Kyle Kragen Wins Award as Golden Bears Return to Top-25


What a week it has been for the Cal Golden Bears. They kicked off the weekend with a 30-24 win against the Washington Huskies on Saturday, gaining a measure of revenge for the loss they suffered last season at the Huskies’ hand that ultimately derailed a promising start to the year. They are undefeated after four games, and started their Pac-12 schedule off with a win. Now, for the first time since 2010, the Bears are back in the top-25 rankings, and for the first time since 2012, a Cal player won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

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The Golden Bears’ first 4-0 start to a season since 2007 finds them slipping into the top-25 rankings. In the Associated Press Top 25 and the Amway Coaches’ Poll, the Bears are placed 24th in both publications. In the NCAA College Football Power Rankings, the Bears are ranked 22nd.

The last time the Golden Bears were ranked nationally was 2010, when they were ranked 24th-overall in week three of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll following a 2-0 start. However, they would lose the next week to the Nevada Wolf Pack, and fall out of the rankings, where they would remain until now.

The Bears’ defense has been much improved this season and is a big reason the Bears find themselves ranked and undefeated. This past week against the Huskies, they were led by senior defensive end Kyle Kragen, who earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Against Washington, Kragen racked up a career-high six tackles and 1.5 sacks, while tying his career-high of 1.5 tackles for loss. He forced his first career fumble, but was not credited with a sack or tackle for loss on the play when Huskies’ quarterback Jake Browning coughed up the ball that was eventually recovered by Devante Downs. For good measure, Kragen also recorded his first career pass breakup.

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Kragen is Cal’s first Conference Defensive Player of the Week honoree since 2012, when cornerback Steve Williams (now with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers) took home the award for his October 13th performance against Washington State, in which he had six tackles, four pass breakups and an interception. That came one week after sophomore cornerback Kameron Jackson earned the award with a three interception performance against UCLA. Those three interceptions would be his only interceptions of the season.

Kragen’s award is the first weekly honor for a Golden Bear since last season, when Trevor Davis won Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.

This award is a little extra special for Kragen after he missed all of the 2014 season with mononucleosis. Kragen lost 25 pounds due to the illness, but is back and ready to contribute, as he showed against Washington.

Cal, who is the last remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12 North and one of three undefeated teams in the Pac-12 overall along with Utah and UCLA, will look to continue their trek towards bowl eligibility against the Washington State Cougars. Last year’s matchup between the two was a thriller, as the Bears outscored the Cougars 60-59, despite allowing 812 yards of offense (and 734 yards of passing offense). The Bears’ defense, if it is actually improved, should be a little harder to move on this time around.

Next: Cal Wins Close One to Move to 4-0