Cal Football Steamrolled by UCLA, Drops Season Opener 10-34

Golden Bears struck by malaise, never found any rhythm

California running back Christopher Brown, Jr., finished the game with eight carries and 25 yards.
California running back Christopher Brown, Jr., finished the game with eight carries and 25 yards. (Photo Courtesy: Cal Athletics via Meg Oliphant for KLC fotos)

The California Golden Bears (0-1) lost their football season debut in a 10-34 rout against a UCLA Bruin (1-1) team that last week dropped 48 points and four turnovers to their opponents in Boulder, Colo.

With their defeat in a hastily scheduled Sunday morning match-up in the Rose Bowl, the Golden Bears lost their six-game win streak in season-opening games.

The Pac-12 Conference announced California’s match-up against UCLA Friday afternoon, just about 24 hours before the team would have to travel to Pasadena, Calif.

California Head Coach Justin Wilcox and his coaching staff hurriedly put together a game plan, primarily based on the reviewed film from the UCLA-Colorado game last week. Garbers told reporters in a post-game press conference the team based most of its play around the plans intended for its original opponent, the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The Golden Bears’ difficulty in adjusting was obvious. UCLA dominated both sides of the ball, led by the statement-making play of junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Known to be turnover prone, Thompson-Robinson shook off his critics and punished California with strong play.

The Bruins outgained the Golden Bears 440 to 176 yards, including 303 from Thompson-Robinson alone.

The Bruin quarterback earned 196 yards through the air, connecting on 14 of his 26 attempts for three touchdowns and one early-game interception from cornerback Camryn Bynum, the Golden Bear who returned after previously announcing his intention to declare for the NFL Draft. Thompson-Robinson also had 12 carries for 52 yards, including a long of 17 yards and one touchdown on the ground. His rushing touchdown, a two-yard carry in the first quarter, gave the Bruins a 7-3 lead, an advantage they would not give up.

California’s only lead came after redshirt sophomore safety Craig Woodson blocked a UCLA punt on their opening drive. First-year Golden Bear kicker Dario Longhetto made his first career field goal from 31 yards out to cap off a two-minute and 38-second drive.

California showed malaise and never seemed to wake up in the “Pac-12 After Dawn” contest that kicked off at 9 a.m. PT.

The Golden Bears’ entire defensive line and a few other players were previously in self-quarantine because of contact tracing protocols after an unnamed defensive lineman tested positive for Covid-19. As a result, the offensive line had little full-contact practice, and the defensive line could not practice in the week leading up to the game.

But the Golden Bears’ woes extended beyond the defense. While the defense missed tackles all day and extended Bruin drives by allowing considerable yards-after-carry, the offense, too, could not find any meaningful team chemistry on the field. The team punted six of their 13 drives and strung together only 11 first downs against UCLA.

The story of the day: The UCLA defense frustrated California quarterback Chase Garbers and limited big offensive plays.

Garbers, the third-year starter from Newport Beach, Calif., threw for only 122 yards, connecting on only 18 of 33 attempts. Frequently under pressure, he gave up one interception and five sacks to UCLA.

A bright spot, however, was Garbers’ willingness to extend some plays by tucking in the football and running. He had the most rushing carries on the team, 11, including a long of 11 yards. Garbers also scored the Golden Bears’ only touchdown with an eight-yard run in the second quarter to cut the Bruin lead to 10-14.

UCLA owned the second half, forcing two turnovers on downs and three California punts.

The Golden Bears’ biggest play of the day came in the second quarter, a 26-yard reception from third-year tight end Collin Moore, a career-long for the Novato, Calif., native.

California fans may be interested to know Coach Wilcox put in backup quarterback Devon Modster, the former Bruin, briefly in the fourth quarter with less than four minutes remaining. Modster’s only pass, an attempt intended for first-year wide receiver Aidan Lee, fell incomplete.

California will travel to Corvallis, Ore., next to play against the Oregon State Beavers (0-2) on Saturday, Nov. 21. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast the 12:30 p.m. PT kick-off game.