You hear football coaches routinely discussing the importance of the three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- and it's easy to tune it all out.

Until those special teams begin churning out a series of self-inflicted wounds.

I'm not going to say Cal should be 2-1 right now, but the Bears could have that record. Rather easily could.

Over the past two games, the Bears have outgained Oregon State and Stanford 831 yards to 660. In many ways, Cal outplayed both opponents,

Yet, they lost both games, and at 0-3 their season seems to have lost every bit of the promise it once had.

It didn't have to be this way.

“We’ve got to block the field goal rush unit and we’ve got to kick the ball and on the return units we’ve got to hold people up and catch it.”

That was the calm explanation coach Justin Wilcox gave Friday evening after his special teams committed another series of mistakes that turned the Big Game on its axis.

Stanford won 24-23 and here are a few of the most prominent reasons why:

-- Nikko Remigio fumbled a fair-catch try on a punt, giving Stanford possession at the Cal 16, from where the Cardinal scored three play later to tie the score at 10-all late in the first half. That's 7 points.

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-- Cal placekicker Dario Longhetto's 32-yard field goal on the final play of the first half was blocked, preventing the Bears from taking a 13-10 lead That's 3 points.

-- And, after the Bears drove 90 yards to pull within one point with 58 seconds to play, Longhetto's PAT try was blocked. That's 1 point.

Add 'em up an it's an 11-point swing in a game the Bears lost by 1.

"Unacceptable," said Wilcox, who had more to say about the topic in the video below:

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The Bears had many of the same issues six days earlier at Oregon State,

For instance:

-- Jamieson Sheahan's 24-yard punt in the first quarter put the Beavers at the Cal 35, and they score in one play for a 14-7 lead. Maybe OSU scores on that possession, maybe it doesn't. We won't award any points on this one.

-- Remigio has an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter wiped out by an illegal block, then a 94-yard kickoff return all the way to the OSU 3-yard line is nullified by a holding penalty. That's 14 points.

-- And, with 5:26 to play and the Bears nursing a 27-24 lead, Sheahan's punt is blocked, giving OSU the ball at the Cal 14. The Beavers score three plays later and won 31-27. That's 7 points.

Again, the addition is easy: 21 points.

So in two losses by a combined total of five points, the Bears' special teams are responsible for giving away or giving up 32 points.

Quarterback Chase Garbers doesn't play on special teams and he's not pointing fingers. He understands the Bears must improve in all aspects.

“We’ve got to watch the film, clean it up and hopefully not make the same mistakes we do week after week," he said.

"We’ve been able to put together some pretty decent stretches of football but we’ve got to play all three phases for four quarters,” linebacker Kuony Deng said. “We’re a good football team but we haven’t put it all together.”

Time is running out.

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Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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