Four Cal Bears Named as All-Pac-12 Honorable Mentions

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Patrick Laird
BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Patrick Laird /

The Cal Bears were shut out of All-Pac-12’s first and second teams, but four found themselves listed as All-Conference honorable mentions.

Pac-12 All-Conference Teams were announced on Tuesday, and though the Cal Bears were absent from the First and Second teams, four Golden Bears were named as honorable mentions. Seniors linebacker Devante Downs and defensive lineman James Looney, and juniors running Patrick Laird and offensive lineman Patrick Mekari were named as the Bears’ representatives.

Downs played just seven games before an injury sidelined him during the team’s massive upset of eighth-ranked Washington State, but he was having a fantastic season up until that point. His 65 tackles (36 solo and 29 assisted) led the team at the time of his injury, and he was still able to finish second for the season. He filled up the stat sheet before the season-ending ailment racking up 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions (tied for team lead), two forced fumbles, and two fumbles recoveries.

The senior was also a force to be reckoned with while rushing the quarterback. His 13 quarterback pressures ranked as the third-most among Pac-12 inside linebackers, and he did so on only 50 pass-rush snaps.

Downs was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Week twice in the season’s first three weeks, following big performances in victories against North Carolina and Ole Miss. If not for the injury, he was making quite a case for the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

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Looney, who was one of three Cal defenders to start all 12 games, was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention for the second straight year. His 9.5 tackles for loss marked a career-high and tied for the team lead, and he also set a personal best with 3.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble and recovered a pair.

Laird began the year as Cal’s third-string running back with only 11 career carries, but after an early-season injury to top running back Tre Watson, Laird’s role expanded and his production exploded. He started eight of the last nine games of the year, missing one because of injury, and and was the team’s biggest offensive threat.

He ran for 1,127 yards on 191 carries (5.9 yards per carry), as well as scoring eight touchdowns. He also made 45 receptions for 322 yards and another touchdown. Laird led the Bears in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, and finished third on the team in receptions. His 45 carries were the most by a Cal running back since 1988, when Todd Powers also caught 45 balls.

Laird crossed the 100-yard mark five times in his 11 games, and saved some of his best performances for late in the season. Over the final three games of the year, Laird racked up 545 yards, including a 214-yard game against Oregon State that ranks as the 10th-best single-game rushing yard total in school history.

In addition to being an All-Pac-12 honorable mention, Laird was named Pac-12 All-Academic First Team and is a national semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy. Named for the late Brandon Burlsworth, the Trophy is given annually to the best player in the nation who began their college career as a walk-on. Burlsworth played for the Arkansas Razorbacks, and after starting as a walk-on, became an All-American and was a third-round draft pick before tragically passing away in a car accident less than two weeks after the draft.

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Mekari, whose brother is Cal nose tackle Tony Mekari, played 10 games as the Bears’ left tackle and was a strong blocker protecting quarterback Ross Bowers‘ blindside. He was also a big part of Laird’s success, helping open holes for Laird as he became the first Bears’ rusher to cross 1,000 yards since 2014.