BERKELEY -- Cal defensive backs coach Greg Burns, whose unit ranks last nationally in passing yards and touchdowns allowed, doesn't spend a lot of time poring over statistics.

"I try not to look," Burns said.

Then avert your eyes, because the Bears not only are 125th among 125 FBS teams, giving up 3,759 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes, they are on pace to set all-time records of 4,511 yards and 44 touchdowns surrendered through the air.

Asked this week if his run-first Stanford team will go to the air more often in Saturday's 117th Big Game at Memorial Stadium, coach David Shaw said things will be business as usual.

If that's how things unfold, the Cardinal will buck a season-long trend.

Every FBS team Cal has played has thrown more often and for more yards than its season average against everyone else. Even Washington State, which leads the nation in passing yardage, cranked it up a notch with a 734-yard outburst.

Cal coach Sonny Dykes appreciates a team sticking to what it does well but sounds as if he's ready for more of what he has seen all season.

"I would think they would be more inclined to throw the football against us, more than they have been, until we show we can stop it," Dykes said.

The Bears have rarely stopped the pass this season. Teams have thrown for 33 percent more yards against Cal than against the rest of their schedule, generating an astounding 68 percent more touchdowns.


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The numbers could add up to some gruesome history.

The NCAA actually doesn't compile "records" for most yards and touchdowns allowed, but J.D. Hamilton, a statistician for the organization, said he checked back to the early 1980s and could not find figures bigger than 4,249 passing yards (Central Michigan in 2007) and 40 touchdown passes (Central Michigan in 1997) given up in a season.

Before that, teams did not throw as prolifically or proficiently as they do now.

Dykes believes opposing teams have thrown so often partly to keep up with Cal's high-scoring offense and because the Bears have been reasonably adept at stopping the run.

But Cal's problems start with cornerbacks who are young and inexperienced. Two are redshirt freshmen, two are sophomores and two of those are converted offensive players.

"It's new. They're learning," Burns said. "Most of the guys are ex-receivers. They know how to run a route, but it's understanding a defense and trying to put themselves in position to make a play."

The only upperclassman among the corners is Darius White, a junior college transfer who injured his shoulder on the opening day of fall camp and missed four games. He made his debut at Washington State by surrendering a 90-yard touchdown pass on his first play.

"I wake up from nightmares about that," White said.

The junior from Mississippi said the defensive backs continue to work at the techniques taught by Burns and defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, both in their first year on the staff.

"We know where we rank because people try to put it in our face," White said. "But a DB has got to have a short memory."

Defensive back is a priority position in recruiting, said Dykes, explaining the Bears will try to sign a junior college safety and cornerback, along with high school prospects. "We're looking for guys who can come in and play immediately," he said.

Junior safety Stefan McClure, who missed four games because of a quadriceps injury, makes no excuses for the Bears' performance but said the failures are systemwide.

"To the naked eye, to anyone who doesn't know football, they (say) 'Man, what's up with the DBs?' " McClure said. "People that know football know it takes all 11 to be a successful defense."

An ineffective pass rush also contributes to the problem, Dykes noted. The Bears rank 111th nationally in sacks.

So what should the Bears expect from Stanford and quarterback Kevin Hogan?

In 30 career starts, Hogan has passed for more than 300 yards just once -- last year against Cal, when he lit up the Bears for a career-high five touchdown passes in a 63-13 rout.

Through it all, Dykes said he has confidence his defensive backs will become good players.

"I hope it's this week."

For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/Jeff Faraudo.

SATURDAY'S GAME

Stanford (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) at Cal (5-5, 3-5), 1 p.m. Fox Sports 1