Cal powers past Southern Utah

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Cal powers past Southern Utah

BERKELEY (AP) -- California cornerback Marc Anthony scored on a 61-yard interception return in the fourth quarter and the Golden Bears shook off another sluggish start at home to beat Southern Utah 50-31 on Saturday.Keenan Allen had two touchdowns, one on a 69-yard punt return, to help the Bears notch their first victory at newly renovated Memorial Stadium.A week after losing the home-opener to Nevada, Cal (1-1) had 518 yards of offense but couldn't shake Southern Utah, an FCS school playing its first season in the Big Sky Conference, until the fourth quarter when the Bears forced two turnovers and scored 30 points.Anthony, who tipped a Hail Mary pass the Thunderbirds converted into a touchdown just before halftime, made the biggest play after Southern Utah receiver Henna Brown appeared to run the wrong route on the first play of the fourth quarter.Quarterback Brad Sorensen threw a short pass intended for Brown, who kept running while Anthony turned to make the interception. Anthony then worked his way downfield into the end zone to help give Cal a 34-17 lead.The Bears piled on quickly after that.Defensive end Aaron Tipoti recovered a fumble on Southern Utah's next possession, and Vincenzo D'Amato's third field goal made it 37-17.Allen, who caught a 19-yard touchdown from quarterback Zach Maynard on the first play of the fourth quarter, made it 44-17 with a long punt return. Allen fumbled the ball but recovered it then broke free down the right sideline on his way into the end zone.Things will get significantly more challenging for the Bears now. They go on the road to face No. 14 Ohio State next Saturday then take a trip to second-ranked Southern California the following week.Maynard, making his first start of the season after being benched for the first three series in the loss to Nevada, completed 17 of 23 attempts for 229 yards and the touchdown to Allen.C.J. Anderson and Isi Sofele both added short touchdown runs, and Daniel Lasco scored on a 77-yard run in the fourth quarter.Two big mistakes by the Bears defense - and an outstanding one-handed catch by the Thunderbirds' Cameron Morgan - kept the game from being a total blowout before halftime.Sorensen's Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired fell incomplete, but Cal defensive back Steve Williams was called for pass interference, giving the Thunderbirds an extra play. Sorensen then heaved another long pass that Morgan pulled in for a 37-yard touchdown. Anthony tipped the ball in the air but Morgan alertly grabbed it with his left hand as he was falling out of the back of the end zone for the score.That was one of the few things that went right for Southern Utah.Sorensen, a preseason candidate for the Walter Payton Award, passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns to become the school's career leader, though most of it came in the second half after Cal built a substantial lead.It was a much better finish for the Bears, who fell behind early for the second consecutive week.They committed turnovers inside their own territory on consecutive drives in the first quarter and had 10 penalties for 96 yards before halftime.This time, Cal overcame its mistakes.Maynard was intercepted by Southern Utah defensive end James Crowser while attempting a screen pass in the first quarter, then freshman wide receiver Chris Harper fumbled away the Bears next possession following a short completion.Southern Utah (0-2) had its own issues on offense and couldn't take advantage of the good field position.The Thunderbirds took a 3-0 lead on Colton Cook's 40-yard field goal then spent the rest of the afternoon playing from behind.Cal scored on four consecutive possessions in the second quarter to go in front.Anderson's 7-yard touchdown run capped a 94-yard drive for the Bears, Sofele scored on a 12-yard run and D'Amato added a pair of field goals to give Cal a 20-3 lead.Southern Utah stayed close and pulled within 20-17 midway through the third quarter on Sorensen's 5-yard touchdown pass to Brown, but the Thunderbirds couldn't slow Cal down in the fourth.Sofele finished with 104 yards on 19 carries.NOTES: The Bears are 6-0 against FCS teams. ... Southern Utah won the coin toss but deferred. ... Cal played without starting right tackle Matt Summers-Gavin, who injured his knee late in the loss to Nevada.

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

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Former Napa star Josh Jackson leaving Kansas, entering NBA Draft

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Josh Jackson declared for the NBA draft on Monday after one of the best freshman seasons in Kansas history, one marked by plenty of highlights on the floor and a few distractions off it.

The 6-foot-8 swingman, who is considered a certain lottery pick, was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and its 13th straight regular season Big 12 title before losing to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.

"After thoroughly consulting with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball," Jackson said in a statement Monday.

"I am very thankful for all of the support I have received from my coaches and teammates at Kansas," he said, "and I look forward to starting my career in the NBA."

Jackson was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

With natural athleticism and ability to slash to the basket - not to mention defensive chops that are rare among freshmen - Jackson quickly established himself as one of the nation's top draft prospects.

His importance was never more evident than in the Big 12 Tournament, when he was suspended by coach Bill Self following a series of off-the-court issues. The top-seeded Jayhawks stumbled in a quarterfinal loss to TCU, ending their run at the conference tournament before it really began.

He returned for the NCAA Tournament and played well in wins over UC Davis, Michigan State and Purdue, but was hamstrung by foul trouble and managed just 10 points in a season-ending loss to the Ducks.

Jackson's suspension came following an incident outside a Lawrence bar in December, when a member of the Kansas women's basketball team got into an altercation with Jackson's teammate, Lagerald Vick.

Jackson followed the woman to the parking lot and the woman said he kicked her car and caused hundreds of dollars in damage. He pleaded not guilty last week in Douglas County District Court to one misdemeanor count of criminal damage to property and a trial is scheduled for May 24.

His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said he was planning to file for diversion.

Jackson also was ticketed in February after he struck a parked car and fled the scene, and that drew Self's ire when he didn't tell his coach about the incident until several weeks later.

His decision to declare for the draft came a week after teammate Svi Mykhailiuk announced he would skip his senior season. But unlike Jackson, the 6-8 sharpshooter has not hired an agent and could withdraw his name by May 24 and return to the Jayhawks.