Goodnight pic.twitter.com/Xvf5hYxYPq— DpHeem (@HeemAtCal) November 22, 2014
California (5-5, 3-5 in Pac-12) vs. Stanford (5-5, 3-4)
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Last Time Out: Cal 13 at Stanford 63 (Nov. 23, 2013)
Last Meeting at Cal: Stanford 21, Cal 3 (Oct. 20, 2012)
Series Note: Stanford has taken home The Axe four years in a row, from 2010 to 2013. Cal’s last win was Nov. 21, 2009, in a 34-28 squeaker saved by a goal-line interception from linebacker Mike Mohamed.
The Betting Line: Stanford -5.5
When: Saturday, Nov. 22, 1:00 PM Pacific
Where: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
Watch: FOX Sports 1; Paul Davis (play-by-play), Joey Harrington (analyst), Kris Budden (analyst)
Listen: KGO 810 AM, Cal IMG Sports Network; Joe Starkey (play-by-play), Mike Pawlawski (analyst), Todd McKim (sideline reporter)
National Radio: Sports USA, John Ahlers (play-by-play), Gary Barnett (analyst)
Student Radio: KALX 90.7 FM; Glenn Borok (play-by-play), Vince Morgado (analyst), David Straub (analyst)
Cal Game Notes
Stanford Game Notes
DISCUSS: Message Boards
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BIG GAME FEATURES
Last Bear to Touch The Axe Wants it Back
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I want the AXE!!!!!— Trigga (@BryceTreggs) November 16, 2014
BIG GAME PREVIEWS
Cal Offense: Can They Pass the Cardinal’s Test?
Three And Out: The Big Game
FUN WITH STATS: Cal is first in the Pac-12 in fourth-down conversion (70.8%) while Stanford is last (22.2%). The Cardinal have gone for it on fourth down just nine times, while the Bears are second in the conference with 24 attempts. Stanford is also 11th in the league in net punting (34.1 yards per punt).
FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS
1. Three Bears gets their first Big Game touchdowns.
2. Jared Goff completes a pass of over 40 yards.
3. Kevin Hogan throws for at least 230 yards.
4. Ty Montgomery accounts for two touchdowns.
5.The Axe changes hands.
X-FACTOR: The weather. Jared Goff will not be wearing his glove on Saturday, and Stanford’s offense is largely predicated on receivers Ty Montgomery and Devin Cajuste. If it rains, the game will go to the ground, and Stanford is not the running team it used to be (ninth in the Pac-12).
“It’s always nice, when you’re on defense,” defensive coordinator Art Kaufman says of inclement weather. “It depends on what kind of rain it is, and how your guys handle it. Sometimes, the receivers know the cuts, so that helps them, but we’ve just got to take it as it comes.”
DEFENDING THE CARDINAL: TY ME UP, TY ME DOWN
Last year, Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery was a do-everything weapon for Stanford in a 63-13 route of the Bears on The Farm.
Montgomery tallied 191 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns in the 116th Big Game, including 160 receiving yards and four scores on five catches, as well as 31 yards rushing and another touchdown on two carries. He tied the Cardinal’s single-game school records for points (30) and touchdowns, and tallied the most points and touchdowns by any Pac-12 player in 2013. His first four touches resulted in scores.
“We’re going to have to know where he is on the field,” says Bears head coach Sonny Dykes.
Knowing where Montgomery is on the field on Saturday is going to be a rough assignment for what is once again the worst pass defense in all of college football.
“We look at what he’s done last year, to some degree, and then we take what they have in effect this year,” says Kaufman. “I don’t know who they’ve lost off of last year’s team, as far as linemen or backs. I’m not familiar with any of that stuff, but I know he’s back, so we try to look at some of the things that they’ve done, as much research as we can to know where he’s at, because I know he’s a big player for them.”
This season, Montgomery has been the biggest and most consistent producer in Stanford’s offense. His 60 receptions are more than the next two most prolific targets combined. His 590 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns lead the team. He’s returned 12 punts for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He’s returned 17 kickoffs for 429 yards. The Cardinal’s next most prolific punt returner has four take-backs for 70 yards, and the four other kick returners Stanford has used barely even total one-third of Montgomery’s return yards. His 1,401 all-purpose yards are more than 400 yards greater than the next two players – Christian McCaffrey and Remound Wright – combined.
