- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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We continue our team-by-team review of the Pac-12 with California.
Offense: The first thing that jumps out, by the very nature of Sonny Dykes’ offense, is the passing yards. The Bears, behind true freshman quarterback Jared Goff, were third in the conference with 331.4 passing yards per game and 3,977 total yards in the air. So they were able to move the ball. What stands out next, however, is the scoring offense, which was last in the Pac-12 at 23 points per game. So despite moving the ball, the Bears weren’t able to generate points. And that’s the name of the game. When you look at the pass efficiency numbers, Cal was last in the league. On the year, the Bears scored just 32 touchdowns. They were last in third-down conversions (33.6 percent), last in turnover margin (-15) and last in red zone offense (72.1 percent). Khalfani Muhammad was actually pretty steady on the ground, averaging six yards per carry and 445 net yards to go with four touchdowns, but the running game wasn’t able to do enough to open up the passing game. Brendan Bigelow, who seemed poised for a breakout season, rushed for just 421 yards and four yards per carry. Goff completed 60.3 percent of his throws with 18 touchdowns to 10 interceptions while totaling 3,508 yards. And he did break the school’s single-season passing record. Bryce Treggs had 77 catches for 751 yards and Chris Harper hauled in 70 catches for 852 yards. The foundation for an explosive pass offense is in place, but the Bears simply weren't able to put it all together in Year 1. Grade: D-
Defense: The Bears were last in the league in scoring defense, total defense, passing defense and 10th in rushing defense. Oh yeah, last in pass efficiency defense also. It was not a good year. Injuries played a major role with several projected starters -- including Mustafa Jalil, Stefan McClure, Nick Forbes, Brennan Scarlett and Avery Sebastian being lost for the year or missing significant time. This led to a lack of veteran leadership when things started to spiral and youngsters who should have been redshirting were forced into action. They gave up at least 40 points in nine games, yielded 30 points to FCS Portland State (Cal’s only win of the year) and were last nationally in points allowed at 45.9 (there were a few pick-sixes and special teams points sprinkled in there as well). No way around it, this was a bad, bad year for Cal’s defense. And as a result, defensive coordinator Andy Buh was demoted and the staff was shaken up. There were just five interceptions (from five different players) and the defense produced just 18 sacks on the year. Grade: F
Special teams: Kicker Vincenzo D’Amato was one of the more accurate kickers in league, converting on 17 of 20 kicks -- including a long of 51 yards against UCLA. His only misses were from 45, 46 and 50 yards -- though he did convert five kicks of 40 yards or longer. But Cal failed to return either a kick or a punt for a touchdown and gave up five punt returns for scores (including a blocked punt for a score) and one kick return for a touchdown. Their punt return average was last in the league and the kick coverage team was mediocre. Outside of D’Amato, the special teams were unimpressive. Grade: C-
Overall: Tough, tough first year for Dykes and Co. In some ways, it was the perfect storm of a new coach, a true freshman quarterback, a tough schedule and a rash of injuries the likes we haven’t seen in a long, long time that all contributed to Cal’s worst season since going winless in 1999. The Bears have now lost 16 straight games to FBS opponents and questions are already swirling about the future of the head coach and the decision-makers in the athletic department. The bright side is that, hopefully, the Bears will be healthier next year and a lot of the young players who were forced into action this season will gain from that experience. But if you’re a Cal fan, there’s not much to feel good about when you look at 2013. Grade: F