Instant analysis/reaction: Don’t sugarcoat it — Cal football looks ugly in loss to UCLA

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

Related Posts

Key takeaway(s)

1. There is no sugarcoating it: Cal looked ugly in its 37-7 loss to UCLA.

Cal’s ability to fall from a once-promising squad — once ranked No. 24 in the nation, for that matter — to the sad showing it put on for its homecoming game against (previously 0-5) UCLA is nearly inconceivable.

2. Despite Cal quarterback Brandon McIlwain’s inability to prove he can be a true passer for his offense, the coaching staff is sticking by him. The coaches stuck by him through four turnovers against Arizona, and they stuck by him again with a aborrent stat-line of 168 passing yards, 12 net rushing yards, two interceptions and two lost fumbles.

But, after this loss, something needs to change, and the masses are going to be calling for a new face at the helm, ASAP.

In the game against the Bruins, McIlwain also failed to compensate with his explosive running abilities outside the pocket, which have kept him afloat all season. Cal’s run game, overall, could not get going. The Bears had to play from behind the entire contest and, hurting themselves with turnovers, could never overtake the game of catch-up. Running back Patrick Laird had some physical runs, fighting for yards after contact, but he was limited to 94 total rushing yards on 17 carries.

Cal’s game MVP

You heard it here first, folks — Cal’s punter, Steven Coutts, was, in fact, the MVP for Cal. Coutts punted for 176 yards, and, on multiple occasions, gave UCLA less-than-optimal field position. He gave his defense a chance and made the Bruins work for their yardage downfield.

When you have to look at a team’s punter as the highlight of the game, it is likely that something has gone wrong. Nonetheless, have a day, Coutts — somebody had to.

Shoutout to Jordan Kunaszyk as well, who amassed a career-high 22 tackles from his inside linebacker spot.

Eye-opening stat

Cal’s defense put up a masterful performance against Arizona last week, but UCLA running back Joshua Kelley managed to run all over the Bears this Saturday. Kelley had a season-high performance against Cal as he ate up 157 rushing yards and put away three touchdowns against the Bears.

This will be Kelley’s third consecutive 120-plus rushing yard performance, with the first two coming against Colorado and Washington.

Looking ahead

Cal is all too familiar with road game struggles and is on a streak of 14 consecutive losses when facing a Pac-12 opponent on the road. The last time Cal won on the road in a conference matchup was Sept. 26, 2015, at Washington.

With a three-game losing streak under their belt, the Bears head to Oregon State to face the worst team in the Pac-12 — and still, the possibility that they could lose is all too real.

For Cal to even hope for a chance at a bowl game, the team would need to topple Washington, USC or Stanford, which, after tonight’s game, is looking like a real stretch.

On paper, Cal is still 3-3; there is a fighting chance to save the season. But whether Cal has it within itself to change its play remains questionable.

Christie Aguilar covers football. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @caguilarsports.