PASADENA, Calif. -- Before kickoff on Oct. 29, 2011, then-UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel took aside his embattled senior quarterback Kevin Prince in the Rose Bowl locker room, and told him that if he did not run for 100 yards that night, he would never see another snap.
Prince ran 19 times for 163 yards, as the Bruins downed the Bears, 31-14, thanks to Prince and four interceptions thrown by Cal quarterback Zach Maynard.
Last year, in Berkeley, it was the Bears' turn to put on a pick party, as Kameron Jackson turned in three interceptions against a flu-suffering Brett Hundley, and then-1-4 Cal upset the then-No. 25 Bruins, 43-17 on Homecoming night.
Saturday's affair was billed as a battle of two of the best young passers in the nation – Hundley and Jared Goff -- but the Bear Raid was once again late to the party, as has been the theme all season, and the No. 11 Bruins downed visiting Cal, 37-10.
"It was great to come back and get a win, especially coming off what happened up there last year," said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. "Brett threw the ball very well, and that was the third-highest passing game in UCLA history."
1. Bad first impressions …
The Bears (1-5, 0-3 in Pac-12) have been outscored 96-31 in first quarters this season, and in the opening stanza of Saturday night's game, Cal offense looked more lethargic than it has all season. The Bears' first four possessions went like this: Three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out and finally, a drive extended by Cal's first first down of the night, stalled at the Bears' own 38.
Cal's attack spent much of the first half going backwards, and it took more than 10 minutes into the first quarter for the Bears to even register their first, first down.
Goff started the night 6-for-9, but only gained 25 yards through the air, as the rushing game netted -6 yards (in part thanks to a 12-yard sack of Goff) in the first quarter.
The first-year signal-caller was under siege for much of the first half, and left tackle Freddie Tagaloa looked out of sorts against pass-rushing nightmare creature Anthony Barr.
"We knew we were going to have some issues blocking some of their guys up front, so we tried to leave a back in to chip at times, and that helped in some situations, but we knew we had some matchups that we knew were not great matchups for us," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "That's why we felt like, coming into this game, it was going to be so important for us to run the ball, and try to get some first downs and wear those guys down a bit and take the edge off the pass rush."
Things didn't go according to plan. The offense averaged 3.2 plays and 1:18.2 on the clock over its first five drives, allowing the vaunted UCLA pass rush to start teeing off and severely limiting the time Goff had to find open receivers down the field.
On the evening, Goff was 9-for-20 on attempted deep balls (10+ yards), while Hundley was 10-for-13, having much more time to check down or let plays develop downfield.
"They did a good job getting pressure on me early," Goff said. "I think we fixed it pretty quickly, and as the game went on, the pressure began to go away, and I thought my line did a good job of that."
Goff turned the ball over twice – once on a fumble at the one-yard line, and another by throwing an interception early in the fourth quarter on first-and-10 at the Cal 40, when he tried to find Bryce Treggs and instead found Randall Goforth.
"Safety just ran up and jumped it, really," Goff said. "I just didn't see him. We did a play-fake, turned around and just didn't see him."
Goff said that if the defense allows 37 points, the Bear Raid should more than be able to outscore an opponent.
"Of course; we've done it," Goff said. "We didn't have a very good game tonight, and that's something that we can't allow to happen. We got stuff going, but we could never really finish it off. That's something we need to really focus on."
Never was that inability to finish more apparent than on an 81-yard, 21-play drive which ground 9:02 off the clock, and ended in a Goff fumble on the doorstep of the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter.
2. You think he remembers?
Hundley had his worst game of the season last year against the Bears, but he came out on fire Saturday at the Rose Bowl. He went 11-for-12 for 150 yards in the first quarter, and at one point, completed 13 straight balls before he fired low to redshirt senior Damien Thigpen early in the second. Hundley out-gained the entire Cal offense all by his lonesome in the first half, completing 21 of 25 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing seven times for 23 yards – a total that in fact surpassed the entire Bears running game up to that point.
Hundley had markedly more time to throw than Goff, as evidenced by the amount of passing attempts he made down field, going 6-for-9 on passing attempts of 10 yards or more in the first half, staking the Bruins to a 24-10 halftime lead.
Hundley's 410 passing yards on the night were a career high, as he went 31-for-41 with three touchdowns and not a single interception. He was sacked twice, buts till rushed for a net 18 yards.
3. More flags than Magic Mountain …
While the Bruins committed nine penalties for 64 yards – two of them on back-to-back plays by Cassius Marsh, the latter of which prompted the ejection of the senior defensive end – the Bears once again showed a lack of discipline in key situations.
Deandre Coleman – a redshirt senior who should be a steady hand in a young defense desperate for experience – was flagged for roughing the passer, and several drives later, picked up a personal foul on first-and-goal at the six-yard line, following a red zone fumble Goff. Luckily for Coleman, the infraction wasn't too costly, thanks to two break-ups on the parts of Jackson and true freshman Cameron Walker, forcing the Bruins to boot a 22-yard field goal instead of punching in a touchdown.
The Bears have now accrued at least nine penalties in each of the last three games, after a relatively clean five-flag day against Ohio State.
"We had too many penalties," Dykes said. "Every time we have a bunch of penalties on our offensive line, and when we get something good going, you look up and all of the sudden we're in first-and-20 again. When you have the kind of pass rush UCLA does, you've got to avoid big, long-yardage situations. We had far too many of those today.
"Every time we'd stick a drive together, we'd end up with a penalty. We got down in the red zone, got down on the goal line and didn't score at the end – that's been an Achilles heel of ours all year. It was not a very clean game, offensively."
4. Third-and-Never …
Cal didn't convert on a third down for the first time until midway through the third quarter (7:40), and after that 13-yard dart from Goff to Chris Harper, the Bears promptly came up with a negative passing play, an overthrow and a sack. Cal went 4-for-17 on the night on third down, gaining just 2.4 yards per third down attempt.
After a record-setting day last week against Washington State, Goff looked very human against the Bruins, going 23-for-36 for 215 yards and no touchdowns, taking three sacks. Taking out his 15-snap outing against Oregon when he threw for just 11 yards, this was Goff's lowest passing yard total of his young career.
How much of the offensive struggles can be laid at Goff's feet? As far as he's concerned, all of them.
"It's probably mainly on me," Goff said. "If the offense doesn't do well, it's probably my fault. It really was, tonight. I've got to play a lot better than I did. We ran the ball pretty well, but I've just got to complete more passes and not turn the ball over."
After a rough first quarter which saw the Bears run for -6 net yards, the Cal running game – behind starting tailback Khalfani Muhammad -- finally lurched into gear, rushing for 105 yards on 37 attempts, helping relieve some of the pressure on Goff.
"Any time you get a run game, it does help a lot, and I thought we did a good job tonight with the run game," Goff said. "I've just got to play a better game and give us a chance to win."
Muhammad rushed for 63 yards on 14 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, while Daniel Lasco -- who left the game late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury – was perhaps the best back, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and punching in Cal's first – and only – touchdown of the evening.
"I thought he ran hard," Dykes said of Muhammad, who also caught one pass for three yards and returned seven kickoffs for 158. "I thought we finally got a little bit of production out of the run game, at times. It was a little bit spotty, and we did a horrible job on third down. It was bad. Third down was an issue that we were not good at, at all, tonight."
The solution to the third down conversion issues turned out to be big Richard Rodgers -- the former tight end and current inside receiver. Rodgers said he thought the last ball he carried out of the backfield was early in his prep days, before he took snaps at the point of the Bone formation this week in practice, but said he felt "fine," if not natural, toting the rock. At one point, Rodgers managed three straight third-down-and-short conversions, though at the end of a 21-play drive in the fourth quarter, Rodgers was stymied by a stacked box down at the UCLA goal line. Rodgers finished with six carries for nine yards.
"I thought it was good for us," Dykes said. "It gave us a chance to convert some things in short yardage. That's been an issue of ours all year. I can't tell you how many times this year we've been inside the five-yard line and haven't been able to get the ball in the end zone. That's something that, normally, is a strength of ours, and it certainly hasn't been so far, this year."
5. Under pressure
While the numbers may not look like the Bears showed up well on defense, take the 10 points off of turnovers off the board, and this is a 27-10 game against the No. 11 team in the land. UCLA settled for field goals in the red zone three times, and while Hundley set a career high for passing yards (410), Cal largely held the running game in check, limiting the Bruins to 78 yards on the ground.
"Defensively, those guys improved, and I thought they're getting better," said Dykes. "It's nowhere near what we want, but I do think that they are improving."
While the Cal offense had plenty of struggles on third down, the Bears defense made sure that the Bruins earned every yard, holding UCLA to 7-of-15 on third. While the Bruins have outscored opponents 65-0 in third quarters this season, Cal held UCLA to just six points on two field goals in the third.
"Stellar," Goff said of the defense. "They played really well. They gave us a chance to win. They gave us a really good chance to win, and we didn't capitalize when they got three-and-outs and when we got good field position, we didn't capitalize on it. It's something we need to get better at, offensively."
UCLA's 2.3 yards per carry average on the ground was its lowest of the season.
"We got better," said starting middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, Jr., who led the Bears with nine total tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss. "We stopped the run. They got us on some passes, but overall, I think we got better as a defense."
The real killer for the Bears defense was, ironically, the offense. The inability to keep drives rolling meant that the Cal defense was on the field often, but despite that, eight of the Bruins' 13 drives were of six plays or fewer, and of those, only two ended in scores.
"I think we put our defense in a bad situation, and I thought those guys rose up and made some plays," Dykes said. "When we threw the interception, they held them to a field goal, so I thought, at times, those guys played well. The tackling hurt us early in the ballgame, and that's something that's been a bit of an issue. We've got to do a better job of tackling.
"I thought, defensively, we played well enough at times to give us a chance to win. If the offense would have played, I think that's been our issue at times, this year – when our offense has played well, our defense hasn't, and when our defense played well, we've struggled offensively, like we did tonight. There's obviously a lot of ways we've got to get better."
Cal's top two tacklers on the night -- Nickerson and Walker -- are both freshmen, and safety Damariay Drew -- who took a licking in a helmet-to-helmet hit with just under five minutes gone in the fourth quarter, but returned a series later -- also chimed in with four tackles and a pass break-up.
"There were guys today that played much improved; I thought Cameron Walker, at times, you could tell he's starting to get a little more comfortable and play with more confidence," Dykes said. "Damariay Drew showed up a lot tonight. He played more comfortable and confident. Those two guys, in particular, I think are improving and getting better. I think the freshman linebackers seemed to play better. I thought Hardy Nickerson and [Michael] Barton, both, were more productive than they've been, particularly against the run. There are some signs. That's four freshmen in our defense right now that I think are improving."