UCLA-California: A look at how the teams match up

UCLA defensive lineman Keisean Lucier-South (11) reacts after UCLA Bruins place kicker JJ Molson (17) kicks the winning field goal to give the Bruins a 30-27 win over California at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 24, 2017.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA (0-5, 0-2) at California (3-2, 0-2)

Saturday, 4 p.m., California Memorial Stadium. TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 570, 1150, 97.3.

Marquee matchup


UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson vs. the Cal defense. Thompson-Robinson is trying to put together consecutive strong performances for the first time, having struggled against Fresno State and Colorado following a solid showing against Oklahoma in his debut as a starter. The true freshman played his best game last weekend against Washington, throwing for a career-high 272 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll face a defense that has been especially stingy against the pass, giving up only 175.6 yards per game to rank No. 19 nationally.

Getting offensive

UCLA (334 ypg/18.4 ppg): UCLA’s newfound run game has helped the Bruins sustain drives at an acceptable rate for the first time this season. They converted a season-best eight of 14 of their third downs (57%) against Washington after having converted only 17 of 56 third downs (30%) in the first four games of the season.

Cal (410 ypg/26.2 ppg): Quarterback Brandon McIlwain had one of the season’s more bizarre stat lines last weekend against Arizona in his first career start. He threw for 315 yards and ran for 107 more but had three passes intercepted and lost a fumble, with two of the turnovers leading to Wildcats touchdowns.

Getting defensive

UCLA (429.6 ypg/36.4 ppg): The Bruins have been their own worst enemy on this side of the ball in each of the last two games, committing a combined four penalties that sustained scoring drives. They’re also not getting nearly enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks from their defensive linemen, who have combined for only three sacks in five games.

Cal (331.4 ypg/24.8 ppg): After spotting Arizona a 10-0 lead last weekend, the Golden Bears’ defense did not give up another score the rest of the game while holding the Wildcats to 149 yards and 3.5 yards per snap over the final three quarters.

Something special

UCLA’s Stefan Flintoft leads the Pac-12 in punting average (47.4 yards) and punts of 50 yards or more yards (13). … Cal’s Ashtyn Davis ranks first in the conference and No. 12 nationally in kick return yardage, averaging 28 yards per return. He returned his first kick return this season 89 yards for a touchdown against Idaho State.

Of note

The teams the Bruins have faced in their first five games own a combined 25-3 record. … Cal has endured even more epic penalty struggles than the Bruins, its 71.2 penalty yards per game ranking No. 103 nationally. Each of the Golden Bears’ offensive linemen committed at least one penalty last weekend against Arizona.

Injury report

UCLA linebacker Jaelan Phillips, receiver Kyle Philips and offensive tackle Justin Murphy all seem doubtful to play after sitting out against Washington. Murphy was the only one of the three players to appear at practice this week, albeit in a yellow non-contact jersey. … Golden Bears backup tailback Derrick Clark and backup guard Henry Bazakas were declared out for the season last week because of lower-body injuries.

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch