UPDATE: Here’s my game story:
It never rained, as predicted, at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
But Cal succumbed to the same aerial downpour it’s been pelted by all season, and failed to earn bowl eligibility after a 42-35 loss to BYU.
The Bears (5-7) needed a victory to earn their first postseason bid since 2011, but could not stop BYU quarterback Christian Stewart, a former walk-on, whose fifth touchdown pass of the game, a 38-yarder to Jordan Leslie, broke a tie with 2:39 left.
It was the third straight week Cal could secure bowl eligibility with a sixth victory, and it fell short each time.
“Getting over the hump in college football is a hard thing to do,” said second-year coach Sonny Dykes, whose team progressed from a 1-11 record in 2013. “We had opportunities to do it this year and just didn’t get it done.”
Sophomore Jared Goff threw four touchdown passes, three of them to Kenny Lawler, and had four shots at Lawler in the end zone in the final 30 seconds but could not deliver the game-tying play.
“I was trying to find a hole in there, trying to find Kenny, hoping he could make a play,” Goff said.
As usual, offense wasn’t the issue. Cal scored 459 points this season – the most since 1920 and the second-most in school history. Goff set school records with 3,973 yards and 35 touchdowns passing.
But even an offense more prolific than the ones directed by Aaron Rodgers in 2003 and 2004 could not overcome a defense that gave up more passing yards (4,406) and TD passes (42) than any FBS team in history.
“We take full responsibility for it. We know what we have to do to get better,” junior safety Stefan McClure said. “It’s all stuff we did. It’s heartbreaking, especially the way it came down to the last drive.”
BYU’s decisive drive began with 4:27 left after Dykes opted to punt on a fourth-and-1 play from the Cal 34-yard line.
Asked how close he came to going for it, Dykes said, “Looking back, obviously I wish I had. It’s one of those things if you don’t get it you probably lose the ballgame.”
So he asked his defense to get the ball back. It didn’t happen.