UCLA defenders Andrew Abbott, left, and Akeem Ayers make the tackle on California… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Berkeley — This was UCLA's version of the Texas Two-Step.
The Bruins danced off the field in Austin two weeks ago with a victory over then-No. 7 Texas. They trudged to the locker room Saturday after absorbing a 35-7 beating from California at Memorial Stadium.
The sheer happiness in Texas became mild concern after the Bruins struggled against Washington State last week. That disintegrated into a bit of barking from a team leader following a loss that ended UCLA's three-game winning streak
"Cal is one of the reasons why we haven't been able to reach our goals," free safety Rahim Moore said. "We always lose to these teams like Cal and Oregon. . . ."
Moore paused and looked across the locker room to a group of teammates, a couple of whom were regulars, and yelled, "You're over there laughing? With what happened on the field?" He then picked up where he left off: ". . . We can't lose to these types of teams."
The frustration from Moore was understandable. This was no laughing matter for the Bruins (3-3 overall, 1-2 in Pacific 10 Conference play), especially with third-ranked Oregon coming up on Oct. 21 in Eugene.
"We wanted to get an important win going into Oregon," quarterback Kevin Prince said. "That would have built momentum for this program and this team."
The Bears (3-2, 1-1) took the momentum instead. They stumbled into this game from back-to-back losses to Nevada and Arizona, but went 70 yards on the first possession, with Shane Vereen scoring on a one-yard run.
By the time the Bruins appeared to show up mentally, California had a 28-0 first-half lead.
"We might have gotten a little lackadaisical in the first half," strong safety Tony Dye said. "We didn't come out on fire. We didn't come out ready to play football. There was nothing wrong scheme-wise. There was nothing wrong anything-wise. It was our level of wanting to play football."
California rushed for 304 yards. Vereen finished with 151 yards and two touchdowns in 25 carries. The Bears scored touchdowns on four of their first six possessions, with Vereen and Isi Sofele (80 yards rushing) running through the arms of would-be tacklers.
UCLA finished with 144 yards in total offense.
"We've got to be more consistent," defensive tackle David Carter said. "We can't just go out and be good against Texas and then flake on a team like Cal. We have to be a defense and an offense that puts our foot on their throat and lets them have it."
Mistakes hurt the Bruins. Running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled, giving the Bears the ball on the UCLA 17-yard line, setting up a four-yard touchdown run by Vereen for a 14-0 lead.
UCLA got to the Cal 14-yard line early in the second quarter, then shifted in reverse. A holding call on Mike Harris was followed by a bad handoff exchange between Prince and running back Derrick Coleman that resulted in an 11-yard loss. Prince was sacked on third down, taking the Bruins out of field-goal range.
Asked how the Bruins could have come out flat at the start, Coach Rick Neuheisel said, "I can't answer those questions. I know we had holding calls that were a huge deal and, obviously, the turnover."
The Bears, though, overcame mistakes.
On one second-quarter possession, California had 30 yards in penalties — a personal foul, a holding call and a false start. Still, the Bears scored. Kevin Riley threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen for a 21-0 lead.
"It was a series of unfortunate events," Prince said. "They came out and scored right away. We kind got out of sync."
But, he said, "There are six games left. We're not going to quit."