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Cal Football

The 10 Greatest Statistical QB Seasons in Cal Football History

December 29, 2022

Though the Golden Bears have only had sporadic success in their nearly century and a half of football, the program has still produced more than its share of top-flight signal callers over the years.

The game of football has evolved over the decades from a run-dominated style of offense to a wide-open pass-heavy affair. For example, in 1954 1st team All-American QB Paul Larson led the nation in total offense with just 1,537 yards for the 5-5 Golden Bears, completing 64% of his

Cal Athletics
 Cal QB Paul Larson

passes -a stellar number for that era of football where anything above 50% was usually a solid season. In 1958, QB Joe Kapp led the Bears to their only Rose Bowl appearance in the past 64 years but completed just 56-of-97 passes (57.7%) for 649 yards, with 2 TDs and 5 interceptions.

Craig Morton was Cal’s top QB in the 60s and went on to an 18-year NFL career but his best season was in 1964 when he completed 185-of-308 passes (60.1%) for 2,121 yards and 13 TDs and 9 interceptions -a very pedestrian season by today’s standards.

Former 4-year starting QB Troy Taylor was the Bears’ most successful QB in the 80s, though his career stats were fairly pedestrian. His top season was in his second year at the helm in 1987 under first-year Cal head coach Bruce Snyder where Tayfor completed 169-of-278 passes (60.8%) for 2.081 yards and 18 TDs and 12 interceptions in Cal’s 3-6-1 season.

It goes without saying that stats alone don’t win games and sometimes the intangible traits of a QB can have more impact than the numbers would suggest so with that in mind, we’ll give a big caveat to the Top 10 Cal QB statistical seasons and rely on the numbers alone to tell the story, leaving subjectivity out of it.

That said, here are the Top 10 statistically-best seasons in Cal football history:

10 -Rich Campbell 1979 QBR 140.7 - Campbell led the Bears to a 5-4 Pac-10 record and 6-6 overall after losing to Temple in the Garden State Bowl in New Jersey. The 6’4 first-round pick completed 241-of-360 passes (66.9%) for 2,859 yards and 15 TDs and 12 interceptions, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt. 

9 - Mike Pawlawski 1991 QBR 141.1 - In 1991, Pawlawski’s gritty leadership and take-no-prisoners style of play led Cal to their best season in 40 years, with the Bears finishing 10-2 and ranked #7. The senior QB completed 191-of-316 passes (60.4) for 2,517 yards and 21 TDs and 13 interceptions. His 8.0 yards per attempt was the second-highest YPA in Cal history to that point in time. The Cal Hall of Famer also led the Bears to a resounding 37-13 thrashing of #13 Clemson in the Citrus Bowl.

Otto Greul, Jr / Getty Images
Cal QB Mike Pawlawski

8 - Nate Longshore 2006 141.6 QBR - The 2006 season did not start off looking like a Top 10 QB performance season for soph QB Nat Longshore. The Bears rode into Knoxville rated #9 after their 8-4 prior season with a roster full of talent and were whooped up on by Tennessee, 35-18. Longshore split reps with 2005 starter Joe Ayoob in the opener, going 11-for-20 with 1 INT and no TDs in the loss. However, both Longshore and the Bears rebounded in a big way that season, winning 8 straight, most in blowout fashion, to climb back up the rankings to #8, and finishing 10-3 with a 45-10 blowout win over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl, finishing the season ranked #14. Longshore finished the season completing 227-of-377 (60.2%) for 3.021 yards and 24 TDs and 13 interceptions and a QBR of 141.6.

7 - Aaron Rodgers 2003 146.6 QBR - The future Hall of Famer came in with little acclaim from Butte College near his hometown of Chico and started as a backup to Reggie Robertson. Robertson got off to a strong start, completing 63% of his passes with 9 TDs and 3 interceptions and a stellar QBR of 154.2 but after struggling to a 1-3 start, head coach Jeff Tedford made the call for Rodgers, who led the Bears to a win at Illinois followed by a 3 OT upset victory over USC that ironically enough, Robertson finished after an injury to Rodgers. Overall, Rodgers led the Bears to a 7-3 record as a starter and an Insight Bowl win over Virginia Tech, completing 215-of-349 passes (61.6%) for 2.903 yards and 19 TDs with 5 interceptions for the season, averaging a stellar 8.3 yards per attempt before departing early as a first-round draft pick in the 2005 NFL draft.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Cal QB Jared Goff

6 - Jared Goff 2014 147.6 QBR - After a solid start as a true frosh starter in Cal’s dreadful 2013 1-11 season where he wasn’t able to overcome Cal’s horrendous defensive performance, the soph QB took a strong step forward in his second season as QB1, completing 316-of-509 passes (62.1%) for 3,973 yards and 35 TDs and 7 interceptions in Cal’s prolific Bear Raid offense under head coach Sonny Dykes and OC Tony Franklin. The Bears improved to 5-7 in 2014, starting impressively with a road win over Northwestern and narrowly missing a bowl opportunity after a tight 42-35 loss to BYU in the season finale.

5 - Chase Garbers 2019 148.9 QBR - In the third year of head coach Justin Wilcox’s tenure, the program looked like it was on a strong trajectory, finishing 8-5 with a Red Box Bowl win over Illinois and a young soph QB in Garbers who won every game he started and finished in 2019, completing 131-of-215 passes (60.9%) for 1,772 yards and 14 TDs and 3 interceptions. Garbers 

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Cal QB Chase Garbers

also presented a threat with his feet, rushing for 223 yards and 3 TDs, including his heroic 2019 Big Game TD gallup in the final minute to give the Bears a thrilling 24-20 Big Game win at Stanford. He also averaged a stellar 8.2 yards per attempt on the season.

