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Bruins could be stepping into a Bear trap

The last time UCLA won a football game in Berkeley, the Bruins were rated No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. It's been a long, long time.

October 05, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • Coach Jeff Tedford of the California Golden Bears leads his team onto the field.
Coach Jeff Tedford of the California Golden Bears leads his team onto the… (Harry How / Getty Images )

The last time UCLA won a football game in Berkeley, the Bruins were rated No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. It's been a long, long time. The 25th-ranked Bruins have lost their last six games at California's Memorial Stadium. Times staff writer Chris Foster examines Saturday's matchups and story lines:

Bear trap?

With a record of 1-4, Cal is off to its worst start in 11 seasons under Jeff Tedford, whose coaching seat has gone from warm to scalding.

He is the winningest football coach in school history, but his job appears in jeopardy unless there is a dramatic turnaround. Of course, a team trying to save its coach's job can be dangerous — well, except for UCLA last year in a 50-0 loss to USC — and there is plenty of talent on the Bears' roster.

Maybe that's why UCLA is only a two-point favorite.

On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to doubt Cal, among them:

•In their only win, the Bears needed 30 points in the fourth quarter to put away Southern Utah.

•UCLA intercepted four of quarterback Zach Maynard's passes last season.

•While UCLA is fourth in the nation in total offense, Cal is 80th in rushing defense, 89th in passing efficiency defense, 84th in scoring defense and 80th in total defense.

Bear claws

Few teams can match Cal's speed at the skill positions.

Keenan Allen is as good a receiver as there is in the nation, and scary as a punt returner. Big games bring out his best. He had nine catches against Ohio State and nine more against USC.

The Bears' hydra-head backfield has three players who might be 1,000-yard rushers elsewhere. Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson are tested seniors. But it's Brendan Bigelow who is raising eyebrows. He had four carries against Ohio State, two of them touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards.

Yet Bigelow did not touch the ball once just two weeks later, in last Saturday's 27-17 loss to Arizona State.

Raising the Barr

The Bears give up five sacks per game, ranking them last in the nation when it comes to protecting the quarterback.

UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr has nine tackles for losses, including six sacks.

That adds up well for the Bruins.

The Bears have little chance of winning if Barr spends as much time in their backfield as Maynard.

Cal has only one offensive line starter back from last season, plus a skittish quarterback. Bad combination.

One to watch

UCLA's offense may have another potent player on the tarmac.

Devin Fuller, a freshman who came to the Bruins as a quarterback, is expected to play some at wide receiver.

Receiver Devin Lucien suffered a broken collarbone against Colorado last Saturday and Fuller, who is 6 feet, 190 pounds, may fit into that spot in the rotation.

The Bruins have already used 11 true freshmen this season.

Boot polishing

If the game is decided by a field goal, both sides will hold their breath.

UCLA freshman Ka'imi Fairbairn has made eight of 12 field goals, but his longest is 35 yards.

Cal's Vincenzo D'Amato is eight of 13 on field goals. But he missed three — from 40, and twice from 42 yards — in a 35-28 loss to Ohio State.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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