Football: Defense chases historically bad numbers

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.

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo

Jeff Faraudo

  • Juancho

    Hopefully the team finds something extra and pulls an upset.

    Even a close game would probably get the team even more motivated.

  • wehofx

    Juancho, thought you might find this tweet interesting. It’s from a writer you may know.

    >>>Jeff Faraudo ‏

    Coach Sonny Dykes expected to announce Friday who will start at QB for @CalFooltball. My guess: Zach Kline. #whynot

    Start Puka Lopa!

  • HeteroscedasticBear

    I hope SD starts Zach Kline as well. Something tells me though that SD hates Zach Kline and favors Goff. Or maybe SD is afraid of looking like he made a bad decision with Goff? Clearly, Kline has shown more mojo than Goff. Goff may practice well (because they’re not supposed to touch him), but Kline plays better. If Goff is the starter, then SD will lose my support.

  • Juancho

    Excellent work wehofx !

  • BlakeStreetBear

    These projected 1st or 2nd-stringers are all injured or gone:

    Forbes, Sebastian, Scarlett, McClure, McCain, Jalil, Broussard, King, Wilkerson, etc.
    And I know I forgot a couple more. A couple others (Jefferson, Willis, Jackson) have been knocked out of a game or two also – basically forcing 4th-string players into starting positions.

    That group above looks formidable. Coach Buh (and the rest of us) thought we were going to see some talented and experienced defensive players “flyin’ around out there” this fall. Instead we are getting a 3rd string freshman starting at middle LB. No offense to Nickerson (he’s doing the best he can), but, if Forbes were healthy, he’d be backing him up and simply hoping to make an impact on special teams.

    This spring depth chart analysis is laughable at this point…

    The sky isn’t falling. But the injury situation is catastrophic. Add that to a green offense at every key position and you get this season. The pendulum will swing back and all will be right with the world soon (well, a long year or two…), fellow Bear fans. Let’s stay positive and understand that this season is a fluky combination of bad circumstances. I have made no judgment on ANY of the coaches as of yet. This team was green and thin coming in to the season and with the injuries and inexperience we are getting what we might very well have expected following a sober assessment.

    Looking forward to the QB duel, at least there is still some intrigue to the season. The last few seasons were over before they began!

    Go Bears!

  • rotfogel

    Chasing history…the wrong type of history.

    Andy Buh.

    Any questions?

  • Gobears49


    You’ve summed up the Cal season so far quite nicely, at least on the defensive side of the ball. You get my award for best post of the year to date.

    I did my own checking and the Cal offensive yards per game this year is just slightly higher than the average per game for the entire prior season. But offensive production should go up for the rest of the season considering the competition level will go down a lot and hopefully won’t include a game in a rainstorm like the Oregon game.

  • 66Bear

    Hey Jeff.

    Why aren’t you reporting what is being reported in Seattle. They Bears have put decals on their helmets honoring Don James for tomorrow’s game. This preposterous decision must have Sandy Barbour’s fingerprints all over it. With the Huskie’s salivating to bury the discouraged and short-handed Bears in front of the salivating home crowd, what exactly is the message to our players and coaches to be paying homage to a man who turned the Huskie’s into the Bears’ biggest nemesis during the period that he coached the Huskies? It makes me want to go to the vomitorium and put my finger down my throat.

  • covinared

    Blake: you are spot on. The best news on all of this is that we have plenty of room for improvement.

    Does anyone know why Harrison Wilfey’s name does not come up? He was converted to DE with the switch over.

    I have no problem with honoring Don James.

  • 707 Bears

    This little nugget from the ESPN Pac 12 Blog:

    “The Bears rank 112th or worse in the nation in: rushing offense, total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin, pass efficiency defense and penalty yards per game.”

    Somewhere Lee Grosscup is saying, “run and stop the run and win the turnover battle and you’ll win a lot of games.” True that.

    Go Bears (there must be an upset somewhere this year)

  • al

    Best was also pulled from uw game 6 minutes into the THIRD QUARTER!

  • Easy Ed

    Honor Don James? A cheater whose illegally recruited team in the early nineties deprived the Pawlawski, White and Dawkins Bears a Rose Bowl. Honor him with a “$” sign on the helmets!

  • al

    Why so much venom towards Dykes & his staff? I’m the first to admit that it’s really hard to watch the games this year & even harder sitting inside Memorial Stadium watching Cal look so terrible! There’s no way for Cal to overcome their injuries & inexperience. The best coaches in the world wouldn’t be able to do anything with team – especially on defense. I doubt anyone can recall a worse injury situation than what Cal is going thru right now. Isn’t Coleman the only defensive player to start every game? They’ve started 3 different RBs due to fumbles & injuries & have lost 2 OL from an underperforming unit. The area I question the coaching is the playcalling in the redzone. Cal is terrible in the redzone! They can’t run so teams use dime coverage daring Cal to run. Figure it out coaches.

    I have no issues with Goff at QB but, with the season already done (for the most part), I think Kline should have been named starter at uw. I know there’s a few in here that are Kline Kline or no one but it doesn’t mean you have to hate so much. Isn’t Cal still your team? They say changing starters will affect Goff’s future but Cal needs to show some progress at the end of the season. Recruiting is already compromised & will be a major challenge. Cal normally collects most of their commits in the last 2 months but there’s not too many big time recruits left who aren’t already committed somewhere else – or are interested in Cal.

    This season has offered little comfort for Cal football fans but we have to soldier thru it. If it continues into next year then the seat heats up & if it lingers into year 3 then the seat becomes scalding hot. It’ll get better, just nit this year.

  • If Zach Kline is smart he’ll bail out after this season and get as far from the incompetent Cal coaching staff as possible. Zach, if you want to regress and see your skills erode, just stay in Berkeley. Hope you come to your senses.

  • 79alumni

    Is CAL under performing? Let’s all hope so. If Kline decides to leave .. Good luck to him. Hopefully he won’t end up at USC. As for y’all “new” alumni. Remember you wanted Tedford out. You got your wish. 3-9 don’t look so bad now, does it? IF CAL were playing at 1st string and at full strength .. most were hoping for 6-6 or 7-5 minimum. Unfortunately the season isn’t working out that way. Maybe it’s the curse of being CAL?? So.. beating AZ? Doubtful. Beating USC? Hopefull! How about CU? Possible! Stanford? Now that would make the season, eh? Go Bears!