Football: Just how bad is Bears’ defense so far? Worst in school history after four games

Yes, the Cal defense — having surrendered an average of 45.3 points through four games — ranks last in the Pac-12 and third-to-last nationally.

But it’s scarier than that: No Cal team has allowed 181 points in its first four games.

Not even Tom Holmoe’s 1-10 squad from 2001, which went on to become the worst defensive club in Cal history. Those Bears allowed only 170 points the first four games.

Believe it or not, only one team between 1886 and 1954 — spanning the first 68 years of Cal football — gave up 181 points during an entire season. And that was in 1915, the Bears’ first year back playing football after a decade of rugby, when they allowed 184 points in 13 games.

During the historic 44-0-4 run from 1920 through 1924, Andy Smith’s “Wonder Teams” gave up a total of 139 points. Spread over five seasons.

Sure, football has changed in every way from that era.  The seasons are longer, the forward pass came into vogue, etc. The game from a century ago would barely recognizable today.

Still, as relatively recently as 1968, Cal opponents totaled just 114 points in 11 games.

The question at this point: Can these Bears merely hold an opponent under 30 points?

Stay tuned.

Jeff Faraudo

  • Woj

    Still looking for the excuse makers for this putrid awful D and even worse D coordinator to step up and defend this mess of a defense.

    Please PeteBear, discdude, covinared, Eric, & PeteBear again – what’s your excuse du jour today for this abysmal Cal D and even worse D coaching??

    Wazzu 52 Cal 28. Cal will be 1-11 this year – They will not be favored in ANY game all year. Cal is officially back to Holmoe 2001. The circle is complete.

  • rotfogel

    I agree, Andy Buh has got to go. This defense is the definition of pathetic. It’s awful on a number of levels. When your best CB, McClure, looks like he couldn’t compete in a high school game, you’ve got problems at the D1 Level. Every team Cal has played so far look as though they’re a step ahead of our defense, including Portland St.

    To Andy Buh, I’m sure you’re a good dude, just a God awful defensive coordinator. You Gotta Go!

  • Eric

    Actually, Cal’s defense in the last four games last year was worse than the first four games of this year. 49 (Utah), 21 (Washington), 59 (Oregon), and 62 (Oregon State). 191 points versus 181 points. That is Pendergrast.

    Woj – I’m sure you won’t accept these “excuses,” but given we have played the #16, the #4, and the #2 teams in the country. I may be no football guru, but that is one of the hardest stretches a D-1 BCS conference team can play (and, as I previously pointed out, we’ll eventually likely play six teams in the top 15 – Oregon, Stanford, Ohio State, UCLA, Washington, and NW. I am not sure that has ever happened in modern football). Then, with the number of projected starters out, I view the fulcrum game being this game – Washington State. Everything beforehand really doesn’t matter. The drive for four wins, or maybe five if we can pull off an upset, starts now.

    Of course, with this style of offense, one must expect even a full strength defense to give up points. Last year, Oregon gave up 34 points to Arkansas State, 25 to Fresno State, and 26 points to Washington State – all teams that were not very good last year. And that is with a exceedingly talented defense.

    Now that I have address your attack, you should respond. Do you agree or disagree that we have played a statistically unusually difficult schedule? Do you agree or disagree that our defense has had an statistically unusual number of defensive starters who have missed games? If the answer to either one is yes, why does that not factor into your analysis (because thus it clearly has not). And what is an acceptable level of defense given our offense – 10 points? 17 points? 28 points?

    But even if you decide to bring up Portland State (again), last year’s comparable opponent – Southern Utah – scored more on us. Either that means we have managed to have the two worst D-coordinators back to back, or there is something else. I believe it is something else. It is not Buh, or Dykes, but the legacy of not firing Tedford back in 2008, or 2009, or 2010, or 2011. You’ll label that an “excuse.” So be it.

    Nonetheless, if, as you have predicted, we lose 55-28 to Washington State or something close to that, then you have a lot of street cred. If, as I think is going to happen, we win (as one of the 5 I think we will win this season, versus your predicted 1-11), even if we give up a lot of points along the way, I’ll make sure you have the floor to offer whatever “excuses” you want to make. Fair?

  • Eric

    Jeff – one point to quibble with. Cal’s defense probably shouldn’t be charged with 28 points – two Pick-Sixes (not Goff’s fault, but just bad luck) in the Northwestern game and two punt returns in the Oregon game (ref help included!)

    I haven’t looked back at the 2001 team’s first four games to see if there were any comparable offsets.

  • Mr. B

    Thank you Eric

    Reality is what matters, not our unrealistic hopes and dreams as fans for a miracle year. This year is like superstorm Sandy: schedule, injuries, and yeah the Tedford hole we gotta dig out from: scholarships given to players with questionable academics and obvious personality issues.

    Holmoe-pocalypse year (1-10) we had no hope, no future. I believe we have both now. Likely without Buh but let’s wait till end of season, can’t change horses now or nobody will come here. And who is available anyways?

    Keep Calm and Go Bears.

  • Calfan

    But…young. But…injured. But…time. But…. Excuses. Excuses. This doesn’t substantially improve by the end of the season and Mr. Overpaid nobody has to go!

  • Woj

    More excuses. The Cal programd for 5+ years is simply chock ful of excuses. Academics, injuries, facilities, blah blah. Elite teams like Oregon, Ohio St. and Stanford also have guys injured (OSU had their starting QB out vs. Cal, Oregon lost DeAnthony Thomas on play #1 and the backups torched the Bears) and these teams also have young guys. Those are 2 more excuses bad teams – actually doormats use as reasons they lose.

    This is major D1 college football, injuries are always going to happen. Cal’s starters on D reek and their D coordinator is worse than that. Maybe the young backups are better than the starters. Stats speak volumes that the startign 11 aren’t getting it done.

    Schedule has been tough and Cal has looked liek a patsy it was predicted to be. In 2 of the games the #2 and #4 teams blew Cal’s D out of the water. Ttoally not competitive. Against Northwestern, the game was relatively lcose the young QB made 2 backbreaking pick sixes. Maybe Cal should move to WAC if it can’t handle a powerful conference than the rest of the Pac12 has become? As for Washington State – ask yourself would you rather have Sonny Dykes and Andy Buh as your coaches or Mike Leach. That explains why it’s going to be Wazzu 52 Cal 28. There is talent on Cal’s team but a terrible D coordinator is on board to minimize that talent.

    An acetpable level fo defense is to not be behind 21-0 after 10 minutes, or 42-3 at halftime. I don’t give a rat’s rum[pus about short fields or long drives. The D is a sieve adept at giving up TDs anywhere the opponent lines up. Watching the opponent rack up TDs against Cal is like watchign a pinball machine shake and dance as the points climb higher.

    Portland State is so relevant here. A terrible cupcake opponent and the game was a nail biter. That … is .. a … joke! This is on Buh and on Dykes for hiring him. And it’s on Sandy Idiot Barbour for keeping the money grubbing Tedfraud around for 2010, 2011, 2012 and giving him that ridiculously bad extension for consecutive Toilet Bowl appearances.

  • 1brsfan

    The reality is that we’re not a very good defense for all of the reasons listed above… youth, injuries and coaching. However I don’t believe that we’re as bad as the point totals suggest either. Playing a tough schedule early on exposed all of the issues that we hope will straighten out with time. Not sure about the coaching but the youth/inexperience and injuries will improve. Maybe I’m looking for a silver lining but in that first quarter I thought our defense played better than they have in the past. Twice we stopped them on 4th and short and got the ball back on downs. The score in the first 10 minutes could have easily been 35-0. Yes, I know there were still some blown coverages but overall when the game was still relatively close the defense looked like there was some improvement. Let’s hope to see more improvement on Saturday. Go Bears!

  • Woj

    Early Big Game betting line – Stanford by 40.

  • Woj

    I hope the fans of Cal’s opponents travel well like Ohio St’s 30,000+ fans. If not, there is going be lots of empty seats at Memorial Stadium coming up. Cal better hope the 1500 Bay Area based Wazzu alums all show up and buy seats. Cal needs the money.

    An expectation of losing has set into the program. It started in 2009 and nothing from the first 4 games indicates much has changed especially on D.

  • covinared

    Woj: this has probably been answered by others already, but the D was bad last year before Buh. The best players from last year are either gone or unavailable. The current group was not recruited for this type of scheme, especially on defensive line. If Buh deserves criticism, its not running a scheme suited to the players, but he was not brought in to mimic Clancy, who got lit up for 62 by asu on Sat. with better talent. Face it, its a rebuilding year. The already thin talent has been decimated by injuries. We have played four good offensive teams so far. They put points and yards on just about everyone. Its too early to put so much blame on Buh.

  • milo

    Jeff Faraudo, can you address the question about wet ball drill and if Cal prepared for the weather in Oregon?

    The reports are Cal didn’t do wet ball drills/prep for Oregon despite the weather forecast saying a major storm was coming in, hitting during game time. Seems like basic prep.

  • discdude

    You’re right Woj, wave that magic wand and it will all be fixed up.

