By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, Calif. — The Cal Bears needed their best performance against the UCLA Bruins at California Memorial Stadium on Saturday night. Instead, they came up with one of their worst.
The Bruins picked up their first win of the season–after an 0-5 start–throttling the Bears from start to finish, 37-7. Bruins running back Joshua Kelly ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns while Cal’s Brandon McIlwain continued his streak of crippling turnovers.
The Bears fell to 3-3 on the season and 0-3 in the Pac-12. With six games remaining, the Bears appear unlikely to achieve bowl eligibility with Washington, Stanford, USC and Washington State still remaining on their schedule.
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly picked up his first collegiate win since 2012 when he left Oregon to coach in the NFL. Ironically, Kelley had won just two of the previous 22 games he had coached after going 2-14 in his one and only year with the 49ers.
And the always stoic Kelly’s response to getting back into the win column?
“Any win is good. 1-0 on Saturday night, that’s what we’re rooting for,” Kelly said in an interview with Pac-12 Network’s Jill Savage.
Cal was beaten in the trenches on both sides of the ball as UCLA took a decidely physical approach on offense, running the ball on 55 of their 70 offensive snaps. That approach took the pressure off freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had started all five games for UCLA but completed just half of his pass attempts and only three touchdowns in his first four starts. Against Cal’s confounding roster of defensive alignments, the Bruins stayed physical and impervious to the Bears’ maneuverings.
“Guys are coming up trying to make a play and we didn’t make them,” coach Justin Wilcox said. “We have to finish better. It’s not a lack of want to but it goes back to accountability and performance. No phase of our team played well enough to win tonight.”
Cal linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk had 22 tackles in the ballgame, the most by a Cal defender since Jerrott Willard recorded 22 in October 1993, but the feat was merely indicative of how the Cal defense couldn’t get off the field, and how poor their defensive line play was against Kelly and the sizeable UCLA offensive line.
Kelly ran for 106 yards in the first half alone as UCLA took a 13-0 lead that could have been worse had a couple of Bruins’ drives not stalled out deep in Cal territory. When Cal sliced the lead to 13-7 midway through the third, the Bears self-destructed with a targeting penalty and unsportsmanlike behavior penalty that allowed UCLA to answer back.
In the fourth quarter, McIlwain’s run of turnovers continued as he was stripped while scrambling which resulted in a 38-yard scoop and score for Kesian Lucier-South.
Cal’s next opponent will be Oregon State. That game has been scheduled for Saturday, October 20 at 1:00 pm PT on PACN.