -- Loyalty Kennels ( -- with former teammate and business partner, Wendell Hunter. He also donates his time and effort to feeding hungry people, such as the food drive he organized with teammate Chase Lyman last season when both were injured or the meals he cooked for those less fortunate last summer in Oakland. "He has been an awesome guy to have around and the epitome of team above himself," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Every young player should use Tosh as an example of how to work. He is the heart and soul of what goes on around here. He is a strong part of what we stand for." Coming out of De La Salle, Lupoi looked like a sure bet to get a shot at the NFL. But the injuries started in his freshman season. He tore the meniscus in his knee and had to redshirt. His second year, he broke his ribs during the season and missed two games. Early in the 2003 season, he cracked another rib. Then came the broken bone in his hand.

"I broke my hand against Arizona (Oct. 25, 2003)," he said. "It was the lower region of the hand connecting to the thumb. I had to get surgery right away, but the most important thing was to do the surgery so I could continue playing. To do that, we had to insert two screws into the hand that actually came out of the skin. That's just the way you have to fix that fracture. The screws pointed downward into my hand. "So every day I would practice with it and it would bleed a whole lot, like a fresh wound every day because the screws would rub around. After practice, we would saw off the cast, clean the wound and re-wrap it. Every morning, we would re-cast it. We did that every day for seven weeks. "After the season, I had used my hand way too much and I had bent the screws inside. The fracture was no longer fixed, so it had to be rebroken with new screws put into it." Lupoi's senior season was supposed to be Cal's 10-1 season of 2004, but he had to sit out. "I cracked the bone in my foot that June and they put a screw in it immediately," he said. "I tried to come back way too soon. I was trying so hard to play in the opener against Air Force that I rebroken it. It was the last day of camp in August." He was forced to sit out the year and apply to the NCAA for a sixth season, a request that was granted. But while training for the 2005 season in July, Lupoi tore his medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He tried to play with the injury without success. "That put me out four games," he said. "The game I came back, UCLA, I cracked my ribs. You just have to roll with it. I didn't miss any more games." Not until USC, when he broke his foot again. "I came off the ball, stepped vertically, and the bone snapped right through," he said. "I felt it, but I finished out the play. When that bone breaks, it starts bleeding a lot. I played about three more plays and my coach (defensive line coach Ken Delgado) noticed I was limping. As I limped off, I pretty much knew I had broken my foot again. "I've been through so much and I've dealt with the injuries. Basically, you use each and every one as a growing experience. Basically, that's life. Unfortunate things happen. I've learned you have to overcome it." Lupoi overcomes his problems by focusing on positive things he can do. "One thing that is important to me is being productive at all times," he said. "So I am applying to be a graduate assistant at Cal." He will learn to coach as well as continue his business breeding American pitbull terriers. His business, started last January, has taken off with the help of excellent advice from Cal alumni who have started their own businesses. "I think the best thing about Cal is the relationships that develop," Lupoi said. "My experience was awesome." So Lupoi says not to feel bad for him because he's been through some hard times.  "Being on crutches right now, that's worse than a day when I can walk," he said. "But any day that my mom's cooking, that's a good day."


Sports Illustrated: Showing Levy some love

An unknown QB from N.J. earns his place in Cal lore

Steve Levy faked a handoff, dropped back to pass and uncorked one of the prettiest spirals you'll ever see, and for a second he closed his eyes and waited for his ears to confirm that his wildest dreams were coming true. Then, pandemonium -- DeSean Jackson was strutting into the Stanford Stadium end zone and Levy was sprinting 60 yards downfield to greet him and 40,000 blue-and-gold-clad fans were screaming and hugging and celebrating the sudden return of Cal's football mojo. This game is SO over, Levy thought as he raced to embrace Jackson after the freshman wideout's 56-yard touchdown catch. There's no stopping me now. These are the thrills that can happen in rivalry games, the kind that send tingles down your spine and get replayed in bars and living rooms and tailgates, over and over, for decades to come. Though Cal's 27-3 victory over Stanford last Saturday had no impact on the BCS standings and only a small effect on the bowl picture, it meant everything to the students and alums in attendance who were anxiously awaiting a former fullback's first career start under center. Six minutes into the game, we witnessed a young man seizing his moment as if it were his birthright. Over the next three hours, we marveled at the poise and passion displayed by a 21-year-old who, back in September, had extracted a promise from a Cal-worshipping sportswriter he'd met years earlier to get some serious cyber-ink were he able to vanquish the red menace. Levy, one of the most improbable Big Game heroes in the history of the 108-game series between these Bay Area academic giants, had somehow seen it coming all along. The kid from Bergen County, N.J. had been part of Jeff Tedford's first recruiting class at Cal, in 2002, but a logjam at quarterback which included future first-round draft choice Aaron Rodgers compelled the nominal fifth-stringer to switch positions before his redshirt freshman season in '03. At 6-1 and 215 pounds and with only average speed, Levy didn't have all that many options. What he did have was a desire to contribute to the team and a zest for contact. Since the linebacker corps was also crowded, Levy, who had starred as an inside backer in high school, bulked up to 235 pounds and moved to fullback. After fighting through reconstructive surgery to his left shoulder, he evolved into a special-teams dynamo known for his wedge-busting prowess.

Yet Levy was miserable playing fullback, and last January, after Rodgers declared for the draft, the departing star encouraged his friend to switch back to quarterback -- a move that surprised Tedford, but one which the coach ultimately endorsed. When starter Nate Longshore went down with a broken leg in the season opener, the slimmed-down Levy was suddenly No. 2 on the depth chart. And when his friend Joe Ayoob devolved into an inaccurate, skittish mess by the season's ninth and 10th games, playing horribly in consecutive defeats to Oregon and USC that knocked the once-10th-ranked Bears back to the middle of the Pac-10, Levy was thrust into a quarterback controversy in the days leading up to the game that would define Cal's season. That Tedford hadn't called for Levy earlier, given Ayoob's struggles, was seen as indictment of the backup's talents. As it was the coach didn't make his decision until the Thursday morning before the Stanford game, breaking the news via phone to Levy, who immediately hung up and phoned his parents in Jersey.   "When Coach Tedford told me, my mouth was open the entire time," Levy recalled on Tuesday night. "I was so excited I wanted to scream, but instead I just thanked him and shut up." By game day, Levy had grown far more comfortable in his new role, his confidence bolstered by a mastery of the gameplan and inspirational phone conversations with three men who'd predicted he'd be in this position -- his father, Mark, who two months earlier had informed Levy the present he wanted for his 49th birthday was to see his son start the Big Game; ex-Cal linebacker David Ortega, who had told Mark and wife Angela two years earlier that "before he leaves here, Steve Levy will be a legend"; and the star of Cal's 1991 Citrus Bowl-winning team, Mike Pawlawski, the original wedge-buster-turned-quarterback, who called Levy at the team hotel four hours before game time to assure him, "You've been my guy from the start."  Shortly after completing "the best pregame of my life," Levy told Tedford: "Coach, you have no idea how pumped I am. I've been waiting for this moment since I was six years old." Well, kinda/sorta. Levy didn't know a thing about Cal or the Big Game or "The Play" or anything else about the rivalry until Tedford began recruiting him, swooping in after East Coast schools like Boston College, his first choice, and Rutgers turned him down because of his height. "I was kind of devastated," Levy concedes. "But that's the way it's always been for me -- with everything I do, I have to overcome adversity." This was the case back when Levy was a sophomore at Don Bosco Prep. "They'd brought in a big recruit, a 6-6 kid," Levy recalls. "I knew I could do better than this guy, but they made him the starter, until he was ruled ineligible before the first game." The Legend of Levy may be destined to endure forever in Berkeley haunts like Top Dog and Henry's, but it was born in his first game as a 15-year-old sophomore. "We were at Hudson Catholic," he remembers. "Night game, New York City in the background. It was just perfect. The first pass I threw was a play called '91 Right,' a streak to Dorien Bryant, who ended up at Purdue. We hit it for a 60-yard touchdown and blew out that team."

Because Levy's memory of his maiden throw is so vivid, he couldn't help but chuckle when an almost identical pattern was signaled in from the Cal sideline on the team's second possession of a scoreless game. "I knew we were going to take some shots," he says, "but I didn't know it would be that early. I knew we were going to try to isolate DeSean on No. 35 (cornerback T.J. Rushing). I got to the huddle and said, 'Aw, s---, boys, here we go!' DeSean just smiled at me." After a play-fake to halfback Justin Forsett, Levy delivered a pass down the right sideline that, in his words, "wasn't a perfect throw, because if it had been Rushing probably would've intercepted it. It was perfectly underthrown." After getting tangled up with Rushing, Jackson scooped up the ball with his right hand at the 13 and headed straight toward the heart of Cal's half (actually, greater than half) of the soon-to-be-demolished stadium. It was the signature play in 10-for-18, 125-yard effort that included a meaningless third-quarter interception. The ecstatic Cal fans had already begun chanting Levy's name the first possession of the second half, when the determined quarterback ducked his head and rolled off consecutive runs of 21 and 10 yards to set up Forsett's 21-yard touchdown run that pushed the Bears' lead to 13-3. Back in high school, Levy says, he "used to knock people's helmets off" on his mad dashes downfield.

At game's end, appropriately, Levy jogged to the middle of the Cal section, removed his helmet and donned a blue hard-hat. In his exuberance he managed to hoist The Axe to the heavens, "run around like an a-----" (in his words) and inadvertently flatten a crowd-control officer, following a time-honored Berkeley tradition. If it hadn't yet dawned on him that he was a cult hero, he came to understand it a few hours later when he arrived at the Bear's Lair, a bustling on-campus bar, with his girlfriend, Jessica Kreusch, and his older brother, Mark, and promptly received a thunderous ovation. Two days later he walked onto Sproul Plaza to pick up some copies of the Daily Californian and was deluged by honking car horns and shout-outs from strangers. As he looks ahead to Cal's bowl game, including a possible dream matchup in the Insight Bowl against Rutgers and his former high school backup, Mike Teel, Levy does not plan to be a two-hit wonder. "Starting spring ball as No. 1 on the depth chart is going to be great," he says. "I'm such a competitor that I can't imagine letting anyone take my job away." Yet if, for whatever reason, Levy is saddled with his customary adversity and reverts to backup duty, he is well aware that by bringing so much pleasure to so many on a resplendent Saturday evening, he has become part of Cal football lore forevermore. Sometimes, these cheesy stories of perseverance and perfectly timed rescues have a way of coming true, and over the past few days the emotion of the moment has overtaken the young man who made it all happen. On Tuesday afternoon, he finally sat down to read a lengthy email his father had written him while flying from Newark to San Francisco the night before the Big Game. When he got to a stand-alone paragraph near the end of the letter, the younger Levy began to cry. It read: "Mark my words -- by midnight on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005, Steve Levy will become a legend."


Thursday, November 24, 2005 Aaron Rodgers' Thanksgiving

(Note from Blog Editor: Unfortunately, I haven’t found any Cal football articles today, so this is the only story…happy Thanksgiving!)


Rookie and Chico, Calif. native Aaron Rodgers will spend his first Thanksgiving without his parents. While in college at UC-Berkeley, his football season would end before Thanksgiving, and the bowl season would start after it. During this holiday Rodgers will sit around his new dining room table with his 23-year-old brother Luke, who lives with Aaron, and a few friends.  "I am relaxing at my house," Rodgers said. "I'll miss just seeing the family. I'm real close with my grandma and grandpa." The 21-year-old also will miss his aunt's jell-o salad, which includes jell-o, whipped cream and a pretzel/brown sugar crust. "It's unbelievable," he said. "I eat probably half the thing."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cal Golden Bear Website: Pimentel Named Pac-10 Defensive Player o f the Week

Cal linebacker recorded 3.5 tackles for loss in Big Game win

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - Cal linebacker Mickey Pimentel was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in the Golden Bears' 27-3 victory over Stanford Saturday. USC tailback Reggie Bush and Oregon kick returner Jonathan Stewart were honored as Pac-10 players of the week for offense and special teams, respectively.  It is the third time this season that a Cal player has been named conference player of the week. Punt returner Tim Mixon earned the recognition after the Bears' 35-20 win over Illinois in Week 3. WR Robert Jordan got the nod after his performance in Cal's 56-17 win at Washington in Week 2.

Pimentel, a junior from San Diego, Calif., was among the defensive leaders in Cal's win at Stanford. Pimentel was credited with five tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss (-27 yards) and 2.5 quarterback sacks. Pimentel also forced a fumble. The California defense limited Stanford to 16 yards rushing and 244 yards total offense and posted nine quarterback sacks for minus-70 yards. Eleven different Cal defenders were credited with a tackle for loss.

Contra Costa Times: Quarterback is key for Cal next season

By Jay Heater

BERKELEY - In what was a microcosm of Cal's 2005 regular season, quarterback Steve Levy became the Big Game hero for something he didn't do. Levy, who threw for 125 yards and one touchdown against Stanford in a 27-3 win on Saturday, didn't do anything to lose the game. Certainly, the theme for Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears during a 7-4 campaign (4-4 Pac-10) was to find a way to win despite his team's inexperience at quarterback. What Cal never had at the most important position on the field was someone who could take over a game.

With a bowl game remaining -- Insight or Las Vegas unless Oregon gets a BCS berth and the Sun Bowl comes into the picture -- Tedford has one more chance plus the off-season to develop a quarteback who can lead Cal to greater heights. The Bears lose just four offensive starters and three defensive starters and should go into the 2006 season ranked among the nation's top 15 teams. Cal has a marquee non-conference schedule in 2006 with games against Tennessee and Minnesota, and it will likely contend for the Pac-10 championship against a USC team that loses quarterback Matt Leinart and probably tailback Reggie Bush, who figures to enter the NFL Draft early. It is not pie-in-the-sky to consider Cal a national championship contender. But such lofty goals won't be accomplished without a quarterback who can spread the ball around the field.

Levy will get his shot in the bowl game. For the Bears to be successful next season, it is doubtful that Tedford can continue to go with such a conservative offensive game plan as he used against Stanford. Levy, Joe Ayoob and Nate Longshore should all go into next spring's camp slugging it out to win the job. Longshore, who won the job going into the season but broke his leg in the opener, is the best pure passer of the three. However, if Longshore wins the job, Cal is back to having to win games with an inexperienced quarterback. Inexperience won't be the problem if Ayoob wins back his job. He completed just 125-of-254 passes (49.2 percent) for 1,707 yards and 15 touchdowns. He threw 14 interceptions. In fairness to Ayoob, he was playing behind a Cal offensive line that had six different starting lineups due to injuries. Against Stanford, former walk-on Jonathan Murphy, who was third string at the position, and freshman guard Noris Malele were pushed into the starting lineup by injuries.

Rebuilding the offensive line will be Tedford's other main chore in the off-season. Senior center Marvin Philip, senior guard Aaron Merz and senior tackle Ryan O'Callaghan will be hard to replace. Junior tackle Andrew Cameron had knee surgery midway through the season and isn't sure he wants to return. Cal's major flaw defensively this season was the lack of a pass rushing force off the edge. However, the Bears' win over Stanford provided evidence that sophomore defensive end Philip Mbakogu is beginning to live up to the expectations he generated when he came out of Hayward High as one of the top high school defensive ends in the country.

Mbakogu led the Bears with 9.5 tackles for loss this season. But he will have to do better than five sacks next year if he wants to command double teams and open up lanes for his teammates.

It also will be interesting to see how often defensive coordinator Bob Gregory brings linebacker Mickey Pimentel off the edge in 2006. Pimentel, a junior college transfer playing his first season, saw increased playing time in the second half of the season and finished with 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

NOTES: Cal has agreed to move its Oct. 28, 2006 home game against Louisiana Tech to Sept. 15, 2007. Cal associate athletic director Steve Holton, who is trying to find a replacement to fill the Sept. 9, 2006 spot on the schedule, said financial concerns due to the hurricane forced Louisiana Tech to change the date.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Oakland Tribune: Cal's bowl options still up in air

By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER 

Which bowl committee will open its arms to Cal? That was the question on many people's minds Saturday night after improbable hero Steve Levy and a bullying defense had a season-high nine sacks in the Bears' 27-3 thrashing of Stanford. With Cal (7-4, 4-4 Pac-10) now in position to be considered by several bowls, which one will choose the Golden Bears?  It all comes down to two things: Cal's Pac-10 position and bowl committees' preferences.  Right now, Cal is tied with Stanford (5-5, 4-4) for fourth in the conference standings. The Dec.27 Insight Bowl in Phoenix gets the fourth-place Pac-10 team, but Stanford still needs a sixth win to become bowl eligible.  However, even if Stanford upsets Notre Dame, there is no tiebreaking procedure in any bowl game separate from the Rose Bowl. Bowl committees can pick whichever school they want.  If Arizona State (5-5, 3-4) beats Arizona on Friday, the Sun Devils would have the same Pac-10 record as Cal. But would the Insight Bowl want the hometown team, because ASU fans wouldn't bring the same business to the Phoenix area as, say, Cal's traveling party?  If the Insight does pick ASU, then Cal, as the Pac-10's No.5 team, would be eligible for the Dec.22 Las Vegas Bowl.  But there's still a scenario that could place Cal in the Dec.30 Sun Bowl.

ASU would have to lose to Arizona (3-7, 2-5). And if the BCS selects both USC (11-0, 8-0) and Oregon (10-1, 7-1), then UCLA (9-1, 6-1) moves up to No.2 in the Pac-10 regardless of its Dec.3 game against USC. And Cal, as the No.3 team, would go to the Sun Bowl.  This bowl-juggling will be played out, but late Saturday evening, Cal's senior safety, Donnie McCleskey was basking in his 4-0 Big Game record and his participating in one of the defense's nine sacks.  "There were a lot of coverage sacks as well as pressure sacks — it was a total defensive effort," he said. "We came from every angle today. The quarterback thought we were coming from behind him."  And McCleskey had equal appreciation for Levy, the quarterback who made his first career start the stuff of Big Game legends.  "He stepped up to the challenge," McCleskey said. "He's a crazy quarterback. He'll push himself to the limit. You couldn't call him a quarterback; he's a player. He's played everywhere, and done well everywhere."


Daily Cal: What More Could Cal Ask Four?

By Chris Nguon Daily Californian

Berkeley, CA (U-WIRE) -- STANFORD-Cal football coach Jeff Tedford waited until three days before Saturday's Big Game to announce that former fullback Steve Levy would start at quarterback for the Bears.  After Levy's performance against Stanford, Tedford wasn't going to keep people waiting for another game-time decision.  "Yes, Steve will start the bowl game," Tedford said.  Indeed, Levy's first career start went pretty well, thanks in large part to his teammates on the other side of the ball.  Riding the performance of what Cal rover Donnie McCleskey described as "the best total effort by the defense all season," the Bears captured their fourth consecutive Axe on Saturday, demolishing the Cardinal, 27-3, in front of a boisterous Stanford Stadium crowd of 71,743, most of whom were cheering for Cal.  The Bears (7-4, 4-4, in the Pac-10) now will sit back and wait to see what bowl game they will be chosen to play in this year. Last season, Cal played in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. After having the offense sputter the last two weeks under previous starter Joe Ayoob, Levy was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Bears. "I expected Steve to come in and do well, I expected him to do pretty much what he did," Tedford said. "He is a very strong competitor." The redshirt junior wasn't spectacular against the Cardinal defense, but made the plays when he needed to-completing 10-of-18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.

"I've been waiting and waiting for my opportunity and I finally got it," Levy said. "Hopefully by now I've proven some people wrong."  While Levy's performance was definitely admirable, especially considering the fact that the New Jersey native had only taken a limited number of snaps this season, the Bears defense was what took control of the game from the opening kickoff.  Cal recorded nine sacks on the day, racked up 17 tackles for losses and knocked out Stanford starting quarterback Trent Edwards early in the third quarter.  "It was a total defensive effort today," McCleskey said. "We came from every angle you could think of. The quarterback was probably thinking we were coming from behind him at times."  Proving the Bears defense's dominance was the fact that the Cardinal offense entered the red zone only twice all game.  One of those scoring chances resulted in a Michael Sgori 37-yard field goal early in the second quarter to bring Stanford to within 6-3. Sgori missed his other field goal attempt in the second half.  The Cardinal (5-5, 4-4) tallied 244 yards of total offense, but only managed 26 yards on the ground on 36 attempts.  Although members of the Cal defense down-played their effort after the contest, defensive coordinator Bob Gregory and his unit undoubtedly came into the Big Game with tremendous pressure on their shoulders.  With the Bears having lost four out of their last five contests while turning the ball over at an alarming rate, the Cal defense had to answer the bell.  "Three sacks or four sacks is a huge day," Gregory said. "Nine sacks? We'll take that."  Leading the way for the Bears' aggressive attacking defense Saturday was linebacker Mickey Pimentel, who recorded 2.5 sacks and consistently parked himself in the Stanford backfield.  In total, nine Cal players notched at least a half sack on the day.

