The UCLA Bruins came into today's game playing their best football in years after wins over No. 23 Houston and No. 7 Texas and a victory over conference foe Washington State. It appeared that Rick Neuheisel had finally gotten UCLA to where it needed to be to challenge for a top spot in the Pac-10 conference.
On offense the Bruins main offensive philosophy is to run the football and Jonathan Franklin, their running back, has led the way as the second leading rusher in the Pac-10 conference. So, after losing two straight games to talented opponents in Nevada and Arizona, UCLA was going to be a test for the California Bears and their season.
California got the ball first to start the game and went on a 10-play, 70-yard drive that was capped off by Shane Vereen with a 1-yard touchdown. The offense looked good running the ball on the first drive as Isi Sofele had a big run of 24, Vereen added runs of 15 and 11. In total there were seven running plays and three passing plays.
So, California was up 7-0. UCLA's first possession didn't go well as there was a holding penalty on their first offensive play to back them up to 1st-and-20. Anthony Barr—not Franklin—took the first carry of the game for the Bruins but it didn't go very far, only a 3-yard gain making it 2nd-and-17. Franklin then got his first chance of the game and was pushed backwards for a 2-yard loss bringing up 3rd-and-19.
Instead of trying to for the first down through the air the Bruins elected to run the football with Franklin again and he got a good gain of 11 yards but was well short of the first down. So, the Bruins were forced to punt.
The second offensive possession for the Bears didn't look good at all. Riley was sacked, Vereen had a 4-yard gain, and Riley threw an incomplete pass and the Bears were quickly forced to punt.
Bryan Anger's punt backed up the Bruins to the 8-yard line and Franklin again was used running the football and he had a 6-yard gain, but he fumbled the football and California recovered at the 17-yard line.
Three plays later the Bears were in the end zone again with Vereen who scored on a 4-yard run on a great dive to the pylon to make the score 14-0 for the Bears.
Although, the momentum at the time was in California's favor it didn't look like it was going to last for long as the kickoff was returned for 45 yards. It looked like the Bruins would be in business with great field position to open their drive.
For the first time in the game the Bruins passed the football and it was completed to Josh Smith for five yards, but the Bruins went right back to the run. Franklin picked up three yards on a run and then Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince threw to Tyler Embree for five yards for their first converted third down of the game.
At this point it looked like the Bruins were getting into a rhythm offensively. Franklin got another carry but could only muster one yard. On the next play Darian Hagan came on a corner blitz and sacked Prince for a 6-yard loss and Prince then threw an incomplete pass and the Bruins punted.
With the Bears getting the ball back at the 20, they couldn't get anything going. Vereen had a carry for one yard, Riley was sacked, and Vereen on a 3rd-and-long could only muster three yards, which meant Anger came back on to punt.
On the punt return Embree was able to return the punt for 11 yards, which meant another drive with good field position for the Bruins. Franklin opened the drive with a big 31-yard carry that looked at the very least like the Bruins would be able to settle for a field goal.
Prince threw an incomplete pass, Prince hit Embree for a 12-yard pass, and UCLA seemed to be in business. It seemed like it was a matter of time before UCLA was going to score a touchdown, but the Bruins again shot themselves in the foot.
A run play was called back for a holding penalty, which again put the Bruins in a 1st-and-20 situation. Even worse for the Bruins was the snap on the next play, which was bad and Prince had to cover the ball taking a loss of 11 yards. Prince then tried to hit Franklin on a dump-off pass, but that didn't go anywhere as the Bears sniffed it out and Franklin lost four yards.
On the third-down play for the Bruins the pass was incomplete, so instead of being able to put at least three points on the board the Bruins came away with zero.
The Bears' next possession was what sank the Bruins as the Bears had a 13-play, 86-yard drive that lasted 6:12. Ten of the plays were runs and three were passes. Jeremy Ross had a 19-yard run, Keenan Allen had a 14-yard scamper, Sofele had runs of 13, five, two, and one while Vereen had runs of 11, six, 16, and five yards.
On the pass plays Riley was sacked once, found Vereen for 16, and Allen for 10 yards and a touchdown.
At this point the Bears were up 21-0.
A decent return gave the Bruins decent field position. Prince found Christian Ramirez for six yards on a pass, Derrick Coleman ran for a loss of a yard, and another incompletion by Prince meant another punt.
Ross was able to return the punt and managed eight yards, but an unnecessary roughness penalty meant an additional 15 yards for the Bears. With a short field and the half nearing an end, scoring another touchdown would pretty much put the game out of reach.
That is exactly what the Bears did. The biggest play of the drive was a 31-yard pass to Vereen out of the backfield. Riley eventually completed the drive on a 3rd-and-1 as the Bears called for the option, which meant Riley could pitch the ball to Vereen or keep it himself. He kept it and was able to get the ball across the goal line.
At the half the Bears led 28-0.
There was just over a minute and a half left when the Bruins got the ball back. Instead of just letting time go down and get to halftime, the Bruins attempted to move down the field and actually did a solid job until Hagan again was utilized on a cornerback blitz and he sacked Prince again nearly stripping the ball from him.
This meant the Bears forced the Bruins to punt yet again and the Bears took a knee to end the half.
Opening the second half the Bruins had another excellent return on a kickoff, this time of 47 yards. The Bruins managed to score their only points of the game on a short field thanks to the kickoff. Prince led the Bruins down the field and Ramirez capped the drive with a touchdown reception on an excellent catch near the sideline.
Offensively for the Bears there wasn't really much offense; in fact the Bears were conservative most of the time. There was one more scoring drive for the Bears, which was a touchdown scored by Marvin Jones on a 48-yard run.
There was one other scoring chance for the Bruins, but they weren't able to get into the end zone and turned the ball over on downs. Hagan, who had two sacks, also picked off a pass thrown by Prince.
California held Franklin to 13 carries for 52 yards and a 4-yards-per-carry average. Prince went 13-30 for 99 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, and was sacked four times.
Vereen for California carried the ball 25 times for 145 yards (5.8 yards per carry average) and two touchdowns. Riley was 9-16 for 83 yards, one touchdown, and sacked for times.
California had 380 total yards to UCLA's 143, California had 22 first downs to UCLA's 12, and the Bears averaged 5.4 yards per play while UCLA averaged 2.3 yards per play.
The defense carried the Bears today as they made big play after big play. Mychal Kendricks had a huge game making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Quite possibly he made one of the best hits of the Bears' season when Franklin came his direction and Kendricks stood him straight up and slammed him back.
It was nearly reminiscence of Patrick Willis at Mississippi when he stood a runner up at the goal line. Kendricks wasn't as dramatic as Willis' hit, but it was similar.
What is a concern though is that of the offensive line protecting Riley did not allow him much time to throw the football. Also, the play-calling was a little too conservative in the second half.
If the Bears are going to make a run in the Pac-10, Jones and Allen need to catch more than a combined four passes for 28 yards. There's no doubt it was a great game on the defensive side, but the offense left a lot to be desired.
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