What happened and what mattered in the UCLA 37-7 win over Cal?
UCLA 37, Cal 7
Well, there we go … was that so hard? UCLA got the first win under Chip Kelly because 1) the passing game worked and 2) the defense forced screw up after screw up. After a great performance against Washington, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson took another big step, completing 13-of-15 passes for 141 yards, and he ran for 27 more. Most of all, he didn’t throw any picks, and the running game and the D did the rest.
Joshua Kelley handled most of the heavy lifting, running 30 times for 157 yards and three scores. UCLA didn’t dominate the time of possession battle, but it didn’t need to. The offense just had to take advantage of all the Cal mistakes, and the D had something to do with that, too …
Cal can’t keep playing Brandon McIlwain. He might be dynamic, and he might provide a spark, but he killed the offense with two fumbles and two picks. He only ran for 12 yards, didn’t do anything for the downfield passing game, and completed just 22-of-40 passes for 168 yards and two interceptions. And now the Cal coaching staff has to make a call. Is McIlwain the quarterback of the future, and is it worth all of the turnovers to keep developing him?
Patrick Laird ran for 94 yards and a touchdown, and the Bears were still alive early on in the second half, but the turnover avalanche was too much to overcome. Give UCLA credit for facing the mistakes, but Cal picked a horrible time to be this sloppy at home.
The Bears have lost three straight, and now they get a road trip against a rested Oregon State. That’s the season. Win that, and there’s still a glimmer of hope, but with a brutal back half to deal with, a bowl game is a long shot now with the Washington, at Washington State, at USC, Stanford and Colorado to finish up.
UCLA can now reasonably think it might be able to beat a wounded Arizona team next. Forget about going to a run to a bowl game – Utah, at Oregon, at Arizona State, USC, and Stanford – but now there’s hope. Now there’s a shot to really and truly believe in the future. With this youth movement underway, this was the moment when UCLA looked like it’s probably going to be in 2019 and beyond under Kelly.