    Never (from me) have you heard excuses, all I said was that anyone who has ever watched a football game in their life knew that this team was going to get carved up 3 of the first 4 games. Add in a sheet-ton injuries, and it’s even worse. It’s not an excuse, it’s a reality.

    Maybe we should bring back Pendergast? Oh wait, his defense (which actually has future NFL players on it) just gave up 62 to AS-freakin-U!

    We’ll see if I revise my opinion after this weekend, at least I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong, so you’ll hear from me if they give up 50 again. So far, it’s about what I expected.

  • wehofx

    I am certain “RayFinkle” and “Joey” are a coupla of the innumerable SN aliases used by amy the moron.

    I get the danger of, “Crying Wolf.” There are a number of regular posters here with whom I disagree and find unnecessarily negative. They are, however, clearly voicing their opinions as Cal alum/fans.

    So, I could be wrong about “Woj.” His posts, however, strike me as typical trolling by moron. (Again, I could be wrong because I haven’t read a moron post for years because of GreaseMonkey.)

    Anyone recall any non-trolling posts by “Woj” that prove me wrong?

    If I am wrong, I’ll have no problem apologizing.

  • discdude

    Hmmmm….could be Wehofx. I’m only on here maybe once per week and I’ve posted maybe 4 to 5 times this season max, so to get called out, you could be right. I just make my observations, don’t really like to argue. I don’t know. Might have to go back to radio silence since I don’t really care to mix it up.

  • Woj

    @wehofx The only thing unnecessarily negative is the Cal football results in terms of # blowout losses since 2009.

    Don’t be a hater because someone like me and others have the cohones to call out the Cal program for being the doormat it is now. Tedford put it there (but was well paid), Barbour so far based on the hire of Dykes and Buh will keep it there. Ask yourself, choose any of the other 11 Pac12 teams and on a neutral field, tell me which of them would be an underdog to Cal?? I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version – ‘Maybe’ Colorado but they have a better coach (McIntyre) & D than Cal does.

    If you want to pretend Cal is good – go ahead and choose any of the 20 excuses why Cal got blown out twice & beat a cupcake FCS team by 7 points. I live in reality.

  • Woj

    I seem to remember 2002 well when a motivated sleep in his office (and not yet uber rich and complacent) young coach named Jeff Tedford inherited a downtrodden 1 win team on probation and guided Cal to 7 wins and was competitive in EVERY game.

    Dykes inherited more talent on the 2013 team and way better facilities and financial support than Tedford ever did. And 4 games in – he’s got a squeaker win over FCS Portland St. (who lost to Cal Poly last weekend), 2 blowout losses and 1 other. No exactly the start fans were looking for. Sandy B’s job is on the line with Dykes. And she knows it. Being nationally ranked in women’s swimming is not a job saver.

  • Eric


    You didn’t actually address several material comments I made. I compared Portland State to Southern Utah last year. We did worse last year. So why is that? Is it Buh? Can’t be, since he wasn’t there last year. It has to be something else.

    You mention NW and two backbreaking pick-sixes by the young QB. So in other words, it wasn’t the defense per se, but the offense. And, I assume you saw the game, so you know those pick-sixes were about as unlucky as one can get – not Goff’s fault at all. Thus, against a Top 20 team, we easily should have won. At 2-2, this all falls away.

    On Ohio State, there is no doubt that the first quarter was a disaster. You mention a backup playing QB. I am sure those commenting about Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig said the same thing. But just like NW, it was the failure to score on the first drive of the third quarter and a foolish deep pass INT that killed reasonable hopes for a comeback. That isn’t on the defense (but without excusing a poor defensive effort).

    On Oregon, please address the fact that there were four turnovers in our territory in the first quarter. Are you surprised the score was only 28-0? It should have been higher. Is it really your position that four turnovers by an offense in the first quarter equals a terrible defense. As for knocking out DeAnthony Thomas, as I have repeatedly said, it is Mariota that is the Heisman candidate, and he didn’t have a great game! He may have lost the Heisman because of that hurricane in the stadium.

    You haven’t addressed comparing Cal’s defense this year to last year. Why not?

    The idea we started with better talent in 2013 over 2002 makes zero sense. Let’s compare the lineups, starting Boller (senior QB, #1 QB recruit in the nation). I predicted 5-7 at the start of the season, hoping for 6-6. Where were you? I guess anything more than 1-11 means it was a successful season.

    As I have said, the season now starts with WSU. I don’t hate you. I love all Cal fans. But I really hope the person who doesn’t get the WSU prediction rights has the cojones to admit it.

