So this is what rock bottom looks like.
The Cal Golden Bears were mercifully led to the end of one of the worst—perhaps the worst—season in the history of the program on Saturday afternoon at Stanford Stadium, enduring a 63-13 pummeling that marked the most lopsided game in the 116 meetings of The Big Game.
Stanford not only kept the Stanford Axe, they repeatedly bludgeoned the hapless Bears with it, piling up 42 points in the first half.
The previous record for margin of victory in the Big Game was a 41-0 Stanford win in 1930 and this marks four consecutive wins in the series for the Cardinal and a 59-46-11 advantage in the series overall.
Cal’s record-setting defense was in fine form—allowing 63 points and 603 yards to the Cardinal. The Golden Bears surrendered 551 points this season, a school record. They were torched for at least 60 points twice in the last three weeks and gave up at least 50 four different times.
But at least Sonny Dykes’ vaunted “Bear Raid” offense was able to hang a whole 13 points on the Cardinal defense, so there’s that.
Of course, the defense’s problems aren’t all the fault of the coaching staff or the scheme. There were 13 players who were projected starters or have started before for the Bears who are out with injuries or have missed more than one game. Three players expected to play key roles on defense in 2013—defensive end Gabe King, linebacker-defensive end Chris McCain and linebacker David Wilkerson—are no longer with the program.
All 11 starters on offense from today will be back next year. Nine of the guys who started on defense today will be back, along with six others who missed all or most of this season due to injury, including a talented quintet in defensive end Brennan Scarlett, defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil, linebacker Nick Forbes, cornerback Stefan McClure and safety Avery Sebastian.
Cal’s been down before—any fan who’s followed the program for awhile remembers the mess Tom Holmoe left behind. Jeff Tedford came in and turned the program around, for awhile, but he left it in disarray as well.
Dykes has a big job and the first year was dismal, abysmal, just about every “-mal” that you can think of, enough to make a fan want to reach for the Pepto Bismol.
But Jared Goff, the true freshman quarterback, showed signs of great potential and deserves credit for going out there and getting his teeth kicked in week after week. On Saturday, he was 10-for-19 for 194 yards and a touchdown and for the season threw for 3,508 yard and 18 scores with 10 picks.
The offensive line was a mess. The running game struggled all season long and will finish near the bottom of the NCAA with 122.1 yards a game this season.
No one expects the Bears to jump up and join Stanford and Oregon at the top of the Pac-12 North, at least not next year. But it is fair to expect much better than 1-11 and 0-9 in the conference.