UCLA looking to shake Cal Curse and get season back on track Saturday
In the last 16 years, there has been four different football coaches in Westwood. UCLA football has gone from gimmick and trick with Bob Toledo, to West Coast with Karl Dorrell, a pistol offense under Rick Neuheisel and finally, to an up-tempo spread team under current head coach Jim Mora.
Yet only one of those coaches and one of those systems has been good enough to win a game in Berkeley, Calif.
The Bruins last won at Memorial Stadium in 1998, with Toledo at the helm. Even as Cal stumbled into the Pac-12 era, it’s days as a conference power are further in the distance each year, UCLA still hasn’t been able to put the pieces together for a win in Berkeley.
Two years ago, the Golden Bears blew out the Bruins in an embarrassing 42-17 loss after such a promising start to the season. It’s the second-largest margin of defeat under Mora and, although former head coach Jeff Tedford would later be fired at the end of the season, it was said at the time that the win might have saved his job momentarily.
"It wasn’t a pretty one," quarterback Brett Hundley said.
That might be an understatement. Hundley was sacked six times and threw four picks. He threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, but he says it was easily one of the worst games of his career.
"It was probably one of them," he said. "But two years ago, going back to my freshman year, there was a lot of mistakes made in that game."
But that was the Cal of old. That Cal featured a wide receiver named Keenan Allen who now starts for the San Diego Chargers. Who are the Golden Bears now? That picture is a little cloudy.
After a disastrous year under new head coach Sonny Dykes, the Bears seem to be on the up and up. They’re 4-2 so far, having beat Washington State in a record-shattering offensive game and played Arizona extremely tough. Cal has the second-highest scoring offense in the Pac-12, and quarterback Jared Goff, who loves the long ball, throws for an average of 363.2 yards per game, second in the conference as well.
"They’re explosive. When they get hot and rolling they’re difficult to deal with," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "Goff obviously runs that thing, and the other guy that’s a pain in the butt is No. 8."
No. 8 is receiver Luke Rubenzer, a freshman quarterback who is used as a running back in the wildcat.
"He’s very similar to the guy at Utah and I expect him to be used," Ulbrich said. "If we don’t see him it will be a relief."
It’s a tall order for a UCLA defense that is still trying to find itself midway through the season.
"We’ve had some glimpses of being the defense that we want to be," Ulbrich said. "There’s still a little bit of trying to find some answers. I don’t have the type of ego where it’s just going to be my way and we’re just going to do it this way the entire time. We’re continually evolving and just trying to put the best product on the field out there that we can. If that means we’ve got to put two more little wrinkles in, then that’s what we’ve got to do."
It might not look like a game that carries the same magnitude as an Oregon or Stanford, but with the Cal Curse still in full effect, this matchup against the Golden Bears feels a little bit heavier than it usually does.