Oct. 20, 2007
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -The baffling UCLA Bruins are perfect where they need to be - in the Pac-10 standings.
The Bruins (5-2, 4-0) parlayed Kahlil Bell's 142 yards rushing, an opportunistic defense and a steady performance by quarterback Patrick Cowan in to a 30-21 win over No. 10 California 30-21 on Saturday.
The victory was even more impressive because the Golden Bears had regular quarterback Nate Longshore back from an injury. Cal (5-2, 2-2), which was ranked No. 2 and could have moved up to the top spot only a week earlier, came up short late for the second game in a row.
The unranked Bruins, meanwhile, are the same bunch that was ranked 10th when they lost 44-6 at Utah, and then lost their last game to Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish's only win of the season.
UCLA's major goal this season, with players wearing wristbands to remind them, is a conference title and the Rose Bowl berth that goes with it.
Bruins coach Karl Dorrell said his players can't afford to take much time to savor the win. After next traveling to Washington State, UCLA faces a tough stretch that includes Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and USC.
"I'm going to feel good today, but tomorrow it's going to be business as usual," Dorrell said. "It's tough to play up there in Pullman.
"When you have a victory like this, you enjoy it for a few hours and then it's time to go on to the next one."
The Bears seemed on the verge of pulling out the win when they moved to the UCLA 30 in the final two minutes. But on third-and-6, Alterraun Verner intercepted Longshore's pass and sprinted 76 yards to the end zone with 1:33 remaining.
The Bruins were coming off a bye and it may have helped in planning for the Bears' offense.
"We studied them, and that was an advantage we had with the extra week," Dorrell said. "We tried to get to know their offense as good as we could. It was good to see him (Verner) recognize in that critical down to see what they wanted to do.
"He made a great play."
Bell rushed for 142 yards on 22 carries and Kai Forbath kicked three field goals for UCLA.
The loss almost certainly cost Cal any shot at the Pac-10 title.
"We have stumbled two weeks in a row now," Bears coach Jeff Tedford said. "We just have to regroup. We are not going to just pack it in. There is so much parity in this conference.
"Anything can happen on any given week. I think the conference is better than it's ever been. They just played a lot better than we did. They were more physical and deserved to win the football game."
Cowan, back after being sidelined by a knee injury, was 18-of-27 for 161 yards and a touchdown and was not intercepted. Brandon Breazell had four catches for 68 yards, gained 21 yards on three carries, and threw a touchdown pass for UCLA.
Dorrell said Cowan "did exactly what we wanted him to do. He is almost in the predicament of being the last man standing. We're just happy to have one of our top two quarterbacks healthy."
The loss overshadowed a big day by the Bears' DeSean Jackson, who had nine receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Longshore, who sat out the last game because of a sprained ankle, was 22-of-34 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, but with three interceptions. After Verner's pick, Dennis Keyes intercepted Longshore's throw in the waning seconds and the Bruins ran out the clock.
Cowan had an extra week to get healthy, since the Bruins were off following their loss to Notre Dame. UCLA was down to third-string quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson for most of that game after starter Ben Olson went out with a knee injury and Cowan already sidelined by his injury. Bethel-Thompson threw four interceptions against the Irish and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Cal was trying to bounce back from a 31-28 loss to Oregon State that knocked the Bears out of the No. 2 ranking. With Longshore out, redshirt freshman Kevin Riley filled in and his scramble on the final play of the game allowed the clock to run out and cost the Bears a chance at a tying field goal.
The Bruins moved ahead 23-21 on Forbath's 27-yard field goal with 3:08 to play. Jackson had given the Bears a 21-20 lead when he hauled in a 2-yard TD pass from Longshore late in the third quarter.
UCLA linebacker Christian Taylor was taken off the field in the fourth quarter because of concussion. He was taken to a hospital for tests, and UCLA officials said that CT scans were negative, and that Taylor was up and moving around.