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UCLA Bruins football still underachieving in narrow 36-34 escape against Cal

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Barbee: I can't decide if Cal is better than we though or UCLA is worse. Either way, Jared Goff is a really good player. He made a couple throws today that dropped my jaw. Separately, Cal's defense came up with a few turnovers that made the game pretty close, but UCLA came up with the best (or just most important) turnover of the afternoon with an interception inside its own 5 with about two minutes left.

As good as Cal played, though, there are some serious questions surrounding UCLA. Is Brett Hundley that good? Do they have a defense? Who, besides Miles Jack and Hundley, can anyone not around the program name? Can they win the South? What about the Pac-12? It's been a pretty big drop for UCLA. They went from top-5 and playoff contender to interesting amalgam of high profile and under-the-radar. UCLA should have run away from Cal, and credit to the Golden Bears for hanging in there. But UCLA is in trouble.

Josh Estes: Although Cal is not closing on games like this one against UCLA, the fact that they are in them is a huge step forward from last year. I have to admit that after last season (and watching every episode of the Pac-12 Networks The Drive), I had zero faith whatsoever that Sykes could get the job done in Berkeley--but it looks like they are headed in a positive direction. Part of that upward trajectory is because of the great play by Jared Goff. He is the perfect fit for the Bear Raid offense, and the scary part is that he will only get better from where he is at now.

Conversely, after blowing out ASU in Tempe three weeks ago, who would've guessed that UCLA would've dropped back to back games and then escape a trip to Memorial Stadium courtesy a controversial interception call (it was not an interception). UCLA may be a victim of the media hype machine that put them in the playoff picture preseason, but they have all the talent to obtain that level of success. I cannot remember who tweeted it after the loss to Utah, but they said (in regards to the Bruins) "You're seeing what happens when a team is coached by a bunch of excellent recruiters and not a bunch of excellent coaches." UCLA has been notorious for not living up to the star-ratings of the players they bring in, and it looks like that trend will continue this year.

Mark Schipper: This, in my mind, is what the road in college football is supposed to be. UCLA hadn’t won in Berkeley since 1998, which is a quintessentially college football sort of mystery. For the Bruins it was a great thing just to get out with a victory, no matter how it looked.

Cal played well at home, particularly on the offensive side throwing the ball. Some Cal fan commenter on this site called me a bad person for my commentary on the Golden Bears and Wazzu, which referenced poor defense. I had to smile when Sonny Dykes was interviewed at the half and he was talking in a clipped, pressured voice—like he was about to blow up on Quint Kessenich—about how bad the defense was playing and how if they didn’t start tackling they would lose. He sounded like he was warming up for a good paint-peeling yell in the locker room.

For the Bruins, maybe this points up, maybe it means nothing. There were still problems. Bad turnovers, too many penalties, pathetic on third down, all the regular stuff. That said, the Bruins crushed Cal statistically—wasn’t close. As far as that Marcus Rios interception in the corner that sealed it . . . . . you decide.

Trace Travers: UCLA shouldn't have won that game. They made key turnovers in their own territory that led to points for the Bears. Credit to them for running the balls incredibly hard throughout the game, along with taking advantage on the numerous screen routes and swing passes. They also managed to get pressure on defense, which is partially due to the absence of Chris Borrayo, but credit goes to the D-line for stepping up when they hadn't recently. Otherwise, the Bruins snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

On to Cal, where they are getting tired of moral victories. Even with the team playing subpar, they almost pulled out a win. Tackling is an issue that needs some severe work, along with depth amongst the defensive backfield. That will have to come from recruiting, because at least three defensive backs for Cal on Saturday had been receivers at some point within the last year or so, with Dozier, Worstell, and McGovern all starting as receivers when they came to Cal. Even with the last mistake, which wasn't an interception, Jared Goff has been the best quarterback in Berkeley since Aaron Rodgers roamed Memorial Stadium a decade ago. And with the fade route to Chris Harper, Luke Rubenzer showed that he can be more than just a running threat. This was a heartbreaker for Cal, but the mistakes are eminently fixable for the most part.