There were plenty of moral victories to take away from Cal's loss to Utah two weeks ago. Not so on Thursday night, as the Bears fell to a UCLA team that dominated on both offense and defense. Cal's defense looked more like its 2014 iteration than the version that led the nation in turnovers through last week, allowing 573 yards by UCLA and three touchdowns from a very comfortable looking Josh Rosen. The offense performed little better, unable to establish itself especially on the ground. Jared Goff looked out of sync as well, missing targets downfield and generally not looking Goff-like for the second straight game.
The Bruins deserve credit as well for bouncing back after a rough loss to Stanford. Despite losing Paul Perkins and Isaako Savaiinaea (in addition to an already extensive list of injuries), they controlled the line of scrimmage and worked their tempo up and down the field.
If all of that appeals to you, read on for a more detailed recap!
Things looked promising at first, as Cal converted three third downs on its first possession. Khalfani Muhammad, who started at running back in place of Daniel Lasco, broke off a 15 yard run along the way, but a pass to Trevor Davis came up just short on third down in the red zone. Matt Anderson converted a 26 yard field goal to give the Bears their first and only lead. UCLA responded with a scoring drive of its own, as Perkins sifted his way through the Cal defense for 45 yards on five carries. The up-tempo attack stalled out after the Bruins were called for offensive pass interference, but Ka'imi Fairbairn converted a 44 yard field goal to tie the game at three.
The Bears then went three and out, electing to punt on a fourth and short after a timeout. Josh Rosen came back firing, completing a series of short passes as the Bruins again moved quickly downfield. With Cal keying on Perkins after he gashed them on their first scoring drive, UCLA took advantage of the Bears' anemic pass rush to establish the passing game. Darius Allensworth deflected a pair of passes, including dropping an interception on an underthrown fade on the Bruins' first and goal, but Rosen found Thomas Duarte for a seven yard score.
Jared Goff struggled on the ensuing Cal possession. Characteristic of the problems that would plague him all night, his pass to a streaking Darius Powe was both inaccurate and well defended, bouncing incomplete. Aaron Wallace then recorded the first Bruins sack of the night, taking down Goff on a third down attempt just short of midfield at the end of the quarter. UCLA led 10-3.
Cal punted to start the second quarter, giving UCLA the ball with a chance to expand its lead. The Bears forced a third down early in the drive, but Rosen escaped pressure to find Jordan Payton for a conversion. Rosen also showed his mobility on a nine yard scramble, then handed the ball over to freshman RB Soso Jamabo, who filled in for Perkins on much of the drive. Across midfield, as swing pass to Jamabo went for 23 yards, setting up a back shoulder touchdown pass to Devin Fuller. Fuller cut underneath Allensworth along the left sideline, then turned upfield for the score. UCLA led 17-3, with none of its three scoring drives lasting more than four minutes.
Daniel Lasco made the first of a few brief appearances in the game, running for three yards on the Bears' first play of the next possession. His work was undone by a false start, and an unsuccessful scramble by Goff led to a quick third down. Goff nearly found Andersen on third down, but the pass would have been just shy even if caught and the Bears took a three and out. A short punt gave the Bruins the ball at their own 41.
The situation felt urgent for the Bears, who had now failed to make anything of their last three possessions while letting UCLA score on all of theirs. Two Bruins penalties might have given the Bears a chance at a stop, forcing a third down and 14. Paul Perkins got 13 of those yards back on a screen pass, however, and then escaped on fourth down for another big gain. Josh Rosen threw another near interception to Darius Allensworth, but shook it off by stepping away from pressure on third down to find Duarte downfield to convert. Perkins sustained an apparent knee injury on the next play and would leave the game. The Bruins' drive then stalled in the red zone with two misfires by Rosen, and they settled for a 24 yard field goal to extend their lead to 17.
Cal's next drive echoed its previous one, with three incompletions leading to a quick fourth and 10. In an attempt to charge his sputtering team, Sonny Dykes called for a fake punt, but Harry Adolphus' run was stuffed short of the first down line. UCLA took over at the Cal 29. After two short third down conversions by the Bruins' other freshman back, Bolu Olorunfunmi, the Bears' defense tightened up and stopped three attempts from their own one yard line. A 20-yard field goal made the score 23-3.
