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FOOTBALL

That bumpy Berkeley

UCLA has run into trouble at Cal for years. Now comes a test for a Bruins team with a 2-0 road mark.

October 03, 2012|Chris Foster
  • Johnathan Franklin and the Bruins look to Cal at Memorial Stadium for the first time since 1998.
Johnathan Franklin and the Bruins look to Cal at Memorial Stadium for the… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Somewhere in Cory Paus' parents' house, buried among happier treasures, is photographic evidence of when UCLA's football struggles began in games at California's Memorial Stadium.

It's shown on a newspaper sports page, of which the former Bruins quarterback says, "I wanted to burn it, but they wouldn't let me."

UCLA receiver Brian Poli-Dixon is forever reaching for the ball in the photo.

"You would swear it was going to be a touchdown," Paus says. Except that "hands from the wrong color jersey are coming over the top."

Those hands belonged to Jemeel Powell, who picked off the pass in the end zone to preserve the Bears' 46-38 triple-overtime victory on Oct. 14, 2000.

So began UCLA's Berkeley buzz kill. What a long, strange trip it's been.

The Bruins haven't won at Memorial Stadium since 1998. The Bears' six-game home winning streak perplexes Paus, whose college career ended when he suffered a broken leg during a 17-12 loss at Cal in 2002.

"Cal was looked on as the big school and we were the 'Little Bears' for a long time, so I guess they get excited about the game," Paus says. "Other than that, I can't tell you why we keeping losing up there."

Saturday's game could be UCLA's acid test.

The Bruins have been a bad road team the last six seasons, with an 8-27 record. They are 2-0 this season, though those wins came at 1-4 Rice and 1-4 Colorado.

Cal is also 1-4. A victory assures UCLA of its first winning road record since 2005.

The two University of California schools, whose fight songs share the same tune, have a relatively civil rivalry. For ugliness, Cal has Stanford and UCLA has USC.

"No matter who scores, it's the same fight song," former UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan says. "Close your eyes and you're never losing."

That's the only way UCLA could visualize victory up north this century. Memorial Stadium has been renovated, but the ghosts remain.

"My first start was in Oregon's Autzen Stadium, but the loudest stadium I have ever played in was at Cal," Cowan says. The year was 2006. Cowan passed for 329 yards. The Bears won, 38-24.

So it's the crowd?

"The place takes you out of your comfort zone, with that little tiny locker room they put you in and that long walk to the field," UCLA senior quarterback Kevin Prince says.

In 2010, Prince hobbled through a 35-7 loss at California on a bad knee while Bears' running back Shane Vereen trampled all over the Bruins for 151 yards.

So it's the whole visiting-team experience?

"I just remember Cal always had some really good players," Paus says.

Paus threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in 2000. His opposite number was Kyle Boller, the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick in 2003. Boller also threw three touchdown passes in the triple-overtime win. Boller beat the Bruins again two years later. In 2004, future Super Bowl most valuable player Aaron Rodgers led the Bears to a 45-28 victory over UCLA.

So it was the Bears' talent?

"I can't tell what has gone on in the past," UCLA senior safety Dalton Hilliard says. "I can only tell you we're going to be ready to go this year."

The difference this season is that the Bruins have staked a claim as road warriors.

"I think the level of discipline is higher," senior defensive end Datone Jones says. "If you're going to be a great team you have to execute on the road."

UCLA had a record of 3-16 in Pac-12 road games the last four seasons.

It's said that Jim Mora, UCLA's first-year coach, has brought an NFL-like approach. "We're on business trips now," Jones says.

Mora has the team on a set schedule. "Focus is the thing that matters, not a rivalry, not being on the road, just the process," he says.

Says Hilliard: "Every game we play is a rivalry game."

Still, Cal has traditionally been second only to USC on the Bruins' to-do list.

So reviled were the Bears that UCLA track coach Ducky Drake used to give an annual speech to the Bruins about the disrespect their UC cousins had shown. Drake gave that same talk from 1972 until his death in 1989, and the Bruins won 18 consecutive games.

"To be honest, there is some lost tradition," Paus says. "If you ask UCLA players, they probably want to beat Oregon more. People forget the history of the Bears and the Bruins, of two UC schools."

Paus hasn't forgotten.

"I remember the triple overtime," he says. "I remember my career coming to an end there two years later."

As for the six-game losing streak?

"Quite frankly, that's just another statistic," junior linebacker Jordan Zumwalt says. "This is a record that's meant to be broken."

--

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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