Marcus Rios’ interception a product of resilience, strategy

The most remarkable part of what Marcus Rios did on Saturday happened long before the ball fell into his hands with 51 seconds left in UCLA’s 36-34 win at Cal.

It’s been well-reported, but worth mentioning again: Back in spring of 2013, the cornerback spent months at UCLA Medical Center battling a life-threatening fungal infection. Even after he returned to the practice field last season, he looked underweight and far from playing in an actual game.

And yet, there he was at Memorial Stadium, pulling in an interception that sealed the Bruins’ first win in Berkeley since 1998.

“A year ago, this kid was battling for his life,” said UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. “That’s no exaggeration. I remember when he had just gotten out of the hospital and he was 135, 140 pounds. To think how far he’s come and for him to have an opportunity to seal this win for us, that was just really cool.”

Rios received the game ball afterward, the first one handed out since head coach Jim Mora was hired. “It just made sense,” Mora said.

Less discussed has been exactly what happened on that play. Down two points, Cal was threatening to enter field goal range with another first down. With a kicker who was 7-of-10 on field goal attempts this season — and a long of 47 — all the Bears needed was another run or a short pass.

But they opted to take another shot at the end zone. Continue reading

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UCLA moves back into Associated Press poll after beating Cal

UCLA’s absence from the national rankings didn’t last long.

A 36-34 win at Cal moves the Bruins moved into the Associated Press poll at No. 25. The team had fallen out completely from No. 18 a week earlier, following back-to-back losses to Utah and Oregon.

UCLA remains unranked in the USA Today coaches’ poll.

The Ducks remain the Pac-12’s highest-ranked team, jumping three spots to No. 6 after blowing out Washington.

Stanford is now unranked after entering the weekend at No. 23. A loss to Arizona State gave the Cardinal their third of the season.

Full AP poll below: Continue reading

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UCLA 36, Cal 34: Linebacker Eric Kendricks

UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks talked about the defense’s performance in a 36-34 win at Cal, including cornerback Marcus Rios’ game-sealing interception and what it was like to have to constantly defend a short field after three turnovers.

“We’ve got to find ways to make field goals out of those drives,” Kendricks said. “We can’t let them score that easy. I think we have to go back to work on that this week. … We can’t respond like how we did.”

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