Patrick Laird

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Cal and TCU combine for six interceptions in low-scoring first half of the Cheez-It Bowl

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You’re not going to believe this, but two defensive-minded head coaches with two questionable offenses came together for a low-scoring and turnover-filled first half of a bowl game. Yes, TCU and Cal combined for five interceptions through two quarters of play at the Cheez-It Bowl as the Bears were narrowly able to take advantage of one of those takeaways in order to hit the locker room with a 7-0 lead in a, um, bizarrely entertaining postseason tilt.

Horned Frogs quarterback Grayson Muehlstein was responsible for three of those picks, one off an ill-advised trick play throwback pass (see below) and the other two of your more regular that’s-a-bad-throw variety. He closed out the half with just four completions to his own team for 10 yards and TCU was mighty lucky to only be down a score as a result. Tailback Sewo Olonilua wasn’t much better against a loaded box and had 70 yards on the ground as the home run hitter on the gridiron was bottled up well at the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cal signal-caller Chase Garbers chipped in with three more interceptions in the first half, two coming as part of four straight series with a turnover as the two sides played a bit of hot potato with the ball itself. At least the young QB was able to get a little rhythm before that stretch while throwing for 93 yards on 12 completions and running for the game’s lone touchdown. Running back Patrick Laird also chipped in with 29 yards rushing.

Needless to say, taking care of the football will no doubt be emphasized on both sides going forward and hopefully both offensive coordinators have something saved up that could jump-start their respective groups. The Cheez-It Bowl has been entertaining despite the low score and all the turnovers but hopefully for everybody involved, the level of play gets elevated in the second half of this Big 12-Pac-12 battle.

Maxwell Award watch list highlighted by Bryce Love, Jonathan Taylor, Khalil Tate, McKenzie Milton

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The height of watch list season is upon us as the new week begins. The Maxwell Football Club got things kicked off this week with the release of the Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award watch lists. Among the many names appearing on the organization’s watch list for its player of the year award are semifinalists from last year’s award; Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Stanford running back Bryce Love, UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.

Alabama landed three players on the watch list, with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and running back Damien Harris also joining Hurts on the watch list. Other players who played for the College Football Playoff participants last season include Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, Kelly Bryant, and Travis Etienne, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and D’Andre Swift,  Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson and Kyler Murray.

Last year’s Maxwell Award winner was Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Big Ten currently has the longest drought without a Maxwell Award winner among the power conferences. Penn State’s Larry Johnson was the last Big Ten player to win the award, doing so in 2002.

Here is this year’s watch list for the Maxwell Award:

RB Cam Akers, Florida State
RB Darius Anderson, TCU
RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
RB Alex Barnes, Kansas State
RB KirVonte Benson, Georgia Tech
QB Jake Bentley, South Carolina
DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
RB Spencer Brown, UAB
QB Jake Browning, Washington
QB Kelly Bryant, Clemson
RB Stephen Carr, USC
QB KJ Costello, Stanford
RB AJ Dillon, Boston College
RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse
RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
QB Caleb Evans, ULM
QB Mason Fine, North Texas
QB Ryan Finley, N.C. State
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
QB Deondre Francois, Florida State
QB Jake Fromm, Georgia
QB Ty Gangi, Nevada
WR James Gardner, Miami (Ohio)
RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
RB James Gilbert, Ball State
QB Will Grier, West Virginia
QB Justice Hansen, Arkansas State
RB Damien Harris, Alabama
WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis
QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
RB Karan Higdon, Michigan
RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
RB Travis Homer, Miami
QB Jalen Hurts, Alabama
QB Josh Jackson, Virginia Tech
WR Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
RB Ty Johnson, Maryland
QB Daniel Jones, Duke
RB Xavier Jones, SMU
RB Patrick Laird, California
QB Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
QB Drew Lock, Missouri
RB Bryce Love, Stanford
QB TaQuon Marshall, Georgia Tech
QB Marcus McMaryion, Fresno State
QB Trace McSorley, Penn State
QB McKenzie Milton, UCF
QB Steven Montez, Colorado
RB David Montgomery, Iowa State
RB Jalin Moore, Appalachian State
RB Zack Moss, Utah
QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
QB Frank Nutile, Temple
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
QB Shea Patterson, Michigan
QB Malcolm Perry, Navy
WR Tony Pollard, Memphis
WR Ahmmon Richards, Miami
QB Armani Rogers, UNLV
QB Nathan Rourke, Ohio
QB Brett Rypien, Boise State
WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
RB LJ Scott, Michigan State
QB Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
WR David Sills, West Virginia
RB Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
RB Rodney Smith, Minnesota
RB Benny Snell, Kentucky
QB Nathan Stanley, Iowa
QB Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
QB Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
QB Khalil Tate, Arizona
RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
QB Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
RB Juwan Washington, San Diego State
DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
QB Manny Wilkins, Arizona State
RB Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
QB Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame
RB Darnell Woolfolk, Army

Cal handles Hawaii in Down Under opener

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The 2016 college football season started with… an onside kick. In his first game as Hawaii’s head coach, Nick Rolovich opened with a surprise, which Cal’s Patrick Laird alertly covered. Khalfani Muhammad raced in from 34 yards out just six plays later, and it was off to the races for the Bears.

Hawaii fought back to tie the game at 7-7 and again at 14-14 late in the first quarter, but the Bears closed the first half on a 20-0 run, keyed by a pair of Davis Webb touchdown tosses, to put the game away en route to a 51-31 win. Hawaii never pulled closer than 17 points in the second half.

Played at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, the game was the first-ever college contest played in Australia.

Webb dazzled in his Bears debut, hitting 38-of-54 throws for 441 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Chad Hansen was his top target, collecting 14 grabs for 160 yards and two of those scores. Muhammad, meanwhile, led the Bears’ ground game with 10 carries for 96 yards and a score.

Ikaika Woolsey led Hawaii with 234 passing yards and one touchdown.

Overall, Cal achieved 630 yards of total offense (30 first downs) on 7.1 yards per play, while allowing Hawaii to gain 6.7 yards per play and 482 total yards.

Cal takes next week off before a date with San Diego State, while Hawaii must turn around and prepare for a road trip to No. 7 Michigan on Saturday.