  • Oldskool Blue

    To the panicking naysayers calling for Buh’s head immediately and Dykes’ head at the end of the season based on how theses coaches have handled a very young, inexperienced, and injury depleted team going up against the #16, #4, and #2 teams in the country, I just gotta say the rest of Bear Territory sure is lucky that none of you are in Sandy Barbour’s shoes. Rather than vent uncontrollably after a bad loss, maybe next time (and there will be several next times with the caliber of the Pac-12 this year) you can offer the rest of us some more constructive comments on what parts of the team played well and where they didn’t. For example, at Oregon I think the special teams were far worse than the defense – giving up not one but two punt return TD’s. Trying to simply blame the defense and Andy Buh for this loss after the Cal offense repeatedly turned the ball over – giving the top offense in the country numerous opportunities and consistently great field position to start the game – is short-sighted. I would however place a lot of blame on Dykes if it turns out he did not have the team practice with drenched footballs once he saw the forecast. If Dykes did make that mistake, he seems bright enough to not make it again. I still like what I see in terms of his leadership and football smarts.

  • Bobsac

    Some folks on this site are drinking some awesome Koolaid that must have some illegal additives. This team, especially the defense, is playing awful. I would say they are playing like zombies but we just saw World War Z & the zombies have gotten fast. Buh needs to be out at the end of the season with someone brought in who is competent enough to coach a system that fits the talent on hand (3-4 for example ). Dykes will last either thru his contract or within a year of its end because it won’t be acceptable to be paying off two ex coaches at the same time.

  • Steve W.

    There is no well in hell this 2013 team is more talented than the team that Tedford inherited in 2002. Seems clear to me there was a lot of talent on the 2001 team that went 1-11 under Holmoe. They had simply given up on their coach.

    Where is all the talent on this year’s team? I will admit the young wide receiving corps is pretty good and will get better next year, as will Goff, but the running backs are pedestrian at best. Lascoe is a scout team player at Oregon, Stanford or Washington. Both sets of interior lines are vastly inferior compared to the rest of the conference. There is not one defensive lineman at Cal who could crack the starting lineup at Arizona State, Stanford or even USC.

    Let’s face it, Sonny inherited a reclamation project that will take a couple of years to fix. The team will be better next year and better the year after that, but we need to accept ugly this year.

  • Ray Finkle

    wehofx,not sure why you are even bringing my name up. The only post I have posted lately was the possessions for the first half against Oregon. I’m a huge Cal fan and I just DON’T enjoy watching slop. Apparently you have too much time on your hands.

  • clonedoc

    To bottom line this, in my opinion, is to state the following: this team is deplorable, worse than even the last few years under Tedford, and what the offense does or does not do is immaterial when you can’t stop anybody. Is there an opportunity to fix this defense? Not sure, and that has as much to do with who the head coach is as who the defensive coordinator is. Defense and running the football, at least Sandy Barbour decided that she would bring to our beloved campus an aerial assault/finesse team that, if it wins, will win 55-48 (or thereabouts),the thought probably being that it will bring excitement and increase attendance (SAHPC, stadium financing). Neither of which, from my standpoint, has occurred. I know I’m griping and not providing any solutions but it kills me to see our team be the laughing-stock that it is. We may improve under Sonny Dykes but I don’t see any championship-level/Rose Bowl caliber play under his watch without north-south running, more strength on the offensive line, and, of course, defense.

  • Eric

    Let’s keep a scorecard.

    Woj – Cal will not be favored in any game the rest of the season, will go 1-11, and will lose 55-28 to Washington State. Any reference to injuries or the schedule is an excuse and cannot be factored into anything.

    Clonedoc – the team is worse than last year’s team, so if Cal goes at least 3-9 it is, by definition, not worse.

    Thanks. Let’s see where we stand after the WSU game.

  • Schmidtty

    Everyone needs to calm down. This is a rebuilding year and we have played, far and away, the toughest schedule in all of college football. We are starting a true frosh qb, have tons of players out with injuries and are using players recruited for a different type of scheme on both sides of the ball. This season is about learning from mistakes and growing.

    As for the people saying Cal is a doormat now. We have had two losing seasons in the last ten. We aren’t world beaters, but we aren’t scraping the bottom of the barrel either. Let’s watch the next few games play out before we rush to any judgements.

    On a whole, Dykes got shafted with the schedule he has his first year. Our non-conference schedule was a killer and we play all the best PAC-12 teams on the road (Oregon, Stanford, Washington, UCLA). I’m sure there are teams currently ranked in the top 25 that couldn’t make it out of our schedule alive.

    The debbie downers need to take a step back and breathe. Give the kids time to grow and learn the system. Give the coaches time to recruit the right type of players. In a few years we will be a very strong football team and seasons like this one will have a lot to do with that.

    As always, Go Bears!!