Cal nose tackle Deandre Coleman, who attended Garfield High perhaps five minutes from Husky Stadium, expects to have 40 friends and family members at Saturday night’s game against Washington.
“It’s my senior year,” he said. “I’ve got to come out with a bang.”
Seven games into coach Sonny Dykes’ debut season, the Golden Bears have yet to make that kind of noise on defense. Cal ranks third-to-last nationally in total yards allowed, second-to-last in scoring defense and last among 123 FBS schools in passing yards surrendered.
“We’ve seen signs in practice,” Dykes said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot in a game up to this point.”
If there’s no improvement, the Bears are on target to field the statistically worst defense in Cal’s 131-year football history.
Having already given up at least 40 points in five games, the Bears are allowing 44.4 per game. They are on pace to give up 533 points — 102 more than Tom Holmoe’s 1-10 team of 2001 surrendered in one less game.
Injuries, youth and a tough schedule all have contributed to the malaise, but whatever the reasons this defense has yet to put the brakes on an opponent. Through four conference games, the Bears are allowing 46.5 points.
Their performance so far ranks with some of the worst defenses the league has seen:
* Colorado 2012: The Buffaloes allowed 47.9 points in nine Pac-12 games and gave up 50 points or more in five games overall, including 69 to Fresno State and 70 to Oregon. CU finished the season 1-11.
* Washington State 2008: The Cougars gave up 570 points, an average of 43.8 points during a 2-11 season. Six opponents scored at least 58 points. But the Cougs made sure they weren’t the worst team in the state, beating rival Washington 16-13 in overtime.
* Washington 2008: The Huskies’ 0-12 season featured a feeble offense coupled with a defense that surrendered at least 44 points in five games. UW lost by a record margin of 56-0 to USC, allowed Cal’s Jahvid Best to run for 311 yards four touchdowns, and allowed an average of 38.6 points per game.
* Oregon State 1981: The Beavers, in the midst of a four-year stretch in which they were 3-40-1, allowed 42.6 points for the season and 47.1 in seven Pac-8 games. They surrendered at least 40 points in eight games while posting a 1-10 record.
There are two factors worth considering:
First, the Bears seemingly have faced the most explosive portion of their schedule, with no games remaining against any of the Pac-12’s five highest-scoring teams. So perhaps the onslaught will slow a bit naturally.
Second, raw numbers probably don’t adequately measure the effectiveness of a defense these days because scoring in college football has risen sharply with the growing popularity of spread offenses.
Pac-12 teams this season are averaging 36.1 points, compared to 29.6 in 2001 — an increase of 22 percent. Against that backdrop, Cal’s 2001 defense was worse.
Now the Cal defense must shift gears from a recent diet of big passers to a series of run-oriented offenses. This week it’s UW and Bishop Sankey, who has cracked 100 yards rushing in 12 of his past 18 games. Next week it’s Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, on pace to lead the NCAA in rushing for a second straight season.
Coleman feels a mix of relief and excitement at the change. “I love playing running teams,” he said.
With this defense, it may be wise to be careful what you ask for.
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