Jared Goff (photo by David Bernal/GoldenBearSports.com)
ROSE BOWL/PASADENA, CA -The final score wasn't indicative of exactly how thoroughly-dominated the Bears were much of Thursday night as UCLA ran away with a convincing 40-24 victory in Pasadena.
Coming into a game that was critical for their Pac-12 championship hopes, the Bears played listlessly for much of the game, misfiring on the majority of their drives, while their defense was seemingly incapable of keeping UCLA off the scoreboard till finally forcing a punt on the Bruins' eighth possession, giving up scores in all six Bruin 1st half possessions. The half ended on a booming 60-yard Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal as the clock expired, leaving the Bears with a steep deficit they could never overcome.
Fairbairn converted all four of his 1st half attempts while punching all six 1st half kickoffs into or out of the end zone for touchbacks.
In a performance that had to be equally-galling to both fans and players and staff alike, the lines were manhandled on both sides of the ball and were unable to contain open receivers all night long. Nor were they able to stop the Bruins running game -particularly starting tailback Paul Perkins, who had 73 yards on 11 carries before going down with an injury. Bruin backup Soso Jamabo was also effective, rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries.
Quarterback Josh Rosen had his best performance of the season after struggling the last two games, hitting on 34-of-47 for 399 yards and three touchdowns, setting a UCLA freshman quarterback yardage record in the process.
Rosen's main target in thei victory was tight end Thomas Duarte, who hauled in 10 receptions for 141 yards on the night. Receiver Devin Fuller was right behind, with seven catches for 100 yards and two td's on the night.
Cal quarterback Jared Goff was harried all night but managed to complete 32-for-53 for 295 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions on the night. Goff was sacked four times in the 2nd half and five times overall on the night.
"The key was getting that quarterback on the ground," said UCLA head coach. He’s a great player. Man, he’s fun to watch.
"The second half we got him on the ground so that helped us.
"What’s great about that kid, he feels the pressure and slides away and makes accurate throws. He’s a heck of a player."
"I felt we had a good week of practice," said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes. "We felt like we were as ready to play as we've been all year. I thought our guys were fresh and excited to play. That clearly wasn't the case.
"We didn't execute well. We didn't protect Jared very well. He got sacked five times. We did not do a good job on first down. We got behind the chains too much on first down. We didn't run the ball particularly well. We had a lot of second and third-and-longs. That put a lot of pressure on our offensive line and our quarterback. We've got to be able to run better and just execute better."
The Cal offense looked out of synch all night, with the Bruins' man coverage giving the receiving corps difficulty finding openings for Goff. Several balls that were catchable were not converted throughout the game, as stalwart receivers Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs struggling to regain the consistency that's been there hallmark until recent games.
Lawler was held to five catches for just 32 yards on the night and Treggs had just a pair for 19 yards on the night.
The Cal running game didn't fare much better, as running back Khalfani Muhammed led the Bears with 55 yards on 8 carries, though the Bears managed to gain 160 yards on the ground on the night.
The defense appeared listless much of the game, lacking the aggression that marked their first six games. The Bears were led in tackles by safety Demariay Drew, who also laid a big hit on Rosen, with linebacker Hardy Nickerson next with eight -though many more missed tackles marked the junior's performance tonight.
"We didn't do a good job getting off the field," said Dykes. "We had opportunities to intercept passes early in the ball game and we didn't make those plays. We had opportunities to make contested plays early on and we didn't. Against good football teams, you have to make those.
"It's the same thing with pressure. We've got to put pressure on Rosen but we din't do a good job of keeping him hemmed in. Things we haven't done all year, we did tonight.
"That's not indicative of this football team. We just didn't play well tonight."
The Bears started off the game methodically driving down the field, going 66 yards in 14 plays, settling for a 26-yard Matt Anderson field goal after their drive stalled to take an early 3-0 lead 5:17.
The drive was the first opening drive scoring possession the Bears could string together since the initial drive in their season opening victory over Grambling State and would be one of the last positive moments for the contest.