“They get him the ball in every way,” says Kaufman. “They get it to him on deep balls, on curls, screens, fly sweeps, at quarterback in the wildcat, so you know that he’s getting the ball handed it off to him from the center, or thrown to him, so you’ve got to know where he’s at and make sure you’ve got people headed towards him. I think the big thing is his power. He’s a very fast guy, but he’s a powerful guy. He runs through a lot of tackles, and does a great job with his quickness and his explosion.”
But, there are ways to neutralize Montgomery, chief among them: Neutralize Kevin Hogan. As far as a pass rush goes, that may be easier said than done, given Cal’s struggles rushing the passer this season, ranking last in the conference with just 13 sacks.
“You live and die by the blitz,” Dykes says. “Arizona State didn't get home a couple of times on the blitz, and they gave up some touchdowns. When they did get home, they sacked the quarterback. If you’re going to blitz, you’d better be able to cover. If you don’t blitz, you’d better be able to cover, too.”
And covering will start and end with finding a way to stop Montgomery.
“We need to be more physical than their O-line, without a doubt, which is something I thought we’ve been doing pretty good at, on the interior of our defense, shutting down the run game. No. 7 (Montgomery) is a hell of a player, so we’ve got to stop him, too,” says defensive tackle Austin Clark.
Hogan, to say the least, is no Andrew Luck. Hogan is ninth in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game (215.5), eighth in passer efficiency (136.5) and has thrown the third-fewest touchdowns (15) in the league. His seven picks, though, rank tied for second.
“The thing I think is, he runs that offense and does the things they ask him to do,” says Kaufman. “He makes the throws they ask him to make, and when they’re taking him and not necessarily putting him in charge of the game, letting him hand it off or quick throws, he does a great job of that. When they ask him to make a play, he’s got the ability to make one.”
The Cardinal own the worst scoring offense in the Pac-12 (23.9 ppg), are 10th in total offense (378.3 yards per game) and ninth in rushing offense (145.1 ypg). The Stanford passing offense is 10th, averaging 233.2 yards per game. They’re 11th in first downs per game (19.6). They’re 11th in third-down conversion (37.8%).
“There’s no question: You’ve got to be able to get pressure on them, and the thing we have to do is make sure that we can take care of the coverage end of it, and borrow all the people we can on the pressure, but we’ve got to be able to have coverage in there,” says Kaufman.
Here’s the key for Cal up front: Stanford’s offensive line has allowed the second-fewest sacks (22) in the Pac-12, and the Cardinal’s running backs have averaged 4.3 yards per carry – fifth in the league.
“I think a lot of it is they like to run the ball, to start out running the ball,” says Clark. “Granted, they might come out and spread it out and throw quick screens and do all that other stuff, honestly. Stanford’s always been built on a big O-line and coming out and running the ball, establishing the run game, and passing off of that. For us, it’ll be to hopefully shut down their running game early. Now, they can score some points. They scored 38 against Oregon State and stuff like that. So, we have to get off the field on third down. That’s probably our biggest fault as a defense. We play well on first and second down. We’ve got to figure out a way to get off the field on third down.”
The Bears are 10th in the conference in opponent third-down conversion, allowing a 40.7% success rate.
“I think a lot of pass rush has to do with athletic skills and/or experience,” says Kaufman. “When you look at the inexperience that we have on defense, that’s as big a deal as anything, is the inexperience in the pass rush. Guys learn to play the run, and then they learn to play the pass, and some of that is transition. A lot of times, you’ll get a first-down pass, that type of thing, and your mind isn’t geared into thinking pass at that time, and all of the sudden, you’ve got to come out of a run set into a pass set.”
Starting tackle Tony Mekari at end would seem to be a bit of a concession. Since the Bears can’t get an effective pass rush, putting a tackle at end looks to be a commitment to stopping the run, first and foremost.
“One of the things that we needed to do after losing [Brennan] Scarlett, is we lost a big guy that’s 265 or 270 pounds, and we needed a little more beef,” says Kaufman. “That’s something that we started even back in Game Three against Arizona. We started it then, and that’s something that, he’s got a little bit of athletic ability, and some size, and gives us a chance to do that.
“It’s always about stopping the run, but the big thing is, Tony’s one of our – we feel like he’s one of our top players in the front, and trying to make sure we get our best players on the field.”