UCLA showed why they are (now) 5-0 on the season as they outlasted a very game Cal team, 37-10. Cal was very much in the game for the opening half, as they were only down 17-10 heading into the final two and a half minutes of the game. But UCLA ran away from Cal after that point, outscoring them 20-0 from then. However, the fact that this game didn’t get out of hand meant a lot more to Cal that it did to UCLA.
UCLA is a team of destiny. They will be playing for a Pac-12 Championship this season (probably against Oregon) and, while that may not sound like an enthusiastic proposition for UCLA, it does mean (at least for the Pac-12 conference) that the likelihood of them playing in the BCS bowl game this season is high. With Stanford, Washington and Washington State’s losses, the path for Oregon and UCLA to play in the coming BCS Bowl games is high.
Anyway, the point is: facing a possible BCS bowl team and holding them to just 37 points means a lot to the Golden Bears. Cal, who played their best game since the Ohio State game, was able to outrush a really good rushing UCLA team 105-78. The problem was that Cal’s 215 or so passing yards was not enough to out-duel Heisman hopeful Brett Hundley, who played a stellar game in Pasadena. He threw for 410 yards (his first single game passing performance that over 400 yards) on 31-of-41 passing and three touchdown.
On the other side, Jared Goff didm’t look horrible, but didn’t look like the superstar quarterback he is capable of being, as he went 26-of-43 for 215 yards and no touchdowns (plus an interception). I am sure some will claim the crazy UCLA win was sparked by the rabid 87,272 in attendance at the Rose Bowl (UCLA’s first sell-out this season), but it was plain to see that UCLA was just the better team on the field. They may have not played up to potential, talent or expectation, but when it came down to it, UCLA made sure the game was never really in doubt. However, I already have had more than a few fans claim the failures in the red zone, the penalties and the sloppy play of the Bruins only make the showdown next week between a seething Stanford team and a upstart Bruin team all the more important.
Meanwhile, Cal fell to 1-5, a mark that was likely if they didn’t pull off a win against the Washington State Cougars. I am not surprised that Cal lost the game tonight – UCLA is a better team in a position for a BCS bowl birth, while Cal would be happy to go .500, which is looking less likely by the day. Cal needed to win this game to make this season salvageable, but the losses this season (specifically the very winnable Northwestern and Washington State games) have made it such a long shot that Cal will be playing in a bowl game this year.
However, as I discussed with Carlos Sandoval of GoJoeBruin.com earlier this year, this Cal team really wasn’t helped by all the injuries, the lack of depth and the really bad defensive play calling. However, this Cal team showed a lot of heart, determination and toughness to even make this game close for a while. Cal was down seven points with two and a half minutes left to play in the opening half of the game.
Quite honestly, this was an uninspiring, weirdly dull performance by both sides of the UCLA team. This Bruins team was kind of going through the motions to win the game, and they ended up sleepwalking through this really boring win. They should have won by more than 27-points. However, they really played an unwatchable game and really made me feel like I was back in 2001, post DeShaun Foster. I didn’t enjoy watching this game because UCLA played horribly and Cal didn’t take advantage… and it was kind of annoying.
Ultimately, UCLA looked past Cal towards their match-ups with Oregon, Stanford and Washington over the next month and change. But even thought they racked up 490 overall yards offense, they didn’t exactly look like a well-oiled machine that outscored a ranked Nebraska team 38-0 after the opening quarter. Better yet, Noel Mazzone’s red-zone offense was down right awful tonight, as the Bruins kept settling for field goals near the goal-line.
Yet, Cal couldn’t get back in the game. The inexperience, poor play-calling or lack of depth made even this game seem like a metaphorical Mount Everest to climb for Cal.
Once again, Cal was unable to rush for many yards (105 yards and a touchdown on 37 rushes) or do much in the receiving game (11 receivers caught 26 catches for 215 receiving yards with no touchdowns). Overall, neither team showed much of a killer instinct and it led to a really boring, predictable and disappointing game. At least, it would have been worth watching if Jim Mora would have ended the game at half (and let me get into some heavy drinking before the second half). Instead, the game was too close for me to walk away so early.
Anyhow, Cal moves to 1-5 on the season (0-3 in the Pac-12) with Washington and Stanford left on the schedule. This was never a winnable game, but it was a competitive game that Cal could have made fun. Instead, they followed Jim Mora’s lead and kind of just lazily walked toward the final whistle. I am disappointed. Not ’cause Cal lost… but because they seemed to not really try.