With three minutes remaining in the half, the Bears put together their first successful drive since their game-opening field goal. After missing passes to Lawler and Powe, Goff took advantage of a defensive pass interference call to extend the drive. He found Chad Hansen and Stephen Andersen for consecutive first down conversions, then connected with a wide open Powe for a 36-yard gain. Despite being under pressure all drive, Goff led the team downfield for its first touchdown, an acrobatic catch by none other than Kenny Lawler. The pass, coming across the field from left to right, forced Lawler to dive backwards and catch the ball falling down, but he managed to get his knee down in bounds.
UCLA cut into the Bears' momentum just before halftime, using the 51 seconds left on the clock to set up a 55-yard field goal attempt. The conversion was negated by a false start, but Fairbairn made his next attempt from 60 with power to spare, sending the Bruins to halftime up 26-10. UCLA had scored on each of its first half possessions and outgained Cal nearly three to one.
How was Cal Twitter feeling at halftime?
I've lost my debit card, my phone is dying, and this game sucks— Trace Travers (@tracetravers3) October 23, 2015
This has been arguably the most demoralizing half in the Dykes era.— Admiral Bear (@THEADMIRAL6) October 23, 2015
is. only 2013 bg might be worse. https://t.co/3MiZEAumIk— Nam Le (@AGuyNamedNam) October 23, 2015
That’s it. We’re dead.— Avinash Kunnath (@avinashkunnath) October 23, 2015
The Bruins' ownage continued in the second half, moving quickly and overpowering the Bears on their way to another score. This time, Rosen found Devin Fuller for a 21 yard strike, erasing any momentum Cal's late score might have provided. The 80-yard, sub-three-minute drive put the Bruins up 34-10. Cal, true to form, was called for holding on the ensuing kick return, putting them at their own seven yard line. They would not get much farther, squandering a few small gains when Darius Powe came up just short on third down.
The Bears then forced their first punt of the game, earning the three and out by way of a Todd Barr sack. Cal's next drive was their most interesting of the night, a desperation play to try to keep the game relatively close. Vic Enewere converted a short fourth down at the Bears' 37, and on the ensuing play Goff found Maurice Harris downfield on a flea-flicker. Goff got away with a slight underthrow, but his shot to Lawler in the end zone on the next play was also underthrown and batted away. Goff was blindsided on third down after an ineffective Lasco run, forcing a fourth and seven. He found Andersen while under pressure, converting and setting up first and goal. Finding Powe in the back of the end zone on play action, Goff narrowed the deficit to 33-16. The TD throw was behind Powe but he managed to bring it in, but another inaccurate throw doomed the two-point conversion attempt.
It was the Bruins' next drive that removed all remaining hope of a Cal comeback; slowing down the pace that they had kept up all game as they worked to kill the clock. Rosen drove the ball down the field, but it was Jamabo that dragged a tired Cal defense for the last few yards, finishing with a one yard push into the end zone. With two minutes left in the quarter, the score was 40-16.
Moving into the final frame, the Bears' sudden flicker of life on offense continued with some spirited runs by Khalfani Muhammad and Jared Goff. They got as far as the UCLA 30 though, before Kenny Clark put an end to the surge. He sacked Goff on a third down play, and then combined with Takkarist McKinley for another sack on fourth to get the ball back. UCLA and then Cal traded punts as the game wound down. As the Bruins tried to kill the clock, however, Nathan Broussard stripped the ball from Jamabo around midfield. Griffin Piatt would fall on the loose ball for the game's only turnover. Without much urgency, the Bears moved the ball downfield on a few Goff scrambles and runs by Jeffrey Coprich.
Though the announcers had moved on to lampooning a picture of Josh Rosen and looking forward to this weekend's games, the Bears added another garbage time score on an 18 yard pass to a streaking Khalfani Muhammad. That made the final score 40-24 in favor of UCLA, who improved to 5-2 with the win.
Shall we check in again with Cal Twitter for their reactions?
the novel: cal was bad— Nam Le (@AGuyNamedNam) October 23, 2015
Can't sugarcoat this one. This is a brutal loss in a game that Cal saw as a statement game. We'll see how the Bears regroup.— GoldenBlogs (@GoldenBlogs) October 23, 2015
Okay, got it.
The Final Word
That was ugly. The flaws that we were willing to overlook at 5-0 will now need to be answered for as the competition stays tough over the next few weeks. Jared Goff's performance (32-53, 295 yards, 3 TD) looks fine on the stat sheet, but he missed receivers in every direction, especially on deep balls. Lasco wasn't right and his backups couldn't create a respectable run game. Both lines looked...well, you saw it. And the defense failed to get their turnovers, although it's not certain that doing so would have made much of a difference. This is one to forget for all involved. We'll see soon enough whether Sonny can put the brakes on this slide before it gets out of control.