"They couldn't determine which way we were attacking them," Pimentel said. "We disguised our schemes more this game than we have all year. I don't know if it was because of a rivalry game, but it felt like our team was moving so much faster than they were."  The offense did its part as well.  During the Bears' losses against No. 1 USC and No. 10 Oregon the last two weeks, the Cal offense turned the ball over 10 times. Things were much different Saturday.  Relying heavily on its running game, Cal controlled the ball to keep the defense fresh.  After Levy aired the ball out early in the first half, hitting freshman wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a 56-yard touchdown strike down the right sideline to give the Bears an early 6-0 lead, Tedford turned to the ground game.

Cal tailback Marshawn Lynch- who had been bothered with a broken left little finger early in the season-reached a milestone Saturday, rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.  With his effort, Lynch became the fourth consecutive back under Tedford to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season, following Joe Igber, Adimchinobe Echemandu and J.J Arrington.  For the year, the sophomore has 1,052 yards.  Lynch wasn't the only Bears ball carrier to make an impact.  Fellow sophomore Justin Forsett- who himself just fell short of the 1,000-yard mark Saturday-had arguably the biggest run of the contest when he burst through the right side of the line for an impressive 21-yard touchdown scamper, giving the Bears a 13-3 lead midway through the third quarter.  "To have two running backs like Marshawn and Justin, it really is thunder and lightening," Cal center Marvin Philip said. "It's nice to have two guys do what they have done this season. As an offensive line, we don't get too much shine, too much glory, but to have a back get 1,000 yards and another one gets close, it makes us feel good."  Cal: 27 Stanford: 3


Sunday, November 20, 2005

SF Chronicle: Tedford's defense sets tone for the fourth straight year

Jake Curtis, Chronicle Staff Writer

Cal's identity under Jeff Tedford has been its explosive offense, and the story of Saturday's Big Game was Bears quarterback Steve Levy being a winner in his first collegiate start.  However, the reason Cal is 4-0 in the Big Game since Tedford arrived is the Bears' defense.  For the second straight year, Cal held Stanford without a touchdown, and the three points the Cardinal scored Saturday was their lowest Big Game output since 1967.  In the very first Stanford possession of Tedford's first Big Game at Cal four years ago, the Cardinal scored a touchdown. The Cardinal have scored only two touchdowns against the Bears since, and one of those came on the final play of the 2003 Big Game with Cal leading 28-10.

The Bears' defensive performance Saturday was the best and most important of the bunch, because Cal was reluctant to take chances on offense with its inexperienced quarterback.  "The way the defense was holding them," Tedford said, "we felt we could be fairly conservative with the running game."  The Cardinal did virtually nothing on the ground, which was not altogether surprising given their ranking as the Pac-10's worst rushing team. But the Bears' ferocious pass rush prevented Stanford from mounting any passing game either. Cal had nine sacks, the most by a Bears team in at least four years.  "Three or four sacks is a huge day," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said.  Not only did those sacks cost Stanford 70 yards in losses, but the pass rush prevented Stanford from attempting any deep passes. And, perhaps most important, one of those sacks knocked Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards out of the game.

"We came at them from every angle you can imagine," Cal safety Donnie McCleskey said. "The quarterback probably thought we were coming from behind him sometimes."  Gregory called for more blitzes than usual, and the Bears had picked up a few things on film that suggested some places they could attack.  "They had not shown a multiple number of formations," Gregory said, "so the kids had a pretty good idea where their guys were going to be on plays."  Edwards and Stanford coach Walt Harris thought it had more to do with muscle than scheme.  "That's just a physical team up front," Edwards said.  "In order to have championship-type games, you have to match up physically," Harris said. "They were more physical up front, and that was the game. We couldn't get enough time for our quarterback."  Eleven different Cal players had at least an assist on a sack, and linebacker Mickey Pimentel led the way with 2.5 sacks.  "It just felt like our team was moving so much faster than theirs was," Pimentel said. "They didn't know who was coming or who they were assigned to block."  When Pimentel and Philip Mbakogu combined to knock Edwards out of the game, much of Stanford's offense left with him.  "We put pressure on (T.C.) Ostrander last year," Pimentel said, "and when he came in I think he was seeing flashbacks."  The Bears had six sacks in last season's Big Game, which Edwards missed with an injury. Ostrander was the Cardinal's quarterback that day and he completed just 8 of 26 passes. Ostrander had better numbers on Saturday, but many of his yards came after the Bears were comfortably ahead.  The finishing blow was accomplished with the Bears' final sack of the day. With Cal leading 20-3, Pimentel sacked Ostrander and forced a fumble that Cal recovered with 5:58 left.


San Jose Mercury News: Defense crushes Cardinal


By Jon Wilner

On the fifth play of Cal's second possession of the game, quarterback Steve Levy connected with receiver DeSean Jackson on a 56-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but it mattered not at all. Cal's defense had all the points it needed. As well as Levy played, as relentless as tailback Marshawn Lynch was, the story of Cal's 27-3 victory Saturday at Stanford Stadium was the Bears' defense. It allowed one play longer than 25 yards, recorded a season-high nine sacks and yielded just 16 rushing yards -- a season-low for Stanford. Add it up, and you get one paltry Cardinal field goal. ``It all starts up front,'' said Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, who completed 9 of 14 passes before getting knocked out of the game. ``When you continually get beat on the line, you don't put yourself in position to win.'' Using a game plan designed by coordinator Bob Gregory, Cal attained the dream double of pressuring Stanford's quarterbacks without allowing big plays. The Bears were too fast and too physical for Stanford's offensive line. Reserve linebacker Mickey Pimentel, playing in his first Big Game, had 2 1/2 sacks. End Phillip Mbakogu and tackle Brandon Mebane each had 1.5.

They were in Stanford's backfield as often as the Cardinal tailbacks. ``They were confused, and sometimes they would mess up and leave someone free,'' Pimentel said. The defensive dominance allowed Bears Coach Jeff Tedford to stay with a conservative game plan and keep Levy out of difficult situations. ``We didn't have to get out of our run game,'' Tedford said. The Bears had 43 rushing attempts -- their fourth-highest total of the season -- while Levy threw just 18 passes.

• Lynch rushed for 123 yards Saturday, putting him over the 1,000-yard mark this season. He has 1,052.

Cal (7-4, 4-4) has finished .500 or better in conference play the past four seasons, something it hadn't accomplished since 1954.

SF Chronicle: Tedford keeps his promise to Ayoob


Bruce Adams, Chronicle Staff Writer

Even though coach Jeff Tedford said that both his quarterbacks would play in the Big Game, Joe Ayoob's turn didn't come until the end of the fourth quarter.  Ayoob, who took over the starter's job when Nate Longshore went down with an ankle injury in the season opener and lost it Thursday when Tedford named Steve Levy the starter, was gracious after the game -- saying he would have liked to play more  But, he quickly added, "I'm a team player. I'm not upset about anything. I'm happy for Steve, I'm happy for the seniors and I'm happy for the team for keeping the Axe."  Levy said Ayoob supported him throughout the game, talking to him between series and passing on information he was getting from the coaches in his headphones.  Tedford said he planned on relieving Levy if he had trouble running the offense. But that moment never came.  "As long as he was handling the huddle OK he was going to stay in," Tedford said.  No insult intended: Late in the fourth quarter, Cal scored when tailback Terrell Williams threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Craig Stevens.  Tedford said the Bears were simply using the trick play to get a first down on third-and-seven.  "It was not intended to rub it in," he said.  

Tailback U: Marshawn Lynch ran for 123 yards, giving him 1,052 yards for the year.  His backup, Justin Forsett, gained 50 yards, putting him at 962, just short of the 1,000-yard landmark. He'll have another chance in Cal's bowl game.  The Bears last had two 1,000-yard rushers in 1990 when Russell White and Anthony Wallace did it.  Battered line: Guard Erik Robertson (ankle) and tackle Scott Smith (knee) missed the start against Stanford, and the Bears went with their sixth different combination on the offensive line.  Jonathan Murphy started at tackle and Noris Malele at guard.  

Defensive stars: Safety Harrison Smith led the Bears with eight tackles. Cornerback Daymeion Hughes and rover Donnie McCleskey each had seven.

Briefly: Cal may not only have improved its bowl profile but regained a place in the rankings. The most important game for the Bears becomes Arizona-Arizona State Friday at noon. If Arizona can beat the Sun Devils, Cal would finish fourth in the conference and get no worse than an invitation to the Insight Bowl in Las Vegas December 27

LA Times: Stanford Is Sack Lunch for Cal

Bears get to Cardinal quarterbacks nine times in 27-3 Big Game victory. Levy, Lynch lead offense.

By Thomas Bonk, Times Staff Writer

STANFORD — California's plan for the 108th Big Game was simple: Why not hold a sack race? The Golden Bears would try to see how many they could have. As it turned out, nine was enough, the number of times Cal defenders sacked Stanford's quarterbacks in a 27-3 rout Saturday before 71,743 at Stanford Stadium.   California (7-4, 4-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference) was already bowl eligible and Stanford (5-5, 4-4) was trying to get there, but the Cardinal had no answer for a stifling Bear defense that limited Stanford, the worst rushing team in the Pac-10, to 16 net yards rushing — nearly 100 yards below its average. "We put a relentless rush on them," said Cal Coach Jeff Tedford. "Our defense was really holding them down." And then there was Bear quarterback Steve Levy, a converted fullback who began this, his junior season, as a third-string quarterback, but was good enough in his first start in place of the beleaguered Joe Ayoob to lead California to 365 yards in total offense. Levy completed 10 of 18 passes for 125 yards, ran eight times for 36 yards and even inspired Tedford to name him as the starter for a bowl game.

"I've been waiting, waiting, waiting for the opportunity and I finally got it," Levy said. "Hopefully I proved something." Cal tailback Marshawn Lynch has nothing to prove, but he gained 131 yards in 24 carries, moved over 1,000 yards for the season and broke the game open with a three-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Bears a 20-3 lead. Maybe the Stanford players were thrown off their game by the size of the crowd, since it was only the second time this season the Cardinal had drawn more than 40,000. But since representatives from the Emerald Bowl and the Sun Bowl showed up, there was more to play for than bragging rights. The first Big Game at Stanford Stadium was in 1921, but this was the last one at the 84-year-old, 85,500-seat facility. It will be leveled after the Cardinal's game next week against Notre Dame and replaced by a new, $90-million, 50,026-seat stadium scheduled to be ready for the 2006 season.

Cal led, 6-3, in a sleep-inducing first half that had just one highlight — a 56-yard scoring pass from Levy to DeSean Jackson. But that was pretty much it for the Cal offense. Take away that one scoring pass and Cal averaged 2.1 yards per play. Stanford wasn't much better, averaging 3.0 yards in 34 plays, with quarterback Trent Edwards tackled four times for 24 yards in losses. Edwards was sacked twice more in Stanford's first drive of the second half and was forced to the sideline with a shoulder injury, replaced by T.C. Ostrander. While Ostrander had some success moving the Cardinal, completing 15 of 23 passes for 152 yards, Stanford had no success with its running attack. Besides the nine sacks, Cal had eight other tackles that resulted in lost yardage. Justin Forsett's 21-yard touchdown run six minutes into the third quarter increased the Bears' lead to 13-3 and after Stanford missed a 40-yard field goal try, Levy directed California on a six-play, 77-yard scoring drive that ended when Lynch scored easily. After Ostrander was sacked and then fumbled at the Stanford 43, Cal scored again, on a 14-yard pass from tailback Terrell Williams to tight end Craig Stevens for a 27-3 lead.  Tedford said Williams could have run if he had wanted. "It was not intended to rub it in or anything like that," he said. It all happened on the 49th birthday of Levy's father, Mark, who was in the stands. "It's the best birthday present I could give him," Levy said. "It's a dream come true." Tedford was able to relax after his fourth Big Game victory without a loss. Cal has won the last two by a combined 68-9. "Four straight," he said, "is great."

SF Chronicle: Levy's presence a gift for Cal, dad

Ray Ratto

Fate destined Steve Levy for special things, from the moment he was named Jewish Athlete of the Year as the star quarterback and linebacker at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.  This was an especially proud honor for him, considering that he is not Jewish.  Then again, he's been many things, just since he's come to Cal ... special teamer ... fullback ... backup backup quarterback ... and now, in his greatest stretch since that magical day four years ago when he became both Jewish and Italian Catholic, Big Game hero.  "Yeah, this is pretty amazing," Levy said with a luminous Mediterranean smile. "I could never have dreamed of something like this."  And yet, dreaming had nothing to do with his performance in Cal's 27-3 pounding of Stanford Saturday. Levy's game was guts and guile, presence and poise, and above all, doing nothing silly to make Jeff Tedford think he might have backed the wrong horse early Thursday morning by choosing Levy to start.

"Honestly, I had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night," Tedford said, "but in the morning, we just talked about it in the staff meeting and decided to go with him."   And now they will go with him to a bowl game worth going to -- "Yeah, I think we'll go with him again," Tedford said with that flatline look he has when he has been assaulted with a question that doesn't need answering.  

Levy's tale, notwithstanding the way he fell into Saturday's start and turned it into a shining moment in the history of this rivalry, is the classic story -- hard-nosed kid leads with his face and heart, becomes a big deal in Jersey, goes to Cal and gets everything but his spirit buried beneath the weight of numbers and non-opportunities. He got stuck behind Aaron Rodgers, wanted to become a linebacker and was told there were too many of those in front of him (plus at not quite the 6-1, 215 he is listed at, he probably wasn't imposing enough), then told Tedford he couldn't stand watching and became a special teams player.  Then, when Rodgers left to seek his fortune in Green Bay, Levy gave quarterbacking another try, but ended up third behind Nate Longshore and Joe Ayoob, then second behind Ayoob, and finally, on his father Mark's 49th birthday, first.   "I asked him two months ago what he wanted for his birthday, and he said, 'Start in the Big Game,' '' Levy said, laughing at the improbability of such a request. "So when I called him Thursday and told him I was starting, he started bawling right there on the phone. I told him I'd give him an even bigger present Saturday."   And because every once in a while life actually becomes a made-for-TV movie, he did. He hit DeSean Jackson with a 56-yard touchdown pass on the second possession of the game to give Cal a lead it never relinquished. He held his own through a fitful first half, then broke open the game with successive scrambles of 21 and 10 yards to set up Justin Forsett's 21-yard score, and controlled himself, the huddle, and the Stanford defense the entire way.

His numbers (10-for-18, 125, one TD, one pick) won't make you see the grandeur of his day, but Tedford saw it almost immediately.    "It was the way he took command of the huddle," Tedford said. "The way they broke the huddle, the way he ran the play clock, the way everyone went to the right places in the formation and nobody was looking around confused. That's the thing that impressed me most, that and he didn't make many mistakes for a guy who hadn't been out there."

Well, there was that one interception in the third quarter, but by then the tone of the day had already shifted irrevocably. Because Cal owned the line of scrimmage and blitzed Cardinal quarterback Trent Edwards and backup T.C. Ostrander into submission, Stanford would not score, or even threaten much beyond the one Michael Sgroi field goal.   Thus, while South Florida, Navy, Central Michigan, Colorado State and Utah all became bowl-eligible Saturday, the Cardinal became bowl very improbable, with Notre Dame standing between them and a 12th game. Indeed, this must surely have been their worst showing of the year against a non-Division I-AA opponent.   And Steve Levy had finally gotten the chance he doubted would ever come his way -- to prove to those who thought he had washed out at Cal that all he really had done was wait for his moment. "Just some people who thought I came out here and didn't do anything," he said, declining to identify his detractors. "It's no big deal."    Well, it is a big deal to him, otherwise he wouldn't have brought it up. Besides, now it's safe to bring it up, because he's got bragging rights that will never end.   I mean, nobody else in his neighborhood in Jersey ever had Keith Jackson look at him the night before a big game and say, "Well, ain't you somethin'?"   And nobody ever got to answer him the next day by saying, "Well yes, I'm a fullback and a wedge-buster and almost got to be a linebacker and now I'm officially Big Game lore, plus I'm Jewish and Italian Catholic, and I have the papers to prove it. So, yeah, I guess I am somethin' after all."  Sounds like more than plenty for anyone.



Saturday, November 19, 2005

SF Chronicle: It's Levy, and a bevy

New QB, Lynch and defense Bear the load in fourth straight win over Cardinal
Jake Curtis, Chronicle Staff Writer
Give 'Em The Axe!
Best start by a Cal coach against Stanford:
1. Andy Smith (1918-23) 6-0
2. Jeff Tedford (2002-05) 4-0
3. Pappy Waldorf (1947-54) 6-0-2
Worst home defeats for Stanford in the Big Game:
1921: Cal, 42-7
1975: Cal, 48-15
1993: Cal, 46-17
1922: Cal, 28-0
2005: Cal, 27-3
By the numbers:
1,741: Points scored by Cal in 108 Big Games
1,728: Points scored by Stanford in 108 Big Games
226: Cal rushing yards
16: Stanford rushing yards
12: Number of Cal duplicate jersey numbers
9: Number of Bear sacks of Cardinal QBs
6: Number of Stanford duplicate jersey numbers
Cal quarterback Steve Levy wasn't exactly the star of the Big Game on Saturday, but he did more than enough in his first collegiate start to give Cal a 27-3 victory over Stanford. The Cal defense, which had a season-high nine sacks and knocked Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards out of the game early in the second half, was the real star of the 108th Big Game, played before a crowd of 71,743 at Stanford Stadium. It was the fourth straight Big Game victory for Cal, and head coach Jeff Tedford improved to 4-0 against Stanford. With the win, Cal (7-4, 4-4 Pac-10) assured itself a bowl berth. The Bears probably will play in the Insight Bowl if Arizona State loses to Arizona on Friday, and would be a good bet to play in the Las Vegas Bowl if ASU beats Arizona. Stanford (5-5, 4-4) must beat Notre Dame Saturday at Stanford to become bowl-eligible.
Levy, a junior who played fullback last season, made his first collegiate start at quarterback, replacing Joe Ayoob, who had been ineffective in recent games. Levy had thrown only 11 passes in his career before Saturday, but against Stanford, he was 10-for-18 for 125 yards, plus he rushed for another 36 yards. His 56-yard touchdown pass to freshman DeSean Jackson in the first quarter was the big play of the game, and gave Cal's defense enough to work with. Ayoob, who had started the previous nine games, did not play until the final two minutes. Stanford played nearly the entire second half without Edwards, who left the game with a bruised left shoulder after being sacked on the fourth play of the third quarter. He was 10-for-15 for 87 yards before the injury and was replaced by T.C. Ostrander. Cal sophomore Marshawn Lynch rushed 24 times for 123 yards, giving him 1,052 yards for the season. He scored one of the Bears' two rushing touchdowns. The other was scored by his backup, Justin Forsett, on a 21-yard run in the third period. Forsett had 50 yards on Saturday and has 962 yards for the season. Neither team did much offensively in the first half. Stanford had 104 yards before the break, with no play longer than 15 yards. Cal had 117 yards before halftime, and nearly half of those came on one play.
The only thing the offenses did well was avoid mistakes; neither team committed a first-half turnover. Cal scored first when Levy hit Jackson with a 56-yard touchdown pass. Levy's pass was underthown a bit, but Jackson wrestled the ball from Stanford defensive back T.J. Rushing and ran the remaining 10 yards for the score with 9:05 left in the first quarter. The point-after kick was blocked, leaving Cal with a 6-0 lead. Stanford made it a 6-3 game at the 9:54 mark of the second quarter when Michael Sgroi kicked a 37-yard field goal. The Cardinal began the drive at the Cal 47-yard line following a Cal punt and got as far as the Cal 18 before settling for three points. Levy completed 5 of 9 passes in the first half, but, aside from the 56-yard scoring pass, he had just 17 passing yards. Levy contributed significantly in the Bears' first scoring drive of the second half, although he did it more by running than passing. He had scrambles of 21 and 10 yards to help get the ball to the Stanford 21-yard line, and Forsett ran it in from there on an option play, putting Cal ahead 13-3 with 9:33 left in the third period. Forsett entered the game on that play because Lynch was having trouble with his shoe. Cal put together a 77-yard drive midway through the fourth period that ended with a 3-yard Lynch touchdown run, giving the Bears a comfortable 20-3 cushion. And backup tailback Terrell Williams threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Craig Stevens for the Bears' final points.

