Season on Brink Bruins on Horizon

The Arizona loss still stings, but the California Golden Bears must put it behind them. UCLA travels to Berkeley this weekend for a key Pac-10 conference matchup. Cal sits a half game behind first place in the Pac-10 standings but does not control its own destiny. With four of the final six games at home, the Bears can still contend for a top bowl slot starting with a win over the Bruins…

California's season has been up and down thus far through the first half of 2008. The win over Michigan State to start the season looked huge until the Spartans were plastered 45-7 by Ohio State this past weekend. They subsequently fell out of the top 25. The opening road loss at Maryland looked very bad on September 13; however, the Terps are now 5-2 and in contention for the ACC Atlantic division title. Nonetheless, last Saturday night's showing in Tucson was arguably Cal's worst performance of the year.

The Bears built a solid 10-point halftime lead only to be outscored 28-3 in the third quarter to lose 42-27. The loss not only knocked Cal out of the top 25, but also it came against a Pac-10 foe, a foe the Bears should have beaten. Now, at 4-2 and 2-1 in conference, the Bears face an uphill battle to secure one of the conference's top three bowl slots. Cal should be able to lock up a bowl berth regardless with three of the four remaining home games coming against Pac-10 teams with records at .500 or below. Yet just one week ago, it looked like Cal had a great shot to be in the top 15 heading into its matchup with USC on November 8.

With goals readjusted, quarterbacks issues still unresolved, no proven wide receivers, and the lack of an effective game plan, Cal must regroup midway and not fold as it did last season.

UCLA is a perfect opponent for the Bears to rebound and get back in the win column. The Bruins are fresh off a 23-20 win over Stanford at the Rose Bowl, but they have struggled on the road. UCLA is averaging just 307.7 yards of total offense per game, including less than 100 yards rushing per game. Cal's stout rush defense was exploited by Arizona, but UCLA should not be able to have the same success. True freshman running back Derrick Coleman has rushed for 191 yards this season for the UCLA. Kahlil Bell has added 187 – only averaging 2.5 yard per carry – through an injury-riddled season. Quarterback Kevin Craft has been effective at times, but he can be mistake prone. He has thrown for 1,518 yards and seven touchdowns, but has completed just 58.5% of his passes.

The Bruins will be looking to continue their improved play. After suffering back-to-back losses to BYU and Arizona by a combined score of 90-10, UCLA has been competitive winning two of its last four games. Cal has won its last four games at Memorial Stadium against the Bruins since 2000, scoring 38 or more on three occasions. The Bears lost last season in Pasadena by a score of 30-21. Alterraun Verner intercepted a Nate Longshore pass and sprinted 76 yards to the end zone with 1:33 remaining to seal the victory over 10th-ranked Cal.

Second half interceptions for touchdowns have become a common theme for Longshore. He threw another last Saturday against Arizona that ultimately changed the momentum of the game and doomed the Bears. The Wildcats just pulled ahead 28-27, and after the ensuing kickoff, Longshore threw the pick-six on the first play to Devin Ross. This week Coach Jeff Tedford must settle on a quarterback.

He pulled Longshore in the second half because he felt the offense was "bogged" down. Kevin Riley was inserted, but the Bear receivers continually dropped passes. Riley did not have a great week of practice last week, and he must step it up if Tedford decides to use Riley over Longshore this weekend. But a choice needs to be made, as each did not look completely confident in the second-half last week.

It should not matter who gets the start this week. The Bruins cannot stop the run, but its pass defense ranks No. 22 in the nation. Cal was killing Arizona last week behind Jahvid Best until he tweaked his elbow injury that limited his play in the second half. The Bears should be able to run all over UCLA, which is giving up 182.6 yards per game. But if the Bears get away from their game plan and start tossing the ball in the second half, as we saw last week, anything can happen.

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1959 Rose Bowl Reunion
Members of the Cal team that played in the 1959 Rose Bowl will hold a reunion Saturday, and they will be introduced on the field during the UCLA game. Coming off a 1-9 campaign in 1957, the Bears -- coached by Pete Elliott and led by QB Joe Kapp -- rebounded from an 0-2 start to capture the 1958 Pacific Coast Conference championship, finishing the regular season with a 7-3 record 50 years ago this fall. Cal, though, lost, 38-12, to Iowa in its Jan. 1 trip to Pasadena. Kapp earned first-team All-America honors after throwing for 775 yards and rushing for 616 more, while HB Jack Hart was voted first-team all-conference.

Hall of Fame Induction Weekend
The California Athletic Hall of Fame adds seven new members to its ranks this weekend with the induction of its 23rd class of former Golden Bears. Formal ceremonies will occur Friday night, and the inductees will be introduced on the field during the game vs. UCLA. The Class of 2008 includes David Ortega, who accumulated a school-record 525 tackles during his football career; Shellie Onstead, the first Golden Bear to earn All-America honors in field hockey; Brian Hendrick, a three-time All-Pac-10 basketball player; Todd Mayo, who led the baseball team to the 1988 College World Series; Kristen Smyth, a three-time All-American gymnast; Derek Van Rheenen, who was league MVP in soccer and later earned his Ph.D. from Cal; and Joan Parker, who spent nearly 40 years at the school as an athlete, coach and administrator. With the addition of the seven members, the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame now features 229 individuals and five rowing teams.

Joe Roth Memorial Game
Saturday's Cal-UCLA matchup is designated the Joe Roth Memorial Game, honoring the former Cal quarterback who passed away from cancer in 1977. Roth led the Bears to an 8-3 record and a share of the 1975 Pac-8 title when the team led the nation in total offense. He was also voted a first-team All-American in 1976. Each year since, the Bears' home game against either UCLA or USC honors Roth's memory as the Joe Roth Game.


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