No. 24 Cal not satisfied with just returning to AP poll
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) In Sonny Dykes' first season as coach at California, the Golden Bears weren't near the top of any polls.
They went winless in the Pac-12, got their only win against a lower-division team and set a school record for losses when they went 1-11 in 2013.
Two years later, Cal is rolling.
Fresh off winning road games in consecutive weeks for the first time since 1993, the 24th-ranked Bears (4-0, 1-0) moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time in six years this week in a sign of how much progress the program has made in Dykes' three seasons.
''We didn't talk about it much when we were ranked probably last in the country and we're not going to talk about it much now that we're ranked in the Top 25,'' Dykes said Tuesday. ''It doesn't really affect us much.''
Despite the best start to a season at Cal since 2007, Dykes knows there is plenty more work to be done. The Bears had trouble closing out games the past two weeks in wins at Washington and Texas, have yet to hit on all cylinders with some trouble in the red zone and have major issues returning and covering kicks.
Those haven't led to losses yet and haven't dampened the growing excitement on campus at a school that hasn't competed in the Pac-12 for almost a decade.
The players and coaches appreciate the progress even if they are taking it all in stride.
''In our locker room, there's not much of a change,'' quarterback Jared Goff said. ''We're a very determined, level-headed team. We expected to be here.''
Now the task for Cal is to not get too satisfied or look too far ahead - a drastic change from where the program was two years ago.
While the Bears are heavy favorites this week against Washington State (2-1), the schedule gets much tougher in the coming weeks. Next up on the schedule is a brutal four-game stretch that features visits to No. 10 Utah and No. 7 UCLA, followed by a home game against No. 18 Southern California and a trip to Oregon.
That's why it's so important for the Bears to tune out all the praise coming their way this week.
''I think you always have to guard against that, especially when you don't have a lot of experience being ranked,'' Dykes said. ''It's not something we're going to talk about much. Our guys have been incredibly focused and haven't paid attention to that stuff. It literally means nothing. ... It's a number that somebody sticks on you but it doesn't mean much.''
Cal also hopes to get some key players back from injuries this week. Running back Daniel Lasco (hip), defensive end DeVante Wilson (foot) and defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil (knee) all were set to practice Tuesday and could be back this week. Starting left tackle Brian Farley, who left the game early last week with an ankle injury, also could play Saturday.