Cal looks forward to home game vs. Colorado
Sep. 26, 2014
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Giving up five fourth-quarter touchdowns, squandering an 18-point lead and losing on a last-second desperation heave could leave a long-term hangover for many teams.
For a California team that has lost 15 straight Pac-12 games after last week's collapse at Arizona, the loss lingered only for a short time as the players decided to take the positives out of three strong quarters rather than dwell on a rough fourth.
"You try to take lessons from games like that," quarterback Jared Goff said. "You try to take positive things. A big positive is our confidence. We played so well the whole game and probably should have come out with a third win there and couldn't finish it off. It's good for our confidence going into the rest of Pac-12 play knowing we can compete and compete at a high level."
The Golden Bears (2-1, 0-1) hope that confidence transfers over to their conference home opener on Saturday against Colorado (2-2, 0-1).
Cal has not won a conference game since winning at Washington State on Oct. 13, 2012. That streak was poised to end last week when the Bears took a 31-13 lead into the fourth quarter at Arizona.
But they wilted late and ended up losing the game 49-45 when Austin Hill caught a 47-yard Hail Mary from Anu Solomon on the final play of the game.
"We're still growing as a program," second-year coach Sonny Dykes said. "There's still that uncertainty at times. When we get past that and just kind of expect something good to happen, I think that's when as a program we'll take the next step."
The Buffaloes are also looking to take that step from perennial loser to contender. They have had eight straight losing seasons but are hopeful of ending that streak in coach Mike MacIntyre's second season.
Colorado could not overcome an early hole two weeks ago in the conference opener against Arizona State but showed signs of progress last week when they beat Hawaii 21-12, allowing no touchdowns for the first time in 51 games.
"I would say that this team has a 'never say die' attitude to it," MacIntyre said. "A lot of people say that, but what I mean by that is: Their attitude is not just to finish the game good, their idea is to finish the game and win it."
Here are some things to watch when Cal hosts Colorado:
GOFF'S GROWTH: After an up-and-down freshman season, Goff is showing much more consistency in his second year as the starter. Goff is seventh in the nation in passing efficiency, completing 65.1 percent of his passes and averaging more than 10 yards per attempt.
TOUGH D: Goff will have a tough task dealing with Colorado's pass defense. The Buffaloes are fifth in the nation, allowing opponents to complete just 49.2 percent of their passes. Of the 10 schools allowing opponents to complete less than half of their passes, only Duke has faced more attempts than Colorado.
SPRUCE ON THE LOOSE: Cal would figure to be happy not to have to deal with Colorado receiver Paul Richardson anymore after he caught 22 passes for 424 yards in the previous two meetings between the schools. Dealing with Nelson Spruce won't be much easier. Spruce is off to a sizzling start this season with 37 catches for 518 yards and seven touchdowns. Spruce had a big game against Cal last year with eight catches for 140 yards.
FINISH STRONG: Cal also almost blew a big lead in a season-opening win at Northwestern. The Bears led 31-7 midway through the third quarter only to allow the Wildcats to score 17 straight points and get in position for a potential tying score before Jalen Jefferson's interception sealed the win.
BAY AREA RETURN: MacIntyre returns to coach in the Bay Area for the first time since leaving San Jose State for Colorado following the 2012 regular season. MacIntyre led the Spartans to 10 wins that season and was considered a candidate to replace Jeff Tedford at Cal. But the Bears hired Dykes and MacIntyre went to Colorado. MacIntyre said the trip to California will be even more meaningful to the nearly half of his roster from the state.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Boulder, Colorado, contributed to this report.