It would have been easy to expect a letdown after UCLA’s thrashing of their crosstown rival two weeks ago. But such was not the case for the Bruins this past week. They took care of business at the Rose Bowl, defeating the Cal Bears by a final score of 42-14. That caps off a three-game winning streak to end the Bruins’ regular season. It also happens to be their best stretch of play of the year.
The past three weeks have seen UCLA win games 44-20, 62-33, and 42-14. Together, that puts them outscoring their opponents 148-67. Prior to the streak, UCLA had not put up 40 points in a game since Week 0.
This game was actually fairly competitive during the first half. UCLA was trailing 14-10 late in the second quarter and only took a 17-14 lead into the half. But the second half was all UCLA as the Bruins managed to shut out Cal from that point forward.
Both the offense and defense were clicking in a fairly complete performance outside of an early special teams error. As usual, DTR didn’t put up crazy numbers through the air, but he made the plays that he needed to. He did a good job avoiding pressure when Cal got into the backfield, and most importantly, he did not turn the ball over. And similarly to last week, he was a monster on the ground. He had over 100 yards on 13 carries, good for nearly eight yards a carry.
Zach Charbonnet also had a 100-yard rushing day and excelled after contact with his physical frame and rushing style, as he has done all year. If you had to pick an MVP for this Bruins team, it would be hard not to go with Charbonnet.
In fact, pretty much all the usual suspects had productive days on the win. Kyle Philips had 6 receptions and another 2 touchdowns, while Greg Dulcich had 86 yards on 6 receptions and a touchdown. Philips continues to be productive and quick in the slot, while Dulcich continues to be a beast running downfield and catching the ball. The UCLA offense had 446 total yards, nearly 300 rushing yards, and went an impressive 9/13 on third downs.
But perhaps most importantly was how well this much-maligned UCLA defense played. They picked off Chase Garbers twice and held Cal to just 217 total yards of offense. Cal only converted 4 of their 13 third-down tries and 2 of their 5 fourth-down tries. After the first half, this game was all UCLA.
For all the stress and uncertainty this season has caused me at times–call me jaded for covering the entire Chip Kelly era here–UCLA actually finishes with a pretty decent season. They are 8-4 on the year, which happens to be the most wins for UCLA football since 2015. It’s Chip Kelly’s best season in Westwood by far, and they have a chance to tack on another win with an upcoming bowl game, the matchup of which is yet to be determined.
I still think there are plenty of questions to be asked about Chip Kelly. I’m sure I will dig into them during the offseason. But for now, UCLA is on a three-game winning streak and is going bowling. For all the turmoil this team has seen in recent years, that’s a pretty good way to wrap up the season.