Mirroring the Bears, UCLA put together a 9-play, 48-yard drive of their own, with kicker Kaimi Fairbairn converting from 44-yards to tie the game at 3.
Until the drive stalled, UCLA running back Paul Perkins gashed the Bears, rushing for 12, 12, 6 and 11 yards in successive carries, but the drive stalled on a Josh Rosen incompletion and Thomas Duarte pass interference call, forcing the field goal.
After the Bears were unable to convert a first down on their next possession, UCLA came back to drive 70 yards in 13 plays to take a 10-3 lead with 1:42 remaining in the quarter, with Rosen hitting tight end Duarte on a 7-yard fade over safety Demariay Drew. It was a lead they'd never relinquish.
After the Bears stalled again at midfield and punted, the Bruins went on the move again, driving 90 yards to take a 14-point lead, with Rosen hitting receiver Devin Fuller for a 17-yard td after senior defensive back Darius White was completely turned around and out of position on the play. The touchdown pass followed a reception in the flat and big gainer by tailback Soso Jamabo for 23 yards, with the Bears' defense nowhere in sight.
After another pair of Bruin field goals from 41 and 37 yards, the Bears' offense finally woke up, with Goff completing several tough passes, including an impossible-to-defend fade from the 1 to receiver Kenny Lawler, who made a highlight reel catch on the play to pull withing two scores, 23-10 before Fairbairn's massive boot stretched the Bruin lead to 26-10 at the half.
The Bruins picked up where they left off to start the 2nd half, slicing through the Bears' defense, going 80 yards in eight plays, culminating in a Rosen touchdown pass to Fuller -his second of the game- for 21 yards against a badly-beaten White, who'd played masterfully this season till stumbling in Pasadena. The 23-point deficit was the largest of the year by far for the Bears as the Bruins led 33-10.
The Bears finally got back in gear midway through the quarter, driving 73 yards in 12 plays as Goff hit a diving Darius Powe on a 1-yard touchdown pass on a diving reception for the senior's sixth career touchdown. After the 2-point conversion attempt failed, the Bears trailed 33-16.
UCLA responded in kind with a long drive of their own, with Bruin tailback Soso Jamabo punching it in from a yard out to extend the UCLA lead to 24 with 1:59 left in the quarter as the Bears were unable to slow down the UCLA offense and rally.
The Bears managed to make things look perhaps a little more respectible than they were, putting together one final drive as Goff hit tailback Khalfani Muhammad for an 18-yard touchdown with two minutes left in the game, drawing to within 16 after Goff converted on the 2-point attempt with a run up the middle to conclude the scoring on the night.
On the verge of a bowl game in 2014, Cal's season spiraled downward last year as they missed out on postseason play, finishing 5-7 after a promising start. After starting 5-0 this year and stumbling the last two games, the Bears will need to rally to avoid a similar slide in 2015.
"I have to give UCLA a lot of credit," said Dykes. "They had lost two straight. They came out and played a very aggressive and physical brand of football.
"Their coaches did a good job of getting their guys ready and we didn't perform as well as we needed to. That starts with us (the coaching staff) and with getting our guys ready to play.
"We've got to get back to the drawing board. We've got a good football team. Our guys will have to come back and play well but we've got to get some things fixed."
"Obviously, it was a frustrating game, all across the board," said Goff. "I think we just started too slow and it's something we need to fix if we're going to be a good team in the Pac-12.
"That's two weeks in a row we didn't play well and we've got to fix something but we will. We've got a very resilient group in there and a very experienced group.
"We got punched in the mouth two weeks in a row now and we're going to have to respond one way or the other. I think we're going to respond the right way, though. With the type of group we have in there (the locker room), we'll be just fine.
"I promise you this: We're going to be a different team next week. It's going to be a lot better from here on out."
After last week's bye, the Bears will have nine days to prepare for USC after spending the last two week on the road, hosting the Trojans at noon in Memorial Stadium.
To view post game interviews, use the embedded viewers below: