Cal seeks to continue the “Lone Star” trend

By Phil Collin,

Something about heading to Texas for a bowl game has sparked teams from the Pac-12 Conference.

California wouldn’t mind keeping up the recent trend when the Golden Bears take on Air Force on Tuesday in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium

On Saturday, the Washington schools played simultaneously in the Lone Star State and put away their opponents, with Washington scoring a 44-31 win over Southern Miss in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl and Washington State fending off Miami, 20-14, in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

Cal (7-5), in its first bowl game since 2011, will try to make it 3-0 for the conference in Fort Worth against the Falcons (8-5). Oregon gets its shot on Jan. 2 when the Ducks meet TCU in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

While that could give an extra nudge to recruiting talent-rich Texas, the Bears already have their connection to the state. Coach Sonny Dykes is a native of Bog Spring, Texas, and his father, Spike Dykes, was the head coach at Texas Tech from 1986-99.

Cal picked up some momentum on that front after the regular season, when Dykes reached agreement with the school on a contract extension through the 2019 season after reports indicated that the coach was close to seeking employment elsewhere. The Bears were certainly happy to keep their man.

A victory in the Lockheed Armed Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force would give Cal eight wins in a season for the first time since 2009. Cal began the 2015 season with five straight victories to mark the program’s best start since the Bears were 5-0 in 2007 and at one point were in the national rankings for four consecutive weeks, moving as high as No. 19 in the Amway Coaches Poll and No. 20 in the AP Top 25. Cal’s national rankings were its first since 2010 while its last time in the AP Top 25 was 2009.

Texas has already been good to Cal in the postseason. The Bears scored a 37-3 win over Iowa in the 1993 Alamo Bowl and they topped Air Force in the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl, 42-36.

Amid all of the Texas connections, however, the eyes of Texas will be trained on Bears quarterback Jared Goff, the latest in a long line of Cal quarterbacks.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior could be the first quarterback taken in the NFL Draft should he choose to depart school a year early.

The stats speak for themselves with Bay Area native Goff, who spent the season rewriting his own school records for passing yards (4,252) and touchdown passes (37). He is five completions shy of breaking his own single-season mark (he had 320 last year).

He is the first Cal quarterback since Aaron Rodgers in 2007 to be named first team All-Pac-12 (he shared the honor with Washington State’s Luke Falk).

And then come the testimonials.

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

Goff not only impresses on the field, he does it in the film room as well.

“He knows the offense better than me,” Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said. “I trust him. If he suggests something, I do it. If he suggests he doesn’t want to do something, I don’t do it.”

This is Cal’s second foray into Texas this season and he’s already left his mark. On Sept. 19, Goff completed 27 of 37 passes for 268 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Bears’ 45-44 win over the Longhorns.

“This guy is the real deal,” Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. “He can throw into tight windows, he can throw his entire progression - first, second, to his third guy. Most college quarterbacks can’t do that. This young man is exceptional.”