Cal vs. UCLA: Winners and Losers from the Bears' 31-14 Loss
Winners and losers abound for the Cal Bears after losing 31-14 at the hands of conference rival UCLA.
With the loss, Cal falls to 4-4 on the year and 1-4 in Pac-12 play. Through five conference games, Cal finds itself tied for last in the Pac-12 North, with Stanford and Arizona State still to play.
The Bears offered Berkeley faithful a mixed plate of quality against the Bruins. While they were clinical in converting opportunities that the Bruins simply gave away, Cal struggled making something on its own. Every other drive seemed to end in a turnover, mostly due to the home side's unexpected defensive pressure.
Despite the loss, there were heroes amongst the villains for Cal at the Rose Bowl. Here are 10 characters (and units) to take into account as the Golden Bears return home.
Winner: Keenan Allen, WR
Despite not finding the back of the end zone, Keenan Allen had a decent game against UCLA.
Widely regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the country, Allen finished with seven catches for 83 yards. He showed good hands over the middle with a 27-yard reception in the first quarter and was used frequently on bubble screens late.
Much of what plagued Cal offensively had nothing to do with its receivers. Tight end Anthony Miller also performed well, catching five passes for 67 yards. When they were thrown to, the Bear receivers generally made plays, Allen in particular.
While he didn't break his average of 123.66 receiving yards per game, Allen was constantly a threat UCLA had to take seriously.
Loser: Zach Maynard, QB
In one of his worst performances this year, Zach Maynard left the Rose Bowl after throwing four picks and completing 14-of-30 passes for 199 yards without a TD toss.
In his defense, Maynard was under heavy pressure all night and never found a rhythm, but four picks will kill any team's chances for a win. UCLA hasn't been the most effective offense in Pac-12 this year, but if offered chance after chance to score, the Bruins eventually will oblige.
Maynard didn't manage the game well, single-handedly killing possible scoring drives and missing open receivers. He's proven he can play better this year, but not by much.
After eight games this season, Maynard has thrown for 2,039 yards and 12 touchdowns, but has 10 picks, seven of which have come in his last three starts.
Teams are starting to figure out the Cal junior, and if Maynard can't pull it together, the Bears might not manage the two wins they need to become bowl-eligible.
Winner: Isi Sofele, RB
With Zach Maynard proving more detrimental than helpful as the game wore on, running back Isi Sofele was asked to shoulder the burden offensively against UCLA.
For the most part he didn't disappoint, rushing for 74 yards on 15 carries and scoring the game's first touchdown. The Bears looked their best when they effectively ran the ball. While the Bears did fumble once, the Bruins coughed it up twice, essentially negating that particular turnover statistic.
While Sofele averages about 87 yards on the ground per game, his performance Saturday could be characterized from a yardage perspective as subpar. The junior's overall effectiveness when compared to a dysfunctional passing game stood out. Sofele shone particularly on stretch runs, something UCLA's defense has struggled to contain this year.
The junior running back was one of the few bright spots for Cal in an otherwise dark offensive picture.
Loser: California's Offensive Line
Give credit Cal's offensive line for blocking well on outside runs and little else.
The Bears' O-Line made UCLA's front seven look like 49ers, and that's hard to do. The Bruins have struggled at putting pressure on any opposing QB this season, most notably two weeks ago at Arizona.
Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles could have thrown his passes from a lawn chair whilst sipping a mai tai for all the Bruins bothered him.
Granted, no one had seen Datone Jones line up inside rather than at his preferred DE slot, so the Bears' offensive line could be forgiven for being surprised early. The problem was that they couldn't stop him late, when Cal was trying to come back, leading to rushed throws and interceptions by Zach Maynard.
The Bears' struggles in the passing game can be directly attributed to their inability to keep Maynard upright and in rhythm. They gave up three sacks against the Bruins, even though UCLA is not the best pass rush they will have seen in 2011.
UCLA has been terrible this year at stopping the run, giving up 184.6 rushing yards per game. Only Colorado gives up more in the Pac-12, and even then it's only by a yard (185.7). Cal managed only 134 at the Rose Bowl which, while respectable, is a little low considering who they were playing.
Winner: D.J Campbell, DB
It's difficult to pick a winner on a defense that gave up 31 points to a troubled UCLA offense, but if I had to, it would be D.J Campbell.
The redshirt senior led all players with a remarkable 11 tackles, one of which resulted in a four-yard loss. Campbell was also opportunistic, recovering a muffed punt by Jordan James at the Bruin 15.
While 11 tackles might seem routine for a linebacker, Campbell plays in the secondary. He was often the last line of defense when the UCLA RB duo of Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman broke into the second level, and he kept receivers' YAC down to a minimum.
Campbell showed good form in his open-field tackles, but the mere fact that a DB was making so many stops should raise some eyebrows. The culprit? Look no further than the...
Loser: California's Defensive Line
...Cal defensive line. To be fair, the Cal D-Line was going up against one of the best rushing attacks in the Pac-12, but giving up over 300 yards net on the ground is flat unacceptable.
