The Bruins were their own worst enemy, Saturday night in Berkeley.
Bothered by a hard-hitting California defense, No. 25 UCLA made some big plays but often cost itself scoring chances with penalties, mistakes and an inability to take care of the football in a 43-17 loss at Memorial Stadium.
For UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12), it was a game marked by telltale numbers: The Bruins lost 99 yards on 12 penalties. Interestingly enough, the 11 penalties cost the Golden Bears 100 yards but Cal (1-4, 1-2 Pac-12) was able to effectively recover, scoring 20 points off six UCLA turnovers.
“We did a lot of things to hurt ourselves,” Said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. “You know, when you go on the road in a hostile environment and you turn the ball over six times, it’s going to be tough to win. We got beaten by a good team.”
UCLA netted 329 total yards with quarterback Brett Hundley passing for 253. Hundley threw for two touchdowns, but also four interceptions.
“He was under a lot of pressure,” Mora said. “And when you get down like we got down, sometimes you force some things. You make some throws sometimes you wouldn’t make.”
Receiver Shaquelle Evans caught seven passes for 68 yards and Joseph Fauria caught his fifth touchdown pass of the season.
Running back Johnathan Franklin accounted for 103 of UCLA’s 129 rushing yards. It was the first time this season that the Bruins did not win when Franklin rushed for more than 100 yards.
Cal amassed 99 more yards than the Bruins. Zach Maynard launched an aerial attack that saw backs turn into receivers to fully utilize all weapons. Tight end Richard Rodgers led the game with a career-high 129 yards on seven catches while C.J. Anderson also earned career marks with his first 100-yard rushing game (151 yards on seven carries).
But it wasn’t the offense that gave the Bruins problems. It was a defense that looked so good on film that even caught the attention of Mora’s wife Shannon. The defense was as good as billed.
“They were relentless. They were maniacal,” Mora said. “They did blitz a lot. They did bring a lot of pressure, and we’ve got to learn to handle that better, and we will.”
Controlling the offensive tempo is the key to the Bruins’ game. UCLA appeared to set the pace in the first quarter after an interception by Andrew Abbott set up a 28-yard touchdown drive. Under pressure, Hundley hit Cassius Marsh with a short swing pass four a four-yard touchdown to give UCLA a 7-0 lead after its first possession.
But the pace was lost from there and the Bruins spent the rest of the first half working to take it back.
“Every year that we play Cal their defense always have great schemes and they came ready to play today,” Franklin said.
The defenses clashed and neither offense looked quite comfortable on the field for much of the first half. But with Cal down 7-3 in the second, Maynard opened up a drive with a 42-yard pass play to Richard Rodgers to get all the way down to the UCLA 25. It took the Golden Bears six more plays but on third-and-goal on the five, Maynard threw a quick inside pass to C.J. Anderson to take a 10-7 lead.
Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a 46-yard field goal that would have tied the game late in the second, but there were costly mistakes before Fairbairn hooked it.
UCLA’s offense looked productive through the first half, earning more first downs and out-gaining Cal on the ground, but too many miscues proved costly. A particularly costly miscue by Hundley – a misread of an Evans’ route by Hundley on first-and-10 at the Cal 18 – cost the Bruins a halftime lead. Cal led 13-0 at the intermission.
On first-and-10 at the Cal 18, Hundley threw one up top intended for Evans, but Evans stopped way short of Hundley’s ball, looking at it in disbelief and frustration as it easily landed into the arms of Cal’s Kameron Jackson in the end zone.
“There was a lot pressure but I could do better,” Hundley said. “Keeping my downfield and going through mind reads. I can still do better while still under pressure so everybody can do better.”
UCLA punted on its first drive of the third quarter, and Keenan Allen (79 yards on eight catches, two touchdowns) took off on a 20-yard run. Allen’s return led to a quick one-play drive in which Maynard hit Brendan Bigelow with a 32-yard touchdown pass. Bigelow turned it into a footrace, and the Bruin defenders never had a chance to catch the speedy tailback. The Golden Bears went up 23-7.
Just a few minutes later, Hundley took the Bruins downfield 74 yards in seven plays. Franklin went up the middle for a 26-yard gain and was downed at the one. Hundley then faked the handoff to Franklin and instead found Fauria in the end zone with a defender seemingly half the 6-foot-7 Y receiver’s size, and hit him for the easy touchdown to make the score 23-14.
But UCLA failed to answer the Golden Bears’ next three touchdowns, only getting a field goal in before time ran out.
“Just all around, we got beaten by a good team, and we got beaten solidly,” Mora said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to recover from it and we’re going to figure out how we can get better from here and we’re going to get better from here.”