BERKELEY (CBS/AP) — California quarterback Zach Maynard spent a lot of time trying to keep his brother Keenan Allen out of trouble while the two were growing up together.
Now that they are teammates, it’s the other way around.
While Maynard has struggled to get completely comfortable with coach Jeff Tedford’s complex system, he’s found a familiar safety net in Allen, the Golden Bears sophomore wide receiver who leads the nation in average receiving yards per game.
Talk about brotherly love.
“I think that has a lot to do with it,” said Allen, who is nearly three years younger than Maynard. “When he gets in a jam or he gets in trouble, he looks for me to bail him out. He just throws it up and I try to make a play on it.”
After two weeks of playing on national television with back-to-back prime-time games, Cal’s schedule returns to normal this week as the Bears (3-3) prepare to host Pac-12 newcomer Utah (3-3) at AT&T Park on Saturday.
Both teams are winless in conference and the loser will have a serious uphill climb to get back in the chase for a possible bowl berth.
The difference is that Cal is riding a three-game losing streak while Utah is coming off an impressive road win at Pittsburgh last weekend.
“We have to get back on track with a win, especially for conference and for bowl (eligibility),” Allen said. “We’re thinking of it as a new season. We (left) all the other games behind us and we’re ready to play.”
A year after setting a freshman school record for receptions, Allen has five 100-yard games this season and needs only two more catches to become the fastest player in Cal history to reach 100 for his career.
He’ll try to get there against Utah, which came back from blowout losses to Washington and No. 24 Arizona State to beat Pittsburgh.
The Utes lost quarterback Jordan Wynn to season-ending surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. Tight end Dallin Rogers (knee) is also done for the year while wide receiver DeVonte Christopher is questionable with a sore ankle.
Wynn’s replacement, Jon Hays, has a higher completion percentage than his predecessor but has only three touchdown passes and has been sacked 11 times.
“In his first start he was trying to make plays when there was none to be made,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “(Now) he’s not throwing into coverage but holding it a bit too long. The next step is to get rid of the ball where we live to play another snap without taking a sack or putting it into coverage.”
Running back John White has tried to pick up the slack. He carried 36 times for 171 yards in the win over Pitt and is averaging 5.2 yards a carry.
That could present problems for California, which is giving up 137.2 yards a game on the ground.
More troubling than the injuries, though, are the Utes’ scoring problems. They have just nine touchdowns in 21 opportunities inside the red zone and have only six rushing TDs all season.
“There are a lot of things we can improve upon but the most pressing is scoring touchdowns in the red zone,” Whittingham said. “It’s an execution issue. We have a high percentage of penalties (there) … and we have to eliminate that.”
It’ll help if they can keep Allen and Cal’s offense on the sidelines.
Allen’s 138 yards-per-game average is the highest in the nation. He leads the Bears with 52 receptions for 828 yards and four touchdowns.
Cal’s other wideout, senior Marvin Jones, has 35 catches for 530 yards and three touchdowns. That’s made it difficult for defenses to focus solely on Allen.
“If they double-team me they have to deal with Marv one-on-one,” Allen said. “So you have to take a chance on defense. Either way you’re going to lose.”
Notes: Tedford has never lost four consecutive games as the Bears coach. … The game is a rematch of the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, which the Utes won 37-27.
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