4 - Pat Barnes 1996 150.1 QBR - In what would have to be considered the most surprising of the Top 10 QBR seasons for Cal QBs, the 3-year starter had one of the Bears’ best statistical seasons in ‘96 in head coach Steve Mariucci’s lone season at the helm before departing to the NFL as the 49ers head coach in ‘97. The Bears got off to a roaring start in ‘96, going 5-0 and rising to a Top 10

Cal Athletics
Cal QB Pat Barnes

ranking after defeating #17 USC but it all came crashing down after a heartbreaking Barnes’ fumble at the goal line in the last minute in their upset loss at WSU. That started a streak where they lost 6 of their last 7 games, including a 42-38 loss to Navy in the Aloha Bowl to finish 6-6. Barnes remained effective throughout most of the season however, completing 250-of-420 passes (59.5%) for 3.499 yards and 31 TDs and 8 interceptions at an 8.3 yards per attempt clip.

3 - Aaron Rodgers 2004 154.3 QBR - After his stellar soph season for the Bears in 2003, the future Hall of Famer came back even stronger in 2004, narrowly missing an upset victory over #1 USC at the LA Coliseum, leading the Bears to a 10-2 record and #9 final ranking. Rodgers completed 209-of-316 passes (66.1%) for 2,566 yards and 24 TDs and 8 interceptions, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt before declaring for the draft after his junior season.

Chronicle / Kurt Rogers
Cal QB Aaron Rodgers

2 - Jared Goff 2015 161.2 QBR - His third season behind center proved to be his best, propelling the junior QB to the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Rams following the 2015 season where he led the Bears to their first bowl game in 4 years, a 55-35 win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in the Bears’ 8-5 season. Goff completed 341-of-529 passes (64.5) for an astounding 4,714 yards and 43 TDs and 13 interceptions, averaging a sterling 8.9 yard per attempt.

1- Dave Barr 1993 164.5 QBR - In one of the other biggest surprises of the Bears’ Top 10 statistical seasons, the former 3-year starter from nearby Concord High had his best season as a junior, completing 187-of-275 passes (68.0%) for 2,619 yards and 21 TDs and 12 interceptions, leading the Bears to a 9-4 record and a 37-3 blowout win over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl, finishing ranked #24. Adding to the standout nature of Barr’s top statistical season is the fact that he led the Bears to a 9-0 record in games he started and finished, with backups Kerry McGonigal and Pat Barnes struggling in his absence, losing all four games they started or predominantly played. His stellar 9.5 yards per attempt still easily ranks as the highest YPA in Cal history as does his 68% completion percentage for a full season.

Cal QB Dave Barr

Honorable Mention:

Joe Roth 1975 QBR 139.9 - The Cal legend led the Bears to a share of the Pac-8 title in 1975. The Cal Hall of Famer completed 126-of-226 passes (55.8%) for 1,880 yards and 14 TDs and 7 interceptions - a solid

Cal Athletics
Cal QB Joe Roth

though not spectacular statistical season,

though his inspiring leadership more than made up for any statistical shortfalls in the Bears’ 8-3 season.

Davis Webb 2016 QBR 135.6 - Webb took over for prolific QB Jared Goff following his selection as the #1 player in the 2016 NFL draft and picked up right where the Bear legacy QB left off, completing 382-of-620 passes (61.6%) for 4,295 yards (6.9 ypa) with 37 TDs and 12 INT playing for OC Jake Spavital in his lone season at Cal before his return to the staff this month. Webb’s efforts weren’t enough to get the Bears back to a bowl game for the second straight seasons with Cal finishing the season 5-7.

Steve Bartkowski 1974 QBR 130.6 - The 6’4 All-American QB preceded Goff by being the first overall pick in the NFL draft in ‘75 after completing 182-of-325 passes (56.0%) for 2,590 yards and 12 TDs with 7 interceptions, leading Cal to a 7-3-1 record.

Other stories:

Bears Pull in Commit From 4 Star Soph RB Jojo Solis

Wilcox Talks About New Additions to Program and Changes on Tap

Discussion from...

The 10 Greatest Statistical QB Seasons in Cal Football History

5,103 Views | 7 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by HearstMining
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barr missed 3 games plus couldn't throw the 2nd half of the UW game. If not for that, we would have gone to the rose bowl for sure. Probably our best team outside of 2004 and 1991.
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Unless there is an error, or I didn't catch something, if they are using QBR as the ranking number, then Chase Garbers should be 5th on this listing. And I agree with AXL, if not for that injury, I believe they would have gone to the Rose Bowl (and won it) that year. With him healthy, that was the best Cal team I have seen. That Alamo Bowl was complete domination.
Big Dog
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And to be fair, Joe Roth's 8-3 Pac record was really 7-1 as Cal was 1-2 when Roth got a start off the bench in the 4th game. In my eyes, Roth was better than all but AR. If Joe played in an Air Raid.....
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No mention at all of Steve Bartkowski in the article? While his numbers for 1974 don't stand out compared to current QBs (182/325 for 2580 yds, 12TDs,7INTs) he was the #1 pick in the 1975 NFL draft and really launched Cal on it's short-lived success of the mid-1970s. If you're gonna mention Morton, Bart warrants at least a sentence.
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I'm sorry, but can we agree that the picture with Arod and the rose should never be used again on this site?
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Made some updates to the story
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Thanks, Moraga!
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