Golden Bears’ claws sharpened for Falcons

By Dominic Clark,

Playing with styles which appear to be the antithesis of what their names and nicknames signify, the California Golden Bears will be soaring through the air while the Air Force Falcons will be lumbering down the field when the two schools meet in the 13th Annual Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

California will hook up again with Air Force in a game which has the making of an all-out explosion between Cal’s prolific aerial arsenal attack and Air Force’s ground-pounding, bone-jarring rushing attack.  While the Bears have one of the top passing teams in the nation, the Falcons rushing game is one of the tops in the country.

Coach Sonny Dykes’ Golden Bears move up and down the gridiron in huge chucks, averaging 36.5 points (23rd nationally), 524.4 total yards (eighth nationally) and 368.8 passing yards (fifth nationally) per game with 38 touchdowns via the pass.  To compliment the passing attack, California is averaging 155.7 yards per game rushing with 15 touchdowns on the ground.

Pacing the Bears offensively are quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Kenny Lawler as both were justifiably first-team All-Pac 12 selections this season as juniors.

Seemingly setting a record each time he picks up the pigskin, Goff completed 316 of 492 passes (64.2 percent) for 4,252 yards with 37 touchdowns for a 156.4 passing efficiency rating.  He has already broke his own school single-season records in passing yards, TD passes, TDs responsible for and total offense in a season.

Goff has started all 36 games possible at Cal and holds 26 school records, including career marks for passing yards (11,733), TD passes (90), total offense (11,635) and completions (952).  And that has been accomplished in just three seasons.

“He’s certainly going to be one of the great ones to ever play here," said Dykes, "if he’s not right now. I’ll tell you this; I wouldn’t trade him for any other quarterback in college football.”

And Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, who will be on the other side of the field against Goff and Dykes in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, said Goff "is as talented a quarterback as you’re going to see in college football.”

Cal is the only team in the nation with six different receivers with at least 35 receptions, 450 yards receiving and two touchdown catches in 2015. Kenny Lawler (47-583, 10 TD) leads the team in receptions and touchdown catches, while Bryce Treggs paces the squad in receiving yards and average yards per reception (41-813, 6 TD, 19.8 yards per catch).

Others that have put up the numbers include Darius Powe (43-490, 6 TD), Stephen Anderson (40-460, 2 TD), Trevor Davis (38-653, 2 TD) and Maurice Harris (36-491, 6 TD).

Cal complimented its plenteous passing game this season with an acceptable rushing game with four players gaining over 331 yards with at least 65 carries.  Five players had at least one touchdown rushing this season.

Cal ground leaders were running backs junior Khalfani Muhammad, and sophomores Vic Enwere and Tre Watson.  Muhammad had 78 carries for 539 net yards (6.9 per carry average) and one touchdown, Enwere led the team with 98 carries, 486 yards (5.0 per carry) and a team-high seven touchdowns.  Watson carried the ball 76 times for 434 yards (5.7 per carry) and three touchdowns.

Aiding the California offense was sophomore kicker Matt Anderson, who converted on 16 of 19 field goal attempts and 43 of 45 extra point tries for a team-high 91 points.

Dominic Clark is an independent contractor for nearly 20 special events annually.  A Nevada graduate and UNLV sports information director for 10 years, Clark has staffed and overseen media centers for a wide variety of sporting events from auto racing to wrestling.  He will be covering the “bowl scene” in the DFW metroplex for the 12th-staight season.  A former staff writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and sports columnist, Clark major client is the SCORE International Desert Racing Series for which he handles Media Relations as well as publishing the SCORE Race Day souvenir programs.  He has worked nearly 20 years in media operations for both domestic and international pro beach volleyball, including the 2012 London Olympic Games