AP: California 27, Stanford 3

STANFORD, Calif. - Marshawn Lynch ran for 123 yards and a touchdown, and first-time starter Steve Levy passed for 125 yards and another score in California's fourth straight victory over Stanford, 27-3 Saturday night in the 108th Big Game. Justin Forsett ran for a 21-yard score and running back Terrell Williams threw a TD pass for the Golden Bears (7-4, 4-4 Pac-10), who held the Cardinal without a touchdown for the second straight season. Cal's inspired defense sacked Stanford's two quarterbacks nine times in another one-sided edition of Northern California's biggest college rivalry. Jeff Tedford is unbeaten in the Big Game since taking over at Cal, becoming the first Bears coach to start the rivalry 4-0 since 1921. While relying on the Bears' impressive running game, Tedford asked little of Levy, who performed smoothly in place of struggling starter Joe Ayoob. Cal has outscored Stanford 126-32 since 2002, and the Bears have won four straight Big Games for the first time since 1939. T.C. Ostrander passed for 143 yards after relieving injured Stanford starter Trent Edwards, but both quarterbacks took poundings from Cal's dominant defense. The Cardinal managed 224 total yards, including just 16 yards rushing. Though coach Walt Harris has rebuilt much of the Stanford (5-5, 4-4) program in his first season, the Cardinal must beat Notre Dame next week to become eligible for their first bowl game since 2001. Stanford already would be eligible if it hadn't lost to Division I-AA UC Davis earlier in the season.
Cal, which already clinched bowl eligibility, won for just the second time in six games after a 5-0 start. Levy, a junior who played fullback last season, got the nod Thursday to replace Ayoob, who struggled through his last four games. Levy, Cal's only East Coast native, was his usual calm self, going 10-for-18 with one interception and hitting freshman DeSean Jackson with a 56-yard TD pass on Cal's second possession. Forsett scored in the third quarter, and Lynch added a 3-yard TD in the fourth. Lynch surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season, but Forsett fell 38 yards short in Cal's quest for two 1,000-yard rushers for just the second time in school history. Williams was a star freshman at Cal in 2001, but had barely played in the ensuing four seasons. He finally got another moment in the spotlight when he threw a 14-yard TD pass to tight end Craig Stevens on a halfback option with 3:31 to play. Edwards passed for just 75 yards and got sacked five times before his third straight Big Game was affected by an injury, leaving in the third quarter with an apparent neck problem after getting dropped by Brandon Mebane. The junior was knocked out of the 2003 Big Game with a thigh bruise, then couldn't play last season because of a shoulder injury. More than half of Stanford Stadium's 71,743 fans were wearing blue and gold - and after the game, most of the Bears went to the southeast corner to celebrate with the crowd, cheerleaders and band. The Cardinal billed the meeting as the final Big Game at Stanford Stadium, which will undergo an extensive $85 million renovation in the offseason. For most of the night, both teams played a run-dominated, pass-deficient style more suitable to the earliest contests in the building, which hosted its first Big Game in 1921. The schools combined for 221 total yards and 10 punts in a deadly-dull first half. Jackson, a freshman who dropped a handful of key passes in a loss to Oregon two weeks ago, made the only big offensive play of the half. After outmaneuvering T.J. Rushing for a sideline pass, Jackson eluded Rushing again while scoring his fifth TD. After Edwards left and Stanford punted, Cal's ensuing drive ended in Forsett's first touchdown in six weeks. After the Cardinal's best second-half drive ended in a missed field goal, the Bears quickly drove 77 yards for Lynch's score.

Seattle Times: California at Stanford

So Cal is so desperate at quarterback, it's starting an ESPN anchor in the Big Game against Stanford?  No, not that Steve Levy. But some would argue that it's a measure of Cal's plight that it's starting its own Steve Levy. He played fullback and special teams last year and has thrown only 14 career passes, 11 this year as the backup to Joe Ayoob. On Thursday, Cal (6-4) announced in a news release Levy would make his first start over the struggling Ayoob. After practice, coach Jeff Tedford said Levy "most likely" would start, indicating that Ayoob would also play. Meanwhile, Stanford (5-4) hopes to become bowl eligible behind quarterback Trent Edwards. With a sore thumb on his left (non-throwing) hand, he has thrown while not taking snaps to try to avoid aggravating the injury.


Sports Network: Big Game Preview

California (6-4) At Stanford (5-4)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Stanford Stadium (85,500) -- Stanford, California. Television: ABC Regional. Home Record: California 4-2, Stanford 1-3. Away Record: California 2-2, Stanford 4-1. Neutral Record: California 0-0, Stanford 0-0. Conference Record: California 3-4, Stanford 4-3. Series Record: Stanford leads, 54-42-11.

GAME NOTES: In one of the longest rivalries in all of college football, the California Golden Bears will battle the Stanford Cardinal for the 108th time this Saturday night at Stanford Stadium. The Golden Bears opened the season with five straight victories, but since then the team has fallen apart, losing four of its last five games, including a 35-10 setback to top-ranked USC last weekend. Since taking over at Cal, coach Jeff Tedford is 3-0 against the Cardinal. As for the Cardinal, they snapped a two-game losing streak last weekend with a thrilling 20-17 victory over Oregon State. Stanford would become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2001 season if the Cardinal can post a victory this week against Cal or next week against Notre Dame. In regards to the all-time series between the two schools, the Cardinal hold a solid 54-42-11 advantage over Cal. Despite being on the short end of the series, the Bears have won the last three meetings against Stanford, including a dominating 41-6 victory last season.  Last week the Golden Bears struggled tremendously against USC, finishing the game with just 10 points while collecting just 299 total yards, including just a meager 132 yards through the air. The horrendous passing attack should not be a surprise considering Cal is averaging just 194.5 ypg through the air on the season. Joe Ayoob was extremely ineffective against the top-ranked Trojans, completing just 9-of-19 passes for only 98 yards while tossing four interceptions in the loss. Ayoob has struggled this season for the Bears, completing just 49.2 percent of his passes for only 1,707 yards and has just 15 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. While the aerial assault struggled last week, the rushing attack was once again successful, as the Bears churned out 167 yards on the ground. Throughout the season Cal has produced solid numbers on the ground, averaging 235.6 ypg, which is the ninth best ground attack in the nation. Against USC, Marshawn Lynch rushed for 87 yards on just 13 carries. Lynch is leading the Bears with 929 yards thus far and has found the end zone six times.

Last week the Bears' defensive unit had to deal with the high powered USC offense and like every other team this year, Cal struggled tremendously, allowing 35 points on 434 total yards. The defense had trouble against both the run and pass, allowing 188 yards on the ground, while permitting 246 yards through the air. Cal allowed the Trojans to rack up 26 first downs and convert 8-of-14 third down attempts. The Bears forced only one turnover in the contest and struggled inside their own twenty, allowing the Trojans to score on all five red zone chances. Desmond Bishop, who leads the squad with 75 tackles, recorded 12 stops against USC last week. Daymeion Hughes added 10 tackles in the loss, while Harrison Smith tallied nine tackles.

