Looking back on 2006: The UCLA game

(Note to readers: Today we continue in our look back at the games in the 2006 season with UCLA.  Here are links to our past look backs: Tennessee, Minnesota, Portland State, Arizona State, Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State and Washington).

The storyline:
A reeling UCLA came to Berkeley as a huge underdog to the rolling Cal Bears.  Cal easily handled UCLA in a 38-24 walkover.

The reality:
This game seemed to be the inverse of the Tennessee game in that while the game was a lot closer than the score, it was because neither defense was able to step up.  Like the Tennessee game, outside of a short stretch in the 3rd quarter, the game was more evenly matched than most remember.  In losing UCLA was able to put up 516 yards.  They were able to drive within the Cal 30 on all 4 of their first half possessions.  The primary factor in Cal’s dominating score was their ability to convert drives into points.  Ignoring UCLA’s final TD that came when the outcome was no longer in doubt, UCLA managed only 10 points the 6 times they reached the Cal 30.  While it seemed that the Cal defense did stiffen towards the end of these drives, UCLA also missed a number of opportunities including 2 hooked field-goals and two ill-advised passes that resulted in interceptions while on Cal’s side of the field.

The forgotten:
Forgotten in this game was just how bad Cal’s pass coverage was.  Cowan, a fairly inexperienced QB, was able to pick apart the Cal defense even though the defensive line was able to get reasonable pressure.  Also forgotten was the high number of penalties, particularly on UCLA in the first half.

The 2006 learnings:
By this point in the season, much was known about Cal and not a lot was learned in this game.  DeSean Jackson was still an incredible punt returner.  Cal still had great offensive balance and a deep passing threat if defenses didn’t play soft.  Not to jump ahead, but it seemed with this game that the Cal passing attach was back in stride after two mediocre weeks.  Alas it was soon to be discovered that Cal’s worst offensive woes were still in front of them.

The 2007 learnings:
It SHOULD be a learning from this game that UCLA is no team to take lightly.  This was not the blowout that everyone remembered.  While I’ve heard many a UCLA fan over-emphasize how close this game was, there is no doubt that a more polished UCLA with the benefit of playing at home in the Rose Bowl could prove dangerous to Cal, particularly if the team remembers this game as an easy blowout.  For particular player learnings, this was another game where Forsett shined in his time on the field.  He had a number of good plays.  Also, SydQuan Thompson had a great game, arguably better than Hughes who despite getting an interception and two critical knock-downs was burned a few times as well.  Syd’s side of the field was surprisingly quiet on the reception front.

The Conclusion:
I was genuinely surprised how evenly matched this game was.  UCLA definitely could have made this a close game with a little better execution particularly with Cal’s defensive struggles.

2 Responses to “Looking back on 2006: The UCLA game”

  1. Ragnarok Says:

    The game in the Rose Bowl is definitely one I’m worried about this year, especially considering how lightly people seem to be taking UCLA. Sure, Dorrell & Co. will choke a game or two away, but they’ve definitely got talent and will be, as always, dangerous at home. Remember, Cal hasn’t won in Los Angeles since 2000.

  2. Ken Crawford Says:

    Man, I specifically wanted to mention in the 2007 learnings section that the last win in the Rose Bowl was a LONG time ago, but it must have slipped my mind while I was writing it up. The home team hasn’t lost in Cal vs. UCLA since Cal upset UCLA at the Rose Bowl in1999 (or, as you pointed out, in Los Angeles at all since beating USC in 2000 at the Coliseum).

    As a side note, one of Holmoe’s few upsides as a coach is that he played the LA teams well. In ’99 and ’00, he went undefeated against UCLA and USC accounting for 4 of Cal’s 7 wins in those two years.

    Overall, I’m still an optimist for the game against UCLA and feel that the time for this home field advantage trend to end has come. Nevertheless I completely agree that too many people are overlooking this game on Cal’s schedule.