UCLA’s turnaround was sparked in large part by the turnovers.
The Bruins forced five turnovers and committed none Saturday at California, matching their total takeaways from their previous five games.
Linebackers Krys Barnes and Keisean Lucier-South intercepted passes and Lucier-South, safety Adarius Pickett and linebackerLokeni Toailoa recovered fumbles.
Lucier-South turned his fumble recovery into a 38-yard touchdown for the final score during the Bruins’ 37-7 rout of the Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium. It was Lucier-South’s first career touchdown.
“It was crazy,” he said with a laugh. “I got the ball, just kept running straight. I saw a guy behind me, just did a little stiff arm and went in the end zone.”
Lucier-South’s interception came on a fourth-down play in which he tipped the ball to himself before catching it. He also forced the Bears’ final fumble with a sack.
The Bruins also got help from linebacker Odua Isibor and cornerback Darnay Holmes, who forced fumbles, too.
“When you win the turnover margin like that,” coach Chip Kelly said, “ … usually it’s going to fall your way.”
UCLA benefited from two big breaks in the first half.
The first came when one of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s passes went directly off the hands of receiver Michael Ezeike … and into the hands of tight end Caleb Wilson at Cal’s five-yard line.
The drive ended with Joshua Kelley’s five-yard touchdown run for the game’s first points.
Thompson-Robinson, who has had several tipped passes intercepted this season, worried he might be on the brink of another one when the ball went into the air off Ezeike’s hands.
“I was like, ‘Oh, here we go again with the tipped picks,’” Thompson-Robinson said. “But Caleb was in the right position too, so it just worked out in our favor.”
The other play that went UCLA’s way came after Kelly twice called timeouts to ice Cal kicker Greg Thomas before his 32-yard field goal attempt with only a few seconds left before halftime.
The second timeout prompted some heavy boos but proved effective when Thomas’ field goal bounced off the right upright.
UCLA played a quarterback other than Thompson-Robinson, but it wasn’t Wilton Speight.
Kelly went with backup Matt Lynch on his team’s final drive
“I didn’t know if we were going to run the quarterback at all,” Kelly said, “so we just went with Lynchie.”
Lynch did not throw a pass or run the ball, mostly handing off to backup tailback Cole Kinder, who had 19 yards in six carries.
Missing from action
UCLA played a second consecutive game without linebacker Jaelan Phillips, receiver Kyle Philips and offensive tackle Justin Murphy, all recovering from unspecified injuries.
The Bruins also were without tailback Soso Jamabo and long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker, the latter player’s absence forcing Koby Walsh into action.
“Hopefully we’ll get him back next week,” Kelly said of Den Bleyker.
Ezeike made his first career start and had two catches for eight yards. … Cal cornerback Josh Drayden was ejected for targeting after a hit on Kelley. … UCLA receiver Theo Howard caught two passes for 23 yards, extending his streak of catching at least one pass to 22 games. … Cal’s Nikko Remigio, a freshman from Santa Ana Mater Dei, returned two punts for 26 yards.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch