Expect worst, get best of Cal
Looking back at UCLA’s 30-21 victory over No. 10 California.
As expected: Of course UCLA is going to blow this. A two-point lead isn’t enough, not with Cal on the Bruins 30-yard line. Another mismanaged game by Karl Dorrell . . . wait, is that cornerback Alterraun Verner running for a touchdown?
The Bruins’ fan creed: Expect the worst; be pleasantly surprised.
What needed to be in their equation was defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker. Once again, he showed why he doesn’t need a career development meeting. Things seem to develop nicely by themselves.
The Bruins’ defense made life difficult for the Bears’ highlight-reel players. That was evident when Verner stepped in front of California’s DeSean Jackson for the interception that saved the day. Everybody on the Bruins’ side said they knew what the Bears were going to try when they lined up.
Unexpected: Everything in the Bruins’ football program, from the head coach to the equipment man, seems to fall into the “unexpected” category. This herky-jerky sideshow leads to unrest among the faithful, and unfaithful, but the Bruins mustered up the gumption to beat 10th-ranked Cal. Yet these are the same guys who did a belly flop in Utah and had no plan for quarterback disaster against Notre Dame.
Stepped up: The offensive line. Limiting themselves to that one false-start penalty Saturday would have been cause enough to celebrate. But the blockers did so much more against the Bears.
The Bruins gained 183 yards rushing, the most Cal has given up in a game this season. That not only sustained drives, it kept the potent Bears offense off the field.
Stepped back: Dorrell’s critics, who can take at least a week off. Poised for another round of bash-the-coach, they can give their mad Internet skills a rest after the Bruins had a solid performance top-to-bottom Saturday and will now prepare for lightweight Washington State.
And, before hitting that “send” button, yes, the contest at Pullman, Wash., does seem like the type of game Dorrell and the Bruins have lost in the past.
Coach’s quote: Dorrell: “We played as complete, total football game as we have done this season, with all three areas [offense, defense, special teams] holding their own.”
The offensive part was handled by quarterback Patrick Cowan, who was unspectacular but efficient.
“He managed the offense,” Dorrell said. “The offense had a positive day. We weren’t perfect, but we did enough things each quarter that amounted to production.”
Injuries: Linebacker Christian Taylor is the biggest concern. He left the game with a concussion, then had a seizure on the sidelines and was taken to the hospital. He was released Saturday evening and Dorrell said, “I saw him eating lunch today and he was getting ready to go to some meetings.” Dorrell did not rule Taylor out for this week.
Defensive tackle Jess Ward (sprained knee) is scheduled to have an MRI exam this week. Defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski (shoulder) had one Sunday. Their status is uncertain, which could mean more playing time for freshman Brian Price. Tailback Kahlil Bell is still bothered by a sore shoulder.
Looking ahead to the game at Washington State (Saturday, Martin Stadium, 3:30 p.m., FSN).
First look: There is nothing here that should worry Bruins fans. So they should be scared.
Washington State is stumbling its way to a probable exit for Coach Bill Doba, which will lead to the question: How happy is former Cougars Coach Mike Price down in the west Texas town of El Paso? You can bet there are more than a few “Price is Right” jokes circulating in the Palouse these days.
But the last time the Bruins rolled into Pullman, in 2005, they were undefeated and playing a Cougars team on its way to a 4-7 season. UCLA escaped with a 44-41 overtime victory.
Topic of the week: It’s a twofold discussion.
Can the Bruins build on a big victory, or will the blocks come tumbling down?
The Cal victory was nice, but UCLA fans have seen these double features before. A great fourth-quarter rally against Stanford to stay unbeaten in 2005, followed by a 52-14 humiliation against a bad Arizona team. A victory over Arizona State to improve to 6-2 in 2003, followed by five straight losses. And so on.
Also, how long is Taylor out?
Of all the players to lose, he ranks among the few can’t-live-without-him ones.
Season log (5-2)
Sept. 1: Stanford (3-4, 2-3);
Sept. 8: Brigham Young (5-2);
Sept. 15: at Utah (5-3); lost, 44-6.
Sept. 22: Washington (2-5, 0-4);
Sept. 29: at Oregon State (4-3, 2-2), won, 40-14.
Oct. 6: Notre Dame (1-7); lost, 20-6.
Oct. 20: California (5-2, 2-2); won, 30-21. Call this a defibrillation game. The Bruins still have a Rose Bowl pulse.
Oct. 27: at Washington State (2-5, 0-4); This one’s a tap-in, right? How could the Bruins ever lose to some down-and-out, going-nowhere team?
Nov. 3: at Arizona (2-6, 1-4)
Nov. 10: Arizona State (7-0, 4-0)
Nov. 24: Oregon (6-1, 3-1)
Dec. 1: at USC (6-1, 3-1)