(Sports Network) -
FACTS & STATS: Site: Memorial Stadium (75,028) -- Berkeley, California. Television: FSN. Home Record: UCLA 2-1, Cal 2-0. Away Record: UCLA 1-1, Cal 0-2. Neutral Record: UCLA 0-0, Cal 0-0. Conference Record: UCLA 1-1, Cal 0-1. Series Record: UCLA leads, 49-30-1.
GAME NOTES: The UCLA Bruins take aim at their longest winning streak in five years, as they invade Berkeley this weekend to challenge the California Golden Bears in Pac-10 action at Memorial Stadium.
The Bruins have really turned their season around over recent weeks, winning three consecutive games following an 0-2 start. Two of those victories came over Top 25 opponents, including a stunning 34-12 upset at No.7 Texas on September 25th. UCLA followed that performance with a 42-28 victory over Washington State last weekend for its first Pac-10 win of the campaign. The Bruins are now out to achieve their first four-game win streak since opening the 2005 campaign 8-0 on the way to a 10-2 finish.
The Bears meanwhile, are hoping their homefield advantage will help them get back on tack following back-to-back losses. After losing a shootout, 52-31, with Nevada, Cal was nipped 10-9 in a defensive slugfest with Arizona on September 25th. The Bears, coming off a bye week, now return back home, where they have won both their outings this season.
As for the all-time series, UCLA holds a 49-30-1 advantage over Cal, but the Bears have won the last five meetings at Memorial Stadium. The Bears have won three of the last four encounters overall, including a 45-26 decision at the Rose Bowl last season.
UCLA's ground attack has vastly improved from a year ago and that was no more evident than in last weekend's win over WSU. In that game, the Bruins amassed a whopping 437 yards on the ground, their highest total since rushing for 446 yards against Oregon in 1979. UCLA scored five times on the ground, with three coming from Derrick Coleman, who finished with a career-best 185 yards on just 15 carries. Johnathan Franklin also had a score on the ground and he led the team with a career-high 216 yards on 30 carries. It was the third straight 100-yard effort for Franklin, who paces UCLA with 625 yards and five scores for the season. Coleman is next with 331 yards and four TDs and he is averaging an electric 7.9 yards per carry for a ground game that is churning out a healthy 262.4 ypg. The running game needed to be strong against WSU, as sophomore QB Richard Brehaut was making his first career start. Brehaut threw for 128 yards and rushed for a TD in the absence of usual starter Kevin Prince, who missed the game with a knee injury. Prince hasn't been highly successful this season, but has done a good job managing the offense, and would likely get the start this weekend if healthy enough.
After allowing a total of just 25 points to Houston and Texas, the Bruins came out a bit flat against WSU and surrendered a surprising 28 points. The defense, though, tightened up when needed and kept WSU off the board in the final quarter to help earn the victory. The run defense continues to improve for UCLA, as it limited WSU to just 73 yards on 31 carries. The team is still allowing a far too high 158.0 rushing ypg for the season, but that number has come down significantly over recent weeks. The Bruins also brought the pressure against WSU with five sacks, giving them 14 for the season. David Carter had three of those sacks, while Akeem Ayers had one to go with a forced and recovered fumble. Ayers has been a real factor early on, recording two INTs, three sacks and 6.5 TFLs.
The Bears were averaging 45 ppg after three games, but could only manage three field goals in a one-point loss to Arizona last game. Cal was held to just 262 total yards in the loss, well below their season average of 409.2 ypg. TB Shane Vereen was the lone bright spot for the offense, as he rushed for 102 yards on 27 carries. It was another solid effort from Vereen, who has rushed for 426 yards this season, while totaling eight TDs. He is the primary reason why Cal has been able to average a hardy 190.0 rushing ypg as a team. QB Kevin Riley has benefited from the strong ground attack, but he wasn't able to get going against Arizona, completing 13-of-26 pass attempts for just 116 yards and an INT. It was clearly the worst effort of the season by Riley, as he had thrown eight TDs against just three picks heading into the bout. Marvin Jones is the player Riley looks for the most in the passing attack, leading the team with 25 catches and 369 receiving yards.
Cal's defense bounced back against Arizona after being shredded by Nevada's potent attack. The Bears gave up just 10 points, though the defense did allow Arizona to drive 77 yards in the final minutes for the game-winning TD. The unit gave up only 311 yards in the game and recorded a pair of takeaways and three sacks. Cal has forced nine turnovers and registered 11 sacks through three games, while holding opponents to just 282.5 total ypg. Mychal Kendricks has been a factor with 5.5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks to his credit, and he had two of those sacks and a fumble recovery in the loss to Arizona.
The Bruins are one-dimensional on offense and that plays into the hands of Cal. Expect California to stack the box on defense to slow down UCLA's ground attack, while its offense relies on Vereen to move the sticks. In the end, the Bears should claim the victory.