Most of the problems stemmed from UCLA's surprisingly error-free execution of its pistol offense. Few times in his career has Bruin QB Kevin Prince run the ball nearly as well without his body shattering, and Cal couldn't contain him.
Prince sold the fakes so perfectly that the defensive line would collapse on an empty-handed ball carrier, only to watch the real runner scurry upfield for a first down or more.
Though Prince finished with only 92 yards passing, the Bruins have one of the worst passing offenses in the conference. Most of their ineffectiveness Saturday was a result of Prince missing wide open receivers rather than Cal's pressure.
UCLA's glass man did more damage on the ground than through the air, rushing for 163 yards on 19 carries. As a team, the Bruins scored four rushing TDs, three by Derrick Coleman.
California came into the Rose Bowl as one of the top-four rushing defenses in the Pac-12, yet UCLA got whatever they wanted on the ground down after down. The Golden Bear defensive line has to take most of the blame.
Winner: Bryan Anger, P
Whenever a team's punter is one of its winners after a game, chances are they lost. However, football is a game of field position, and Bryan Anger (great name) did his best to win if for Cal.
Anger was called on five times and placed three punts inside the opposing 20. One such 56-yard bomb was muffed by the Bruins at their own 15, setting up the Bears' second (and last) touchdown.
Having a solid punter is no joke; just ask LSU. Tiger punter Brad Wing has been crucial to the their success, frequently pinning opposing offenses deep inside their own territory to start drives.
While Anger has yet to fake a punt, run for a touchdown while taunting the opposition and then be penalized for it, he's proven he can kick with the best of them.
Anger has been watch-listed for the 2011 Ray Guy award, given to the nation's top punter. More performances like the one against UCLA will help his case.
Loser: Jeff Tedford
After any loss, be it by three points or 30, fingers will be pointed at the head coach.
Jeff Tedford was no exception after Sunday's loss, and rightfully so. The man who brought Cal football back into the national discussion while producing such NFL stars as Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson and Jahvid Best now is in the midst of what could be a second consecutive losing season.
At 4-4, the Bears will need to win both games against Washington State and Oregon State if they want to make the postseason, as it's likely they won't beat Stanford or Arizona State.
Once perennial contenders for the conference crown, Cal is struggling for a winning conference record. Last weekend's loss to UCLA was a complete team loss, with players and units struggling on both sides of the ball. This was a winnable game for the Golden Bears, and they let it get away.
A loss like that reflects poorly on the coach, and Tedford has and should take some if not most of the heat. His players did not show the kind of discipline and execution needed to come back on the road.
While his job is not yet in question, Tedford needs a bowl berth to keep his critics at bay. Losses like these only serve to warm his seat.
Winners: Zach Maynard Haters
I attended Saturday's game in Pasadena, and it shocked me how many Cal fans began calling for Zach Maynard to be pulled after he threw his first pick. As the game wore on and Maynard kept missing receivers and throwing interceptions, the catcalls only grew louder.
Well obnoxious-guy-behind-me and all your fellow haters, congratulations. You were right, Maynard looked terrible against UCLA, just as he did against USC on national television three weeks ago. Now is the perfect time to jump on the guy and destroy his confidence.
Look, Maynard statistically isn't bad, he's just having a bad stretch of games. Overall, the junior ranks 46th nationally in completions per game (18.75), 29th in passing yards per game (254.88) and 25th in total passing yards (2,039).
If anything he's slightly above average, but with the "what have you done for me lately" mentality that permeates college football, Maynard gets hosed.
Critics will point to his 121.31 passing efficiency rating (which puts him in the bottom 20 percent of FBS quarterbacks) as reason to hate on him, and I take their point. It's true that Maynard isn't consistent under center, but he still can put up solid numbers.
Whatever you feel about Cal's backups, Maynard isn't going anywhere. Last week's game might give ammunition to those who dislike him, but in the end he's going to be the starter. Try to accept it.
Losers: Cal Fans
Cal fans usually travel well to the Rose Bowl, so it was a shame to see so many of them leaving midway through the fourth quarter.
Sure, by that point it was clear that the Bears weren't coming back, but after a frustrating game you might as well stay and support the squad in defeat. Granted, even some UCLA fans left early to beat the traffic, but after a tough loss on the road the team needs your cheers.
Truthfully, Cal did little on the field to cheer for.
After going up 7-0 early, the Bruins reeled off 17 unanswered and never looked back. At 17-14 in the third, Cal missed a tying field goal, and the Bruins dropped 14 more. Watching UCLA score—plus the five turnovers—makes painful viewing for the Cal faithful. I get it, but imagine what Bruin fans had to go through in Tucson.
Cal fans, understand this: You are not UCLA.
Your program has had sustained success this millennium. You produce NFL stars on an almost yearly basis. Your team is getting a new-look, refurbished stadium. Your coach is not three losses away from being fired. You do not have to run a shell game offensively to win.
Ease up on the team, they're still in rebuilding mode. Tedford has proven he can win, just give him time. Things could be much worse.
Just ask any Bruin.