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Cal Football

Cal Routed by Previously Winless UCLA

October 13, 2018

Cal’s season, which began to unravel at Arizona week ago, totally came apart Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium. UCLA, which came into the game winless in five games, left with a 37-7 victory, spoiling the annual Joe Roth Game for the Bears and the 45,889 fans in attendance.

The final score and the stats clearly showed which was the better team this day, and it wasn’t Cal. The Bears have dropped three straight after that 3-0 start and have yet to win a conference game.

“It was a total team loss,” said head coach Justin Wilcox after perhaps the most dispiriting defeat in his 18-game tenure. “We didn’t do anything well enough to win a game. Everybody has to perform better.. ..At the end of the day we have to be accountable to perform and trying harder, ...We have to throw and catch the ball, we have to block we have to tackle, we have to cover people, we have to cover kicks, we can’t have penalties. It’s just one after another.”

That certainly sums up the Bears night. In addition to the breakdowns and mistakes, the turnovers and penalties, which had been the bane of Cal’s football existence the previous two weeks, again were a problem. Cal lost three fumbles, threw two interceptions and handed UCLA good field position with a couple of penalties to aid a drive just when Cal had shown signs of life in the third quarter.

And not only did most of their standard plays misfire, they tried a couple of razzle-dazzlers that fizzled.

Bruins freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked polished beyond his age as he passed and ran like he had been doing it at this level for years rather than a mere six games.

The Bruin QB was an amazingly efficient 13-for-15 passing for 141 yards. He also escaped for several runs.

And tailback Joshua Kelley (27 above), who began his college career just up the road at UC Davis, shredded the Bears on the ground. He picked up 157 yards on 30 carries and was the big reason the Bruins were able to convert five third downs. Overall giving up 348 yards to a struggling offense was a step backwards for the Cal defense that had been performing relatively well.

“In the first half we were able to get off the field a few times,” Wilcox said. “Then we had a couple of third downs and weren’t able to get off the field. In the second half we really struggled to get off the field. Our tackling really showed up. We lost leverage on the quarterback a few times, Guys were coming up trying to make a play and we didn’t make them.

“We’ve got to finish better…. It  goes back to accountability and performance. It was not a lack of want-to, but no phase of our team played well enough to win,”

Brandon McIlwain, who again went the distance at quarterback for Cal, showed in flashes why the coaches like him. He also showed why a large contingent of Bears fans want him replaced.

He threw some nice passes and again darted and dashed between defenders for sizable yardage. He also made some terrible decisions, overthrew open receivers and was responsible for those two UCLA picks.

His numbers don’t look that bad, 22-for-40 for 168 yards. But 71 of those yards came in the fourth quarter, when the game was decided and the Bruins were playing soft.

“Brandon has to do a better job,” WIlcox said. “Everybody has to do a better job. What are the turnovers the last three weeks? Fourteen. ..When you give away that many possessions nothing good is going to happen.”

The first half started poorly for the Bears and got worse. On their second possession the Bears were moving the ball, having picked up two first downs and advanced into Bruin territory when things started to go awry. Patrick Laird, who had a couple of nice runs earlier in the drive, fumbled and UCLA recovered.
Thompson-Robinson directed a 59-yard drive that finished with Kelley taking the ball the final five yards into the end zone and a 7-0 UCLA lead.

The Cal offense pretty much sputtered the rest of the half, while UCLA twice got inside the Cal 10. The Bears defense stiffened each time, but couldn’t prevent JJ Molson from kicking a pair of field goals and giving UCLA the 13-0 halftime advantage.

McElwain finally got the Cal offense to show a little life in the waning minutes of the first half. However the Bears were undone by their mistakes. McElwain got the drive started when he scrambled for a 27 yard gain from the Cal 47.

A mistake cost the Bears a chance at a touchdown. McIlwaoin hit Kanawai Noa on the sideline at the Bruin 15 with 26 seconds left.  However, the Bears were out of time outs and Noa, rather than get out of bounds and stopping the clock which would have given the Bears time to try for the endzone, he turned up field and was immediately tackled.

Bear Insider
UCLA's defense was swarming to the ball in the first half only allowing 108 yards in the first half

McElwain had no choice but to spike the ball and the Bears could attempt what looked like a makeable field goal. However, perhaps rattled by UCLA calling two timeouts to “ice” him, Greg Thomas clanged the 32-yarder off the right upright, sending Cal off the field with a zero on the scoreboard and the sound of boos,faint but audible,rafting through Memorial Stadium.

The Bears showed some moxie coming out of the halftime break. McIlwain completed six passes in as many tries as he smartly directed a crisp drive that covered 75 yards and took nearly six and a half minutes. When Patrick Laird scored from the 1, hope began to rise in the Cal faithful.

It didn’t last long. UCLA went 83 yards to answer the Bears’ score. They got an instant boost to the drive when Cal freshman Daniel Scott was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to enable the drive to begin on the Bruin 32 rather than the 17.

As UCLA was going deep into Bear territory they got another break  with a targeting penalty against Cal’s Josh Drayden, who was ejected. It was the second week in a row that Cal had a player tossed for targeting. Jaylinn Hawkins, who had been forced to sit out the first half because of his targeting infraction last week, had just returned to the field when Drayden exited.

From there things just spiraled downhill for the Bears and UCLA piled up the yards and points, feeding as much off Cal mistakes as their own abilities.

On their next possession Cal failed to convert a fourth down at midfield. The Bruins covered that short distance in 11 plays for another touchdown.

Twitter / Cal Football
Brandon Mcllwain pictured above accounted for four turnovers tonight.

Cal’s next two drives ended in interceptions and that was pretty much that.

“It’s never going to be acceptable to give up the ball,” said a contrite McIlwain. “That’s going to be our focus and what we continue to work on.”

Speaking for the defense, linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk, who had a career high 22 tackles, said,”To give up that many yards in unacceptable. ...I don’t have any answers right now.’

This was supposed to be the second of of the string of three “winnable” games for the Bears  Last week they lost to Arizona, and now UCLA, Oregon State, the conference’s weak sister is next up before the gauntlet of conference heavys. The Beavers had a had a bye this week and after watching what happened in Berkeley, they have to thing they have a shot next week. The Bears know they had better be ready.

“Every week is a new week,” McIlwain said. “The best thing you can do after a loss is learn from it as much as you can. There were obviously a ton of mistakes and a ton of things we have to get better at, but as long as you can figure those things out you can be a little more confident going into the next week.”

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