Cal football wraps up one of the worst seasons in program history

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Kore Chan/File

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On Saturday, No. 8 Stanford mauled the Cal football team, 63-13, at Stanford Stadium in the 116th rendition of the Big Game. The Cardinal (9-2, 7-2 in the Pac-12) scored the most points in the rivalry’s history, and the final score represents the widest Big Game margin ever.

The Bears loaded one last defeat onto beleaguered shoulders to finish out the season with 11 losses — the most in program history.

The impact of all that went wrong this season leaves a stunned silence in its wake.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said head coach Sonny Dykes after Saturday’s rout. “Haven’t been a part of it — obviously haven’t done a very good job dealing with it. So it’s on me to figure out how to deal with it and go from there.”

The numbers are staggering in their austerity. The 2013 Bears (1-11, 0-9) posted the worst record in program history. Combined with a 3-9 finish in 2012, the 4-20 record for the past two years denotes the worst two-year stretch since the first Cal team took the field in 1886.

The team’s sole win came in a close shave against Portland State, an FCS competitor. Cal ended the season without an FBS (formerly Division I) win for the first time since before 1900 and hasn’t topped an FBS opponent in its last 16 outings. The program’s losing streak against Pac-12 opponents now gapes through 14 games.

So it comes as a shock that true freshman quarterback Jared Goff broke the single-season passing yardage record Saturday with 3,508 total yards.

The stat is tempered somewhat, however, by the fact that Goff was under center in an unbalanced offensive attack. He threw 531 passes this season compared to 424 rushing attempts.

But the record took a back seat to frustration Saturday.

“In 20 years, it might be cool to look back on,” Goff said. “I’m pretty upset with the way the game went, the way our season went.”

The team has struggled with widespread maladies more than any other obstacle this season. Slow burning or sudden, each hit reverberated through a Cal team already lacking in veteran experience.

“When you have a lot of youth, typically it takes a while to get it all to come together,” Dykes said Monday.

Twenty-five total players from the preseason depth chart missed at least one game due to injury this season. The total missed games between those athletes — five of whom sat out the entire season — added up to 138.

The defense especially felt the absence of crucial veterans such as juniors linebacker Brennan Scarlett and defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil, both of whom missed the entire season. Junior defensive back Avery Sebastian suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the season opener and sat out the rest of the year. Junior linebacker Nick Forbes’ back injury forced him to miss 10 games and have a limited role in the two contests he entered.

At one point earlier in the year, defensive coordinator Andy Buh called it a “merry-go-round of players getting injured.”

But even the merry-go-round doesn’t explain away the abysmal performance of Buh’s squad. At the close of Saturday’s contest, the defense had allowed 551 points on the year, ranking dead last in national standings and worst in program history. In nine different games, the Bears allowed more than 40 points. The corps also coughed up 6,533 total yards — good for third-to-last in the nation.

“When we walk out of the game, we don’t feel like one of the worst defenses,” said senior linebacker Lucas King after the Stanford loss.

Unfortunately for King and the rest of the Bears, numbers don’t lie. Backup quarterback Zach Kline was at least able to acknowledge the team’s all-time low Saturday evening when he said the team has nowhere to go but up.

“We know what it feels like to be the worst,” he said.

Annie Gerlach covers football. Contact her at [email protected]