The Worst: Cal Golden Bears Passing Games


Once upon a time, the California Golden Bears were known for their high flying passing attack. It isn’t quite as prevalent today (they aren’t exactly leading in a lot of statistical passing categories this season).

Still, the point is when you think Cal Golden Bears, you think passing.

For this edition of the Worst, we’re gonna take a look at some of those Cal losses in which the passing wasn’t so great.  It’s all narrowed down to 2000-onward. And to narrow it down even further, we went for games in which the offense had less than 250 passing yards. You’d be surprised how many of those games there are.

It was tough picking out five. Are they the worst five? I guess!

Anyway, let’s get going!

5. Cal held to three points in loss to USC– 2009

It’s 2009 and we’re talking about Matt Barkley versus Kevin Riley. Strange times these are! The only points for Cal came in the fourth quarter thanks to a Vince D’Amato 29-yard field goal.

The passing in this game was less than stellar. Riley completed 15-of-40 passes for 199 yards with one interception. This was far from the worst passing performance of the season for Riley. He passed for 123 yards that season in a loss to Oregon.

The USC loss was chosen because Oregon will be featured on here later.

Riley crossed the 300-yard threshold once in 2009, but he did almost get one during the Maryland game.

4. Boller held to 89 yards passing against Wazzu– 2000

It’s worth pointing out that 2000 pre-dates Jeff Tedford. However, we do have sophomore quarterback Kyle Boller, who didn’t necessarily have the best season.

In the game against the Cougars, Boller completed just 11 passes out of 31 attempts for just 89 yards and one touchdown and one interception. He averaged 2.9 yards per attempt.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that Boller completed 7-of-12 for 131 yards in a win over USC.

Cal went on to finish the season 3-8 under then-head coach Tom Holmoe. Of course, this won’t be the last time we see this 2000 Cal team on this list. In fact, it might be coming up sooner than you think.

3. Stanford’s Randy Fasani Wins the QB duel over Boller– 2000

Okay, maybe we had it set up for No. 3. This game was one of Boller’s better passing games…if you consider his completion percentage. Boller finished the game 22-of-34 for 195 yards and one touchdown.

There was just one problem for Boller….he got picked off four times.

Meanwhile, Boller’s counterpart Randy Fasani had three touchdown passes and 242 yards.

Cal had the edge when it came to total yards thanks to Saleem Muhammad (99) and Joe Igber (89) rushing for a combined 188 yards.

Stanford won this game 36-30 in overtime despite rushing the ball 41 times for 48 yards. This will make a good Worst column someday.

2. A Less Than Stellar Day for Aaron Rodgers?– 2003

During his time with the Cal Golden Bears, Aaron Rodgers never had a passing game in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes…except for that one time against Oregon State in 2003.

I find it hard to believe that the same man who threw a game-winning touchdown pass in the blinding sun in Dallas the other day would struggle against Oregon State. That doesn’t sound like someone who would get a new truck from State Farm and go on trips with his dog.

It’s fair to suggest that Cal’s game against Oregon State that season was the worst passing performance of Rodgers’ tenure there. And he was only picked off once in that game.

Rodgers completed nine passes out of 34 attempts for just 52 yards. Meanwhile, his counterpart Derek Anderson completed 18-of-27 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

What can you do but shake it off? Rodgers picked it up from there. This is probably one of the fewest times I’ll get serious like this in the column.

Chris Brown of Smart Football once described Rodgers as being the closest we’ll ever get to having another Montana.

And he’s right! I’m not sure another player of Rodgers’ caliber will come along ever.

It’s amazing to see how he progressed from his first season at Cal to now undoubtedly becoming one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. There are very few guys that can do what he’s capable of.

Truth be told, very few people will likely remember that Rodgers had this kind of game against Oregon State. However, I’d be remiss (as a sad Chicago fan) if I didn’t bring it up.

You would think I’d put him at No. 1. HOWEVER…

1. Ayoob struggles in loss to Oregon– 2005

From Aaron Rodgers to Joe Ayoob. What a transition!

How do you lose a game in which Marshawn Lynch runs for 189 yards and two touchdowns? I didn’t think that was possible. How!? Well, you throw three interceptions and finish with 88 passing yards on 10-for-26 passing.

This game did go to overtime, thanks to a 52-yard touchdown run in the third quarter by Lynch. But the game ultimately went to Oregon.

It wasn’t the best game for Ayoob. In fact, he had another rough game for Cal in 2005. Against USC, he went 9-for-19, with 98 yards and four interceptions.

Hopefully, this wasn’t too painful for you. Obviously, there have been better passing games, but it’s important to remember the ones that didn’t go well.

(Stats and info courtesy of Sports Reference)