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Rating the Bears: The Interception Bowl

A fitting end to the season, for better or for worse.

Cheez-It Bowl - California v TCU
Everything about this image screams “INTERCEPTION IMMINENT”
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2018 was certainly a memorable year for Cal football. Some memories are great: we defeated USC, we upset the Pac-12 champs, we completed another sweep of a home-and-away series against a Power 5 team, we forced about a million turnovers, and we made opposing offenses (besides UCLA) miserable for three agonizing hours every Saturday. There were some events that were memorable for the wrong reasons: that UCLA game which I still believe is the worst Cal football performance I have ever seen (42-3 ain’t got nothing on that loss), an incredible number of turnovers returned for TDs, and an offense whose ineptitude rivaled Andy Buh’s 2013 defense. Finally, we had plenty of weird moments: Garbers’ interception that was nearly returned for a TD before Garbers then forced a fumble that turned into a touchback, convincing Chris Petersen to bench his four-year starting QB for some mindboggling reason, and two pick sixes in the first two minutes of the Colorado game.

It was thus quite appropriate that last week’s game featured some brilliance (surrendering 28 total passing yards), some ineptitude (the lowest passer efficiency rating since...the Holmoecaust? I can’t find any game worse than this, but I don’t have stats going back that far), and some profound weirdness (two interceptions on two illegal forward passes in the same game). Let’s take a look at what you all thought of a game that will long be remembered by legions of traumatized Cal fans.

Rating the Bears

Average Standard Deviation
Pass Offense 8.4 16.5
Rush Offense 29.0 22.4
Pass Defense 90.1 17.0
Rush Defense 62.0 23.5
Special Teams 54.9 23.1
Coaching 41.7 25.6
Overall 36.4 22.0
Regular season wins in 2019 6.91 1.71

We begin with the second-lowest passing score we have ever seen in the ten seasons we’ve been running this series. In case you’re curious (and because we’re Cal fans, I know you are), the worst was Brock Mansion’s performance against the Huskies in 2010 when he completed 12/23 passes for 92 yards and 1 interception. Fun times. The ground game earned an abysmal score, although many of us would have loved to see us abandon the pass completely in the second half.

On the other side of the ball was the stingiest pass defense many of us have ever seen. It helped that TCU’s QB was atrocious. The TCU run defense had a surprisingly successful day after wearing down the Cal defense late in the second half. Still, the Bears held them to a single TD that was largely due to a long punt return. A merely average offense would have propelled the Bears to a blowout win.

Special teams, coaching, and overall all earned mediocre scores. Finally, I asked you all to pick the record you’re expecting from the Bears next year. Despite over 100 submissions, identical numbers of you voted for 6-6 and 7-5, each received 23.4% of votes. 8-4 was the most common response with 27.9%. However, the average fell to 6.91 due to a handful of 5-7 votes. If we went 7-5 with this offense, it’s hard to imagine we would fare much worse next year.

Ratings Comparisons

We have never played TCU before, so we obviously can’t compare last week’s performance to other performances against them. So I compared the scores to non-conference and bowl games against Power 5 opponents.

Comparing last week’s performance (gold) to other performances against Power 5 out-of-conference opponents

We’ve had a great track record against Power 5 teams in recent years, even in years when we failed to achieve bowls. As a result, last week’s performance rates quite poorly compared to other P5 games (the pass defense score is an obvious outlier).

Now let’s compare this to other games during the Wilcox Era.

Comparing last week’s performance (gold) to the rest of the Wilcox era (blue)

Not surprisingly, this was the lowest pass offense score of the Wilcox Era, and the run offense wasn’t far behind. Pass defense rates among the top 3 while the rest of the categories sat somewhere near the middle or slightly below average. Speaking of below average, let’s hand out some awards to the worst scores of the week.


One last time we have our trusty triumvirate of awards.

Old Blues

Name Rating
1. My Eyes are Bleeding 0 (0.0%)
2. Duff 30 (4.3%)
3. MadCalDiseaz 90 (12.9%)
3. Dislocated duck 90 (12.9%)
5. CaliforniaPaul 101 (14.4%)

I’m really surprised there was only one 0, although it is a crime against Oski to give a 0 to that passing defense even if it’s in jest.

Sunshine Pumpers

Next we have the highest scores of the week.

Name Rating
1. RememberTheCalamo 700 (100.0%)
2. dmh65 546 (78.0%)
3. Goldenlikethebears 500 (71.4%)
4. devinmodsterfanclub 469 (67.0%)
5. sacalum 465 (66.4%)

Once again, Remember the Calamo is inebriated on optimism.

The Voice of Reason

Finally, we have the scores that were closest to the community average.

Name Deviation
1. SacNat 6.38
2. Bearonamo 6.68
3. sammy25 6.90
4. California Love 7.02
5. Mike Zillion 8.02

And now we have all your comments from a delightful evening in Arizona (hey, here’s an idea: let’s never play a football game in that state again because they’re always excruciating).


Pass “Offense”


dmh65: Perfectly awful, but perfect is perfect, so I gave it a 100

RememberTheCalamo: I’m glad they let Forrest play... Although I might have preferred them put Garbers back in after a while.

Willis Chong: Completely nonfunctional. I thought Forrest coming in was a spark, and then he threw more picks. Modster can’t start soon enough, assuming he’s the answer. We all though BMC was the answer over the summer and look where that got us.

ShittingBear: Baldwin couldn’t pull a football out of his own rectum. Don’t blame the players, this is totally on a completely inept offensive coordinator and his band of half witted coaches.

texashaterforlife: Passing game is so bad I want Cal to switch to the triple option. Run it all the time.

FireBaldwinOnAMesa: Look, it’s nice to have Forrest play in his last game with the team, especially since bowls don’t really matter [I]that[/I] much and Garbers wasn’t making a lot of headway. But it was also painfully obvious why Forrest hasn’t been the starter during his time here. At least young Chase has some legs.

But yeah, a 0:5 TD:INT ratio ain’t going to cut it.

calpaladin: If you don’t throw the ball, you can’t throw interceptions

Death to Smoochy: Titanic, Hindenburg, Little Big Horn, 2019 Cheez-It Bowl.

christopher_h: The Cal passing game was about as ugly as TCU’s mascot: that weird... personified STD.

sacalum: Anybody old enough to remember the 10 interceptions vs. UCLA in 1978 on national TV? It felt like crap then, and it feels like crap now!

Running Game

Clbear: Thank you, Pat, for everything thing you’ve done. Chris Brown looks to be promising.

BigGame88: Should have gone to all read option run plays

Willis Chong: I am slightly encouraged at seeing what Chris Brown will bring in next year. Of course, tomorrow, we will hear he will transfer.

BrooklynBear: CBJ has some good get up but man Gentle Williams and Daltoso seemed to struggle mightily.

Jacobs.: First of all, heartbroken that Laird got injured. What a horrible way to end his storybook career at Cal. Second, why couldn’t we just for the love of football RUN RUN RUN when all the QB’s do is throw picks? THIS IS REALITY CALLING BALDWIN - WAKE UP BALDWIN!!!

Pass Defense

California Love: What did they get, 8 yards? Pass defense deserved to win.

bearlygolden: I love those guys.

FrmrG8r: Amazing. Feel sorry for these guys.

FireBaldwinOnAMesa: Outside of one pass that nearly cost the game, impeccable. About as perfect as it gets.

calpaladin: That had to be the best passing defensive performance ever.

Jacobs.: Stellar. Stifling Jalen Reagor completely!

christopher_h: They get a 100 from me: they had more INT return yards than TCU passing yards, plus 4 INTs. Jalen Reagor didn’t have a single reception, and they had to draw up some wacky plays just to get the ball in his hands. How could they possibly play any better?

Mike Zillion: Gerald Alexander for President

Run Defense

Duff: Solid until fatigue became more apparent

California Love: Gave away too many yards, but when they only get 7 points in regulation, hard to fault too much.

1988goldenbear: They missed a couple of tackles and were totally gassed at the end, but my goodness what a great overall game from the defense.

Willie The Pimp: It’s solid, but even rocks will get worn down by water, and the poor guys just ran out of gas.

sacman701: Mostly poor, mitigated by the late stop on 4th and 2. TCU is not an elite running team, but we made them look like something close to that.

christopher_h: Well, it was the TCU run game that finally did Cal in, so obviously this needs to improve. Olonilua is a tough RB to bring down, but Cal is going to face a number of tough RBs of a similar mold next year: OSU’s Jermar Jefferson, ASU’s Eno Benjamin, UCLA’s Joshua Kelley, etc.

Special Teams

My Eyes are Bleeding: Lets keep kicking to Reagor. I like that plan!

1988goldenbear: That one runback really hurt, but I can’t blame Coutts from kicking to Reagor since he hadn’t done squat the entire game.

Willis Chong: There is a good chance that if we punted that ball out of bounds in the 3rd quarter, we win the game. The rest of it was okay.

Juicy Jay: Mostly good except that huge kick return that blew the game, feels like a common occurrence with this unit

BrooklynBear: Excellent except for Bunting missing his lane on the return by #1


My Eyes are Bleeding: Fire everyone, hire a new staff then fire them again because this game sucked

hardtobecalfan: no faith in the offensive coaches; defensive coaches need a raise

FrmrG8r: 3 weeks to prepare for this? Really? What the hell has been going on in the offensive meetings???!!!

1988goldenbear: The defensive coaches were stellar once again. The offensive coaches put in another consistent performance. Sadly.

Luck1715: Defense was very good. Offense was flat out embarrassing. Someone’s gotta go as we need a serious QB coach and a WR coach.

texashaterforlife: Defensive staff is A- while Offensive staff is F- and very offensively disrespectful to high school coaches everywhere.

MadCalDiseaz: Beau Baldwin just committed professional suicide tonight, and I suggest Wilcox happily oblige his obvious burning desire to lose his job.

Tommy Guerino: In my opinion Coach Justin Wilcox needs to find a way to have balance on both sides of the ball. Tedford had Balance, Dykes did not have balance he was more of an offensive minded coach and did not care about the Defense, we were able to win games because of the Offense because that is when we had Jared Goff that can score in like 3 minutes. Wilcox is not there yet, Wilcox has been a Defensive mind coach which has gotten our D from being the worst D in the nation to the Best Defense in the Pac-12 in Turnovers and it was the D that gave us the position to win games, but he does care about the offense he just needs to find the balance for both sides of the ball. If he soon realize that. my hope is that he will find balance on both sides of the ball by the end of spring ball and before the 2019 Football Season comes upon us we be fine.

GoldenBear88: Defense rocked again. They are really fun to watch and you can tell that they are well coached and disciplined. Offense? I have a feeling that BB and Tui are on the hot seat and they know it. We showed ZERO improvement on offense throughout the season and even seemed to regress as the season unfolded.

sacman701: The playcalling was far too aggressive, especially after we went up 7-0. We should have stuck to the running game, or at least made it clear that the QBs were not to throw into coverage under any circumstances. I don’t understand the decision to play Forrest the whole second half unless Garbers was banged up. As poor as Garbers was, he may still have a role to play in the future and could have used some additional work against a good defense.

christopher_h: They had almost a month to prepare for this game, and this was the best the could do on offense? They knew that TCU would be able to get a ton of pressure, but instead of having plays drawn up to use that against them, Cal QBs were scrambling and forcing awful throws to players who weren’t open. Why couldn’t we play it as safe as TCU did in the second half? Why weren’t we throwing more screen passes and other safe plays? I still don’t understand how the offense can still be so bad.

Mike Zillion: I just don’t understand why we kept asking our quarterbacks to throw deep downfield when they all showed that they lacked the judgment and arm talent to do it


My Eyes are Bleeding: I usually joke about bad football making me need to take a dump... this game succeeded. My porcelain throne awaits

ballboy: It was a slow and painful death.

clbear: I wasn’t expecting too much change on offense, and that’s what I got. I was hoping Laird would get his 1000yd, so it was sad to see him on the sidelines. Hope his injuries wasn’t anything too serious. Got my tickets renewed already, so on to next year...Go Bears!

FrmrG8r: Speechless. Just a deep sadness in the pit of my stomach for a defensive which may have come further in 2 years than any in NCAA history.

Remember the Calamo: Some Cal students showed up and put on some Cal uniforms and played a lot of defense. That was about what I expected. Did we win any games in which the defense didn’t score?

BigGame88: This was another game that will sting for a bit, but I’m sad to say it pretty much went the way I expected it to go. All D all day and no O. Big thanks to the seniors who ended their Cal careers with a solid season. Here’s to continued progress next year! Go Bears!

ShittingBear: Defensive players and coaches should receive CAL fans highest appreciation and thanks for a great year. If Baldwin is still a CAL coach next week, I will not renew my season tickets next year after 41 years. I have never in my life seen a team that has absolutely no hope of scoring in any offensive manner.

FireBaldwinOnAMesa: This game somehow perfectly encapsulated the season. Generally phenomenal defense that was betrayed by a criminally ineffective offense and a glut of turnovers. A run defense that started good but got beaten down without any offensive support. A few creative plays propping up otherwise uninspired playcalling. Scoring based solely on capitalizing off turnovers. A promising mid-game drive scuttled by a red zone interception. Barely hanging on in regulation due to some special teams scares. A one score game decided by a late turnover.

RIP Cal Football 2018. May it rise again harder and stronger, and maybe with a real offense next time.

TFumk911!: Overall the season was a success. Beat some good teams and went to a bowl game. I think realistic expectations for next year would be 1 or 2 more season wins and a bowl game win.

Jacobs.: Down three wide receivers, down two running backs, rotating through an endless progression of QB’s with Bowers gone... I guess I should expect the kind of offense we had. I still think that Wilcox has the program back on track, and I think we owe him enough benefit of doubt to decide whether or not we retain coaching staff. But boy do I miss the competency of ANDY LUDWIG as offensive coordinator right now! ARGHHHHH!!!!

sacman701: Up against another squad of rock fighters, we just played the most exaggerated rock fight of the year. But we usually have better judgment about using our limited offensive weapons. The play calling was terrible.

christopher_h: If you told me before the game that Cal would have 4 INTs and 28 total passing yards, I would have thought it was a blowout. This is the best Cal defense I’ve ever seen, and yet they still managed to get dragged down by an even worse offense. When I was watching the game, I couldn’t decide if I felt better about us having the ball or not. I thought that with the defense on the field, we’d at least have a chance to score. If we could just upgrade our offense from “atrociously bad” to “merely subpar,” Cal would be a force to be reckoned with.

Bearonamo: Some good, some bad, some ugly. Cal football is a work in progress

Thanks to all of you who participated, whether it was only in this final report card or if you participated all season. We’ll see you again after the season opener against UC Davis. I pray to Oski that we score more than 7 points in that game.