No. 11 UCLA aware of Cal trap, focused on revenge
PASADENA, Calif. (AP)
Although Jim Mora realizes Saturday's visit from California has every earmark of a dangerous spot for No. 11 UCLA, the coach insists there's no chance of the Bruins getting caught unaware of the Golden Bears.
To the UCLA coach, nothing beats complacency like bad memories.
The Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) are off to another outstanding start in Mora's second season, and they've got one remaining home game against the struggling Bears (1-4, 0-2) before back-to-back road games at Stanford and Oregon.
Yet UCLA is still smarting from last season's trip to Berkeley, where the Bears drilled the Bruins in the most embarrassing loss of Mora's tenure.
''Cal beat us 43-17 last year,'' Mora said, rattling off the score by memory. ''They kicked our tails all over that field. That was players, coaches, everybody that went up there. We are directly focused on the Cal Berkeley Bears. That's it. That's got to be it. 43-17? They whooped us. Nobody in this building is looking ahead, or if they are, they're disguising it real well.''
Mora blames himself for failing to get the Bruins ready, and he had a few extra days of preparation for the rematch after the Bruins' gritty win at Utah last Thursday.
Even with a win over Holiday Bowl-bound UCLA, that three-win Cal team cost coach Jeff Tedford his job and led to Sonny Dykes' arrival. UCLA isn't expecting to welcome a rebuilding team to the Rose Bowl, giving respect to Dykes' Bear Raid offense led by freshman quarterback Jared Goff, third in the nation with 364.2 yards passing per game.
Dykes sees signs of progress from his Bears, and he's hoping they finally show up on the field after three straight losses to Oregon, Ohio State and Washington State. Pasadena will be a tough place to break through, particularly against a UCLA defense that hasn't yielded more than 27 points in a game this season.
Five reasons to watch the two most prominent UC schools' 84th meeting on the gridiron:
BRUINS ON THE RUN: UCLA tailback Jordon James is expected to sit out with an injured ankle, and left tackle Torian White is out for the regular season after surgery on his ankle this week. Both were big factors in UCLA's vaunted running game, but the Bruins are confident they can keep rolling.
''We want to get all those guys quality time,'' Mora said. ''It's just a question of managing it.''
GOFF'S ENCORE: The Bear Raid already has created a star: Goff set a school record with 504 yards passing in last week's loss to Washington State, and he's already just the second quarterback in Pac-12 history to throw for 450 yards in three games.
Goff and his receivers will throw the ball extensively against a UCLA secondary that was thought to be suspect heading into the season. Instead, the Bruins' entire defense has performed well all season - but Dykes and Goff should provide a taste of what UCLA can expect from higher-powered Stanford and Oregon later this month.
Goff is putting up remarkable numbers, but one number isn't very impressive: Cal scored just 22 points during his 504-yard game last week.
WATCH YOUR BACK: Simon Goines will move from right tackle to the left side of the UCLA offensive line to protect Brett Hundley's blind spot, while freshman Caleb Benenoch will replace Goines on the right.
Mora is aware the Bears could attack the weaker spots in his reconfigured line, but that unit has been one of UCLA's strengths since his arrival. The Bruins also can rely on left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, the hard-hitting leader of the line.
Hundley still knows he'll have to be careful in his first game back since throwing a touchdown pass, catching another, and running for a third score at Utah.
CAL CALAMITY: Cal has spent all season dealing with multiple injuries on defense, just one reason the Bears have been shredded for at least 44 points by every FBS opponent they've faced this season. Even FCS Portland State dropped 30 points in a loss.
The Bears are missing four projected preseason starters on defense, including two in the secondary. Mora and UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone will be looking for deficiencies to attack early on.
''When you're playing with a banged-up secondary, you're either going to just bring it all the time, or you're going to sit in cover-2 and help their corners,'' said Mora, a longtime defensive backs coach in the NFL. ''I think we'll be able to decipher their philosophy pretty quickly, but we don't know what it's going to be.''
PENALTY PLAGUE: UCLA is leading the FBS in penalties for the second straight season, racking up 43 yellow flags - 10.75 per game - for 357 yards in four games.
The problems haven't affected the Bruins' impressive results under Mora, but the coach is tired of being tops in the country, even given the whistle-happy Pac-12's disproportionate representation in those stats.
So Mora followed many programs' lead and hired officials to attend practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting this week. He's hoping a renewed focus on discipline will show up starting Saturday.