On a night where “Dante Less” seemed more apt for UCLA Bruins’ quarterback Dante Moore, the California Golden Bears asserted their dominance, securing bowl eligibility with a commanding 33-7 victory over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday night.
This impressive win at the Rose Bowl signified a remarkable turnaround for Cal, who concluded their regular season with a three-game winning streak after a challenging mid-season slump.
Moore’s struggles were emblematic of UCLA’s broader challenges, as the Golden Bears capitalized on every opportunity to tilt the game in their favor.
UCLA Bruins Key Moments And Performances
The game was replete with pivotal moments and standout performances, notably from Cal’s players:
- Jaydn Ott‘s Electrifying Kickoff Return: Ott’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was a spectacle, tying for the third-longest in Cal history. This play swung the momentum in Cal’s favor early in the game and demonstrated Ott’s game-breaking abilities.
- Jeremiah Hunter‘s Dual Touchdowns: Hunter emerged as a key offensive weapon, hauling in two touchdown passes. His presence in the red zone was particularly impactful, adding a layer of threat to Cal’s aerial attack.
- Fernando Mendoza‘s Steady Leadership: Mendoza’s quarterbacking was crucial, with his two touchdown passes and 178 passing yards. Despite two interceptions, his composure helped Cal maintain an offensive rhythm.
- Defensive Dominance: The Golden Bears’ defense was a nightmare for UCLA’s offense, highlighted by six sacks and forcing four turnovers. This defensive prowess was pivotal in limiting UCLA’s scoring opportunities.
- Laiatu Latu’s Interception: One bright spot on the UCLA side was of course Laiatu Latu. With his second interception of the year in this game that was turned into a touchdown, Latu finished his college football career on a high note with a pick and two QB hits.
UCLA Bruins Struggles And Injuries
For UCLA, the game was marred by missteps and misfortunes:
- Ethan Garbers‘ Early Exit: Starting QB Ethan Garbers had to leave the game early due to a shoulder injury, disrupting UCLA’s offensive game plan.
- Dante Moore’s Rough Outing: Freshman Dante Moore, replacing Garbers, struggled with two interceptions and was sacked six times, reflecting UCLA’s challenges in pass protection and decision-making.
- Chip Kelly’s Future in Question: UCLA’s underperformance, especially in conference play, has raised questions about head coach Chip Kelly’s future with the team.
Cal’s Tactical Prowess
Cal’s offensive strategy, involving motion plays centered around Jaydn Ott, was effective in creating mismatches and exploiting UCLA’s defensive vulnerabilities. The Golden Bears’ mix of slip screens, catch-and-run plays, and a varied running game kept the Bruins’ defense off balance throughout the game. Coach Kelly mentioned in the post-game presser that he thought the defense played well, the only reason they gave up the yards was because they were out there too much due to offensive ineptness.
Cal’s defense deserves special mention. They successfully executed press coverage, stifling UCLA’s receivers and creating a disruptive front that varied between 4-3, and 5-2-4 formations. This adaptability was key in thwarting UCLA’s offensive plans.
The Path Forward
This game not only secured a bowl game for Cal but also ended a three-game losing streak against UCLA. With the Pac-12 ultimately ceasing to exist and both teams moving to different conferences, the future of this rivalry remains uncertain.
As both teams now await their bowl destinations, this game will be remembered as a testament to Cal’s resilience and the UCLA Bruins’ challenges in a season of high expectations but mixed results.