After a 36-point loss at Arizona on Oct. 20, embittered and emboldened UCLA fans started an Occupy UCLA Athletics campaign, a derivation of the Occupy Wall Street movement protesting big business across the country.
Turns out, the Bruins are still into capitalism.
UCLA scored 24 points off five Cal turnovers, including three deep in Bear territory, and the Bruins rolled 31-14 in front of 55,604 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
An aggressive defensive line harried Cal quarterback Zach Maynard into four interceptions – three by redshirt freshman safety Tevin McDonald – and a week after allowing 573 yards to the Wildcats, UCLA gave up just 333 to the Bears.
Junior defensive lineman Datone Jones, playing extensively in the interior because of the suspension of sophomore defensive tackle Cassius Marsh – one of six Bruins suspended for their roles in a brawl with Arizona with four seconds left in the first half of the loss – had a season-high six tackles and two sacks as part of a defensive effort that forced interceptions on three of Cal’s last four drives.
“We burned the boats, man,” said Jones, referring to the ‘BTB’ shirts that players wore on the sidelines, a motto that signifies no retreat. “It was a suicide mission we had.”
Playing the role of kamikaze, junior quarterback Kevin Prince.
With a directive from Neuheisel to play with abandon despite a history of injury, Prince did indeed embrace contact, shying away from no one while rushing for a career-high 163 yards on 19 carries.
“If it’s one-on-one, I’ll lower the shoulder,” said Prince, who has already suffered two shoulder sprains this season. “If it’s a couple more guys, I try to get down and slide. But Coach Neuheisel talked to me about that on Tuesday; running against Arizona last week, I was a little more cautious. Coach Neuheisel told me not to worry about that and just to run as hard as I can.”
Prince did, and so did the rest of the Bruins.
UCLA gained 294 rushing yards, its most since a 42-28 Week 5 win over Washington State last season, with senior running back Derrick Coleman adding 80 yards and three touchdowns and junior Johnathan Franklin picking up 45 yards and a score.
It was a surprising reversal for the Bruins, who were limited to just 37 rushing yards against Arizona, while Cal held Utah to just 178 total yards – and 13 rushing yards – in a 34-10 win last Saturday.
“I trust my linemen; they know what they were up against but they had no concern,” Coleman said. “They knew they had to come out and be physical. They knew that their defensive line was going to come out and attack them, but that’s why we tried to come out and have a bigger heart.”
Nine days after showing little gumption against the Wildcats, UCLA showed much against the Bears, even after they gave the Bruins a taste of their own medicine early in the third quarter.
After holding Cal to 12 yards on its first drive of the second half, UCLA forced a Bryan Anger punt. With starting punt returner Taylor Embree suspended along with three other receivers, backup Jordon James fielded the ball, but it bounced off his chest and into the hands of D.J Campbell.
Two plays later the Bears scored on a 1-yard C.J. Anderson touchdown run, closing the gap to three.
That was as close as Cal would get, however, as the Bruins intercepted Maynard on each of Cal’s ensuing three possessions, McDonald coming up with two picks and junior cornerback Aaron Hester adding a third, sealing the win, a crucial win.
“Getting blown out, that’s not who we are,” Jones said. “A lot of people lost confidence, but the season is not over. We weren’t worried about playing for anybody else but the guys in this room, the guys who walked off that bus.”
The Bruins indeed got some new life in their quest toward bowl eligibility, evening their record at 4-4 with contests against Arizona State, Utah, Colorado and USC looming.
That fact was not lost on a UCLA team that needed an infusion of confidence, perhaps no one moreso than embattled defensive coordinator Joe Tresey.
After his defense played perhaps its best in his short tenure – holding Cal to just 2-of-12 third downs after allowing 56 percent conversion entering the game – Tresey was all smiles in the locker room.
“When you have idle time, idle time can kill you,” Tresey said. “When you’re with kids, you forget about it, you coach ‘em up. They wanted to get better this week. When I was with the kids and we were doing football, it was OK. When I was sitting in a chair late at night … oh my God. I was like, ‘We gotta find a way.’”
And they did.
There were no more boats to be burned.