Stanford is posting just 322.0 total ypg this season, but despite the team's lack of production on the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinal is averaging 26.1 ppg. The team has struggled to find consistency on the ground this season, churning out just 112.2 ypg, which ranks the squad 98th in the nation. Last week the Cardinal collected just 302 total yards, including just 68 yards on 40 carries, but despite the lack of offense the team was able to post a three-point victory. The offense struggled on third down, converting just 5-of-17 chances, however the unit was successful inside the red zone, converting on all four opportunities. Trent Edwards had a solid performance despite throwing two interceptions, finishing the contest with 196 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-26 passing. Edwards has done a solid job under center this season, completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,708 yards and has 15 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.

Defensively, the Cardinal have been simply atrocious, allowing 30.2 ppg behind a terrible 425.9 ypg. The unit has had an extremely tough time defending the pass this season, permitting 286.0 ypg. In the team's last contest, the Stanford defense put forth a solid performance, holding the Beaver offense to just 312 total yards, including just 68 yards on the ground. The Cardinal held Oregon State to just 5-of-19 on third down attempts and 1-of-3 inside their own twenty. Brandon Sanchez led the defensive unit with seven tackles, while Brandon Harrison added six stops in the victory. Kevin Schimmelmann, who leads the squad with 71 tackles, finished the contest with five stops.

The Bears have only won twice at Stanford since the 1983 season and have not won back to back contests at Stanford since 1949-1951. With that said, Tedford should move to 4-0 against the Cardinal since taking over at the helm for Cal considering his team is much better on both sides of the ball.  Sports Network Predicted Outcome: California 38, Stanford 34

CBS SportsLine: Little Man on Campus

Dennis Dodd

Whatever happened to Jeff Tedford's quarterback magic? Cal quarterback Joseph Ayoob was stopped by three coeds on campus this week according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Are you the quarterback?"  Yes.  "You suck."   Ayoob might agree. He said his confidence was shaken last week after throwing four interceptions against USC. Things didn't get better in practice. Ayoob lost his starting job this week to converted fullback Steve Levy.


San Jose Mercury News: Big Game's big stakes

By Darren Sabedra

Two of Stanford's biggest goals this season were to qualify for a bowl game and beat Cal. It can accomplish both in the 108th Big Game today at Stanford Stadium. The Bears are a five-point favorite, but nearly everything else is leaning toward Stanford. The Cardinal has momentum (four victories in its past six games), more at stake (Cal already is bowl eligible) and far more experience at quarterback (Cal's Steve Levy will make his first career start). Stanford is confident but not overconfident. After all, the Cardinal doesn't have anyone who has played in a Big Game victory. It also doesn't have a running game comparable to Cal's Marshawn Lynch (929 rushing yards) and Justin Forsett (912), and that could easily make the Bears' shaky quarterback situation irrelevant. ``They are a great running team,'' Stanford Coach Walt Harris said. ``They're great up front. I know they've had some injuries, but they have played through those injuries. They have two outstanding backs who are probably faster than anyone on our defense. We have our hands full.'' Stanford ranks sixth in the Pacific-10 Conference against the run (139.9 yards per game) but has a strong front seven and has raised its play down the stretch. Last week, the Cardinal (5-4, 4-3) held Oregon State standout Yverson Bernard to 81 yards in 22 carries, more than 42 yards below his average. In the past five weeks, only USC (184) has rushed for more than 126 yards against Stanford. Cal Coach Jeff Tedford called the Cardinal defense the team's strength. ``Offensively, they've been efficient, made plays when they've needed to, but defense is really the key for them,'' Tedford said. ``They've been very good on defense.'' If Cal (6-4, 3-4) has to pass to win, it could be rough for Levy, a redshirt sophomore who played fullback last season. Stanford is tied with Washington State for the Pac-10 lead in sacks, averaging 3.2 per game.

Levy, the first Cal quarterback since Wes Dalton in 1999 to make his first start in the Big Game, has thrown 11 passes in two mop-up appearances. He takes over from Joe Ayoob, whose erratic play cost him his starting job. Ayoob will still have an opportunity to repair his confidence, because Tedford said both quarterbacks will play. Confidence is not a factor for Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, who has earned admiration from teammates and coaches for his play this season. The redshirt junior suffered a thumb injury to his non-throwing hand against Oregon State but practiced all week and will make his first Big Game start. ``Trent has played tremendous for us,'' Harris said. ``We would not be in this situation that we're in if it wasn't for his tremendous play, tremendous toughness and great time after time examples of courage.'' Edwards had known only heartache since his arrival at Stanford in 2002. The former Los Gatos High star suffered a thigh injury so severe in the 2003 Big Game that it required surgery. Last season, he didn't play against Cal because of shoulder trouble. Despite Edwards' presence, the Cardinal ranks last in the Pac-10 in total offense and eighth in scoring, largely because of injuries at receiver and along the line. Stanford has overcome that deficiency by keeping turnovers and penalties to a minimum. Cal's defense will be among the toughest the Cardinal has faced. Only USC (343.4) allows fewer yards per game in the Pac-10 than the Bears (362.4). Ultimately, though, this Big Game is as evenly matched as any since 1996, the last time Cal and Stanford went to a bowl game in the same season. Stanford won the '96 Big Game and eventually stretched its winning streak against Cal to seven. But the Bears reclaimed the Axe in 2002 and have not given it back, a point that drives the Cardinal. ``There are not many of us who have touched that Axe anymore,'' said receiver Gerren Crochet, a redshirt when Stanford beat Cal in 2001. ``It may be a silly tradition, but what it stands for really does mean a lot to the seniors. ``It's a sense of pride that we have not been able to have for the last three years -- the sense of jubilation with the rest of the crowd, the fans on the field.'' Today, the Cardinal can change that as well as qualify for its first bowl game since 2001.

Sacramento Bee: The big game: Five things to watch

1. The quarterback question: The Bears slotted junior Steve Levy to start over junior-college transfer Joe Ayoob, the starter for nine games who threw seven interceptions with no touchdown passes in the past two. Trent Edwards looks to start his first Big Game for the Cardinal, despite injuring his left (nonthrowing) hand last week.

2. Who has momentum? Stanford is coming off a grueling victory at Oregon State and needs Edwards and receiver Mark Bradford to be in full health to continue its push. Cal, loser of four of its past five, hopes starting Levy over Ayoob will add a much-needed spark.

3. Stop Lynch: Tailback Marshawn Lynch ran all over the Cardinal last year, rushing for 122 yards on only nine carries, including a 55-yard scoring run. Can Stanford stop him this year? With Lynch at the helm, Cal's rushing offense ranks ninth in the nation.

4. The coaches: The Bears have won three straight Big Games under coach Jeff Tedford. Will Walt Harris, a former Cal assistant now in his first year leading the Cardinal, sweep away the memory of Buddy Teevens and bring The Axe back to Stanford?

5. Season on the line: With No. 6 Notre Dame looming next week, Cal is Stanford's best bet for its sixth victory of the year and its chance at going to a bowl game. The Bears, with their postseason eligibility already safe, need a win to save a season that began with great expectations and five straight wins.