Sometimes when you lose a big game, it can be tough to get up to play the following week. That may have been the case for UCLA after getting dominated by Caleb Williams and USC–and losing their shot at the Pac-12 Championship in the process.
As is per usual, UCLA played Cal during rivalry week to close out their regular season. On paper, UCLA played well. They had over 500 total yards, had about twice as many total plays and first downs as Cal, dominated time of possession, had over 350 rushing yards, and didn’t turn the football over.
But the game played out much closer than the numbers suggested. Cal kept it close for the entire game and even had a chance to win at the end, while UCLA made several mistakes and almost gave the game away. It was a far cry from how this matchup has usually gone under Chip Kelly, as UCLA dominated Cal in their last three wins. Meanwhile, this game saw UCLA miss a field goal, give up a fake punt, and go into the fourth quarter with a deficit.
UCLA was able to score when they needed to thanks to the running game. As has often been the case this season, DTR’s passing numbers were pedestrian, but he made plays when he needed to.
Nonetheless, things got the hairiest when, late in the 4th quarter, in an attempt to run out the clock, UCLA failed to convert on a 4th and 2. Chip Kelly should have either kicked the field goal to go up by two scores or continued to run the ball. Instead, he got way too cute and motioned Charbonnet out of the backfield and spun DTR out to the right to hit him in the flat. Charbonnet was open but DTR missed him. Just like that, Cal had a chance to tie things up.
Luckily, the defense bailed out the offense. After giving up a 4th and 6 underneath completion to the running back, UCLA rallied, punched the ball out, and recovered it. Ball game UCLA, 35-28.
Not the prettiest, but a win’s a win. And despite missing out on their loftier goals, UCLA now has a chance to win their bowl game and get to 10 wins, which would still be an impressive and important milestone for this program.