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UCLA vs. Cal: Bruins aim to stop their Berkeley losing streak

A shaky Cal defense may be able to contain UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince, but can it stop the rushing attack of Johnathan Franklin, who tore through Texas two weeks ago?

October 08, 2010|By Chris Foster

You have to dip back into last century to reminisce about a UCLA victory in Berkeley. The Bruins are 0-5 there since a 28-16 victory in 1998. That was also the last season the Bruins played in the Rose Bowl game, the longest stretch in UCLA history since the Pacific 10 Conference champion automatically qualified. Cal hasn't been to a Rose Bowl since 1959. Staff writer Chris Foster looks at the matchups and issues surrounding the game:

In the crosshairs

California's first experience against the "pistol" offense? Well, the Bears weren't bulletproof.

Nevada, with Colin Kaepernick calling the shots, rolled up 497 yards — 316 rushing — in a 52-31 victory.

The upside for the Bears defense? UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince is no Kaepernick, at least not yet.

California more or less dared Kaepernick to beat them running — and he did, with 148 yards and three touchdowns. He also passed for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

Prince has proven he can run the ball and the offense, but, coming off a knee injury that kept him out of last week's game, he is not the same threat as Kaepernick.

The Bears, who didn't play Saturday, played well defensively against Arizona two weeks ago, but they gave up a 77-yard touchdown drive in the last two minutes in a 10-9 loss.

Stop or go

Despite its performance against Nevada, Cal gives up an average of 126 yards rushing a game, which ranks a respectable 38th in the nation in run defense.

Of course, Texas had the nation's top-rated run defense before UCLA and running back Johnathan Franklin stampeded through Austin.

Franklin is 10th in the nation in rushing, averaging 125 yards a game.

He'll put plenty of pressure on the Bears' solid core of linebackers — Mike Mohamed, Mychal Kendricks, D.J. Holt and Keith Browner Jr.

Franklin has three consecutive 100-yard games. The last Bruin to have four consecutive 100-yard games was Tyler Ebell, who went for triple digits in six straight games in 2002.

Life of Riley

Cal quarterback Kevin Riley has played well against UCLA, with five touchdown passes in two games. He has also had his games when he played poorly.

Riley had three passes intercepted in the Nevada loss, and he passed for only 116 yards against Arizona. Last season, Riley completed just 46% of his passes in the Bears' five losses.

Cal offers a couple of game breakers at Riley's disposal. Wide receiver Marvin Jones leads the Pacific 10 Conference with 23 receptions and is third with 369 receiving yards. Running back Shane Vereen is third in the conference in rushing, averaging 106.5 yards a game.

Jones caught 43- and 24-yard touchdown passes against UCLA last season. Vereen had 154 yards rushing and one touchdown.

Stuck in neutral

UCLA, under Coach Rick Neuheisel, has had some nice moments. But in the coach's first two seasons the Bruins have only one victory over a team that finished the season with a winning record — Tennessee, which was 7-6 last season.

While Neuheisel's teams have carved out a 7-3 nonconference record, they are 7-13 in Pac-10 games.

"At some point we need to win more than three [conference] games, like we did the last two seasons," Prince said.

If that's going to happen, it seems UCLA needs this game. After Cal, the Bruins get, in order, third-ranked Oregon, ninth-ranked Arizona and an Oregon State team that has lost only to No. 4 Boise State and No. 5 Texas Christian.

Low Cal

The Bears also have reached a move-forward-or-move-over stage. They have lost back-to-back games and still have to play Oregon and Stanford.

Coach Jeff Tedford has never had a losing season at Cal and has taken the Bears to seven consecutive bowl games. However, he makes $2.8 million per season and Cal fans are starting to carp about wanting a little more from their coach.

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