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Cal Football Preview Box: Bears Host Sacramento State Saturday

Cal welcomes back former Bears QB Troy Taylor, now the head coach of Sac State

Cal hosts FCS school Sacramento State on Saturday, and the Bears are hoping to avoid starting the season 0-3 for the second straight year. Cal began playing football in 1882, and it has never started 0-3 in consecutive seasons.

The Hornets are coached by former Cal quarterback Troy Taylor, and they will not be a pushover. Washington was ranked 20th in the country when it lost its 2021 opener to FCS school Montana, which plays in the same conference as Sac State, the Big Sky.

Cal coach Justin Wilcox will be on crutches during the game after having surgery on Tuesday for an old injury.

--Cal coach Justin Wilcox comments on Sacramento State quarterback Asher O’Hara in the video atop this story--

Here are the important facts for Saturday’s contest:

CAL (0-2) vs. SACRAMENTO STATE (1-1)

SITE: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.

TV: Pac-12 Bay Area – Jim Kozimor (Play-By-Play), Bob Davie (Analyst)

RADIO: KGO 810 AM -- Joe Starkey (Play-By-Play), Mike Pawlawski (Analyst), Todd McKim (sideline reporter).

BETTING LINE: Cal is favored by 25 points. Over/under is 48.5 points.

WEATHER FORECAST: Saturday afternoon will be partly cloudy in Berkeley with a high of 66 degrees to go along with 80 percent humidity and a 20 percent chance of rain. The chance of rain increases to 60 percent Saturday night.

CAL-SACRAMENTO STATE HISTORY: Cal leads the series 2-0, and both games were played in Berkeley. The Bears opened the 2005 season with a 41-3 victory over the Hornets and beat Sac State 55-14 in 2014.

INJURIES: Cal outside linebacker Kuony Deng was not in uniform Saturday as a result of a leg injury sustained last week against TCU. 

CAL STORYLINES: Cal will try to bounce back from last week’s 34-32 loss at TCU, which dropped Cal to 0-2. Cal started last season 0-3, and it’s the first time since 1994-1995 that Cal started consecutive seasons 0-2. Cal has never started consecutive seasons 0-3. . . Cal is expected to win this game comfortably against an FCS opponent . . . .The Bears must win this game to improve their fading hopes of earning a bowl berth . . . This Cal's last game before it begins Pac-12 play next week against Washington . . . Cal has jumped ahead in both its previous games, taking a 14-0 lead on Nevada and a 13-0 lead on TCU, but lost both . . . Cal scored five touchdowns against TCU, but its usually reliable defense failed to contain the Horned Frogs, who also scored five touchdowns. Cal ranks 109th of 130 FBS teams in total defense . . . The difference was that Cal failed to convert its extra points after three of those scores, with two of those being two-point attempts. . . . Chase Garbers had one of the best games of his career and finally provided some big plays with four completions of more than 40 yards . . . Outside linebacker Cameron Goode had a big game for Cal last week with two sacks and three tackles for loss. He will be counted on to pressure Sac State quarterbacks and prevent them from running for big gains. . . . Cal running back Christopher Brooks, who led the team in rushing with 914 yards in 2019, had just two carries for 1 yard against TCU, and he has 26 yards on five carries for the season. Injuries have plagued Brooks’ career.

---Click here for some notes and videos about a promising Cal freshman linebacker and Sac State's quarterback--

SACRAMENTO STATE STORYLINES: Sac State beat Dixie State in its opener 19-7, then lost 34-16 last week at home to Northern Iowa, which ranked No. 15 in this week’s FCS coaches poll . . . Sac State’s head coach is Troy Taylor, who was Cal’s starting quarterback for four years (1986-1989), and he held the school record for career passing yards and touchdown passes (51) before they were broken by Jared Goff. As a coach Taylor is known as an outstanding offensive strategist, and the Hornets run a spread offense that relies on the passing game. . . . The Hornets won the Big Sky Conference title in 2019 and were beaten in the first round of the FCS playoffs. They were picked to finish fifth in the Big Sky this year in a preseason poll . . . Sac State did not play football in 2020 (or in the 2021 Big Sky spring season) because of COVID-19 concerns . . . Sac State relies on transfers under Taylor. Eleven of its players are transfers from four-year colleges, and 16 are transfers from junior colleges. . . . Sac State quarterback Asher O’Hara was a second-team all-Conference-USA selection last year for Middle Tennessee, but O’Hara was a graduate transfer from that FBS school to Sac State in the offseason. He leads the team in both rushing and passing yardage. Jake Dunniway is likely to get some playing time at quarterback as well. . . . Running back Elijah Dotson is a two-time first-team all-Big Sky selection (2018, 2019), but is the team’s third-leading rusher this season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry . . . Wide receiver Pierre Williams was a first-team all-conference pick in 2019.

---Click here for a recent interview with Troy Taylor and his thoughts about returning to Memorial Stadium---

CAL PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Chase Garbers (309 yards passing against TCU); OLB Cameron Goode (2.0 sacks vs. TCU, 16 for his career); RB Damien Moore (29 carries for 150 yards, no other Cal running back has more than five carries); WR Trevon Clark (6 catches for 157 yards, 26.2 yards per reception); WR Nikko Remigio (team-leading 10 receptions, averaging 12.5 yards on punt returns); S Daniel Scott (10 solo tackles, interception returned for touchdown).

SACRAMENTO STATE PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Asher O’Hara (team leader in passing yardage and rushing yardage, second-team all-Conference USA at Middle Tennesee in 2020); RB Elijah Dotson (two-time first-team all-conference, 73 rushing yards and 12 receptions in 2021); WR Pierre Williams (first-team all-conference in 2019, team-leading 165 receiving yards in 2021); TE Marshel Martin (second-team all-Big Sky in 2019, team-leading 14 receptions, 2 TDs in 2021); DL Josiah Erickson (2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss this season); LB Marcus Hawkins (second-team all-conference in 2019, 11 tackles, 3 tackles for loss this year).

--Click here for a Sacramento Bee reporter answering five questions about Sacramento State's football team--

CAL NOTES, DEPTH CHART: Click Here

SACRAMENTO STATE NOTES, STATISTICS, DEPTH CHART: Click here

JAKE'S PICK: Cal 39, Sacramento State 20

JEFF’S PICK: Cal 33, Sacramento State 17

VACCINATION POLICY: Click here

FAN FACE COVERINGS: Fans are strongly encouraged to wear facial coverings in outdoor areas when in attendance at home events. Facial coverings are required at all times in indoor spaces (i.e., restrooms, club levels) for people ages 2 and up regardless of vaccination status, unless eating or drinking. Masks will be available at all club entrances and at each gate for fans upon request.

TICKETS: Click here for ticket information. Cal will use mobile ticketing at Memorial Stadium starting this year. All Cal athletic tickets will be distributed through mobile delivery and accessed by ticketholders through digital wallets and smartphones.

STUB HUB: Click here.

PARKING AND TRANSPORTATION: Click here.

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Cover photo of Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor is by Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

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Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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