If anyone in Bruin Nation were to be completely honest about the UCLA football team’s performance against their elder U.C. brothers from Berkeley on Saturday night, they’d have to say that although there were things that Jim Mora’s team needed to improve on, it was a good outing overall.
Sure, the Bruins had to settle for field goals three times while in the red zone against an undermanned California defense due to repeated misfires from quarterback Brett Hundley, two of those times in the third quarter when they were within the five-yard line.
Sure, the Bruin defense had a few lapses in the second quarter when they let Cal back into the game after building a 17-0 lead, the Golden Bears scoring a field goal and a touchdown to put them to within seven points.
And sure, Cal’s defense, one of the worst in the Pac-12 if not the worst, inexplicably held UCLA’s running game to a pathetic 2.3 yards a carry by stacking the line, Paul Perkins’ 38 yards leading the Bruin “attack”.
But you know what?
You can’t argue with Hundley’s stats: a career-high 410 yards passing on 31-of-41 attempts with three touchdowns, including a 22-yard backbreaker to Shaq Evans with under five minutes left in the game.
Those 410 yards in the air were the third highest in school history; I think the Bears made a mistake by putting lots of defenders on the line, which forced Hundley to throw and played right into a UCLA strength.
You can’t have a beef with the performance of the Bruin receivers, led by Evans and Devin Fuller‘s six catches and a touchdown apiece.
Ten Bruins caught passes in the game, continuing a pattern of Hundley spreading the wealth around.
You can’t whine about the defense’s overall effort, forcing punts on Cal’s first five possessions, sacking Bear quarterback Jared Goff four times, and making an epic goal line stand in the fourth quarter, stopping Goff on 4th-and-goal when he tried to sneak into the end zone on a keeper.
You can’t argue that the Bruins improved greatly in the penalty department in the second half, having just one yellow flag thrown against them.
And you can’t complain about the result: a 37-10 win before 84, 272 enthusiastic fans at the Rose Bowl on a night that saw the press box named after former Bruin coach Terry Donahue, UCLA’s and the Pac-12′s all-time win leader, and the UCLA baseball team honored for their College World Series title.
As a reward, the Bruins, whose 5-0 start (2-0 in the Pac-12) is their best in eight years, rose to ninth in the Associated Press poll after two teams above them lost; it is UCLA’s first time in the top ten since 2005.
Meanwhile, Cal’s loss left them (1-5, 0-3 in the Pac-12) still without a win over an FBS team, their only victory coming against Portland State, who’s in the FCS. Their game with Colorado on November 16 will most likely determine who will be the Pac-12′s bottom feeder this season.
“There’s a lot left out on the field, and we can get that much better,” Hundley said after the game. “I did OK…I can do so much more.”
Linebacker Anthony Barr, who had a sack and two tackles for losses, echoed Hundley’s sentiments, saying, “I think we did a good job, but we know we have to be better.”
Considering that the Bruins’ next game is against a Stanford team that suffered a huge upset at the hands of Utah, fell to #13 in the AP polls, and will undoubtedly be a very angry Cardinal bunch looking for redemption against UCLA, I think most folks will agree that Barr and Hundley are stating the obvious.
Mora sounded happy with his squad in his post-game comments, stating:
“It was great to come back and get a win, especially coming off what happened (in Berkeley) last year…Our defense played outstanding against an explosive offense…We need to get touchdowns rather than field goals, but when you beat another Pac-12 team, you take that and run with it.”
Which is exactly what every Bruin fan needs to do, because the toughest part of the schedule is now upon these true blue-and-gold footballers from Westwood, starting with this most worthy adversary:
#13 Stanford Cardinal (5-1, 3-1 in the Pac-12)
PLACE: Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, CA
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 19th, 12:30 p.m. PT
TV: KABC Channel 7
LAST MEETING: Stanford won, 27-24, in the Pac-12 Championship Game
A preview of the Stanford game will appear on this site later this week.