Oct. 25, 1997
Cal Falls to UCLA
PASADENA, Calif. - Cal threw a scare into 13th-ranked UCLA, but its season-long problem with giving up the big play killed the Bears' upset hopes as the Bruins went on to escape with a 35-17 victory.
The big play plague hit the Bears early as UCLA's Tod McBride blocked a Nick Harris punt on Cal's second offensive series and DuVal Hicks picked the ball out of the air and rambled 18 yards untouched into the endzone for a TD midway through the first quarter.
Cal's game plan was to establish the ground game, as the Bears ran the football on the first 12 plays from scrimmage. The first two series were fruitless as the Bears went 3-and-out, but Cal moved deep into Bruin territory on the third series. However, the drive stalled at the Bruin 23-yard-line and Ignacio Brache connected on a career-long 40-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
On the Bruins next drive, UCLA quarterback Cade McNown threw a perfect 54-yard strike to wide receiver Dan Farmer, setting up the Bruins at the Cal 12-yard-line. Four plays later, Skip Hicks went in from the one-yard-line to make the score 14-3.
However, UCLA's offense was beginning to dominate in all phases and when Cal was unable to move on its next drive, the Bruins got the ball back in great field position at the Cal 44-yard-line. This time it took only three plays to get in the endzone, the final play coming when the Bruins snapped the ball directly to receiver Jim McElroy who swept around the left side and went untouched into the endzone and a 21-3 lead.
After pinning UCLA back to its own 3-yard-line with a 49-yard Nick Harris punt and holding the Bruins to just three plays, Cal got the ball back at its own 47-yard-line with 2:00 left in the half. Consecutive 18-yard and 15-yard passes to Bobby Shaw got the ball to the Bruin 14-yard-line. However, an incomplete pass, followed by a 2-yard loss on a run by Marcus Fields and a sack, left the Bears attempting a 44-yard-field goal. This time, Brache couldn't convert as his kick wobbled low and left.
The Bear defense continued to keep Cal in the game early in the second half. The Bears held UCLA without a first down on the first series and the resulting punt gave Cal the ball at the UCLA 45-yard-line. Cal couldn't get a first down and had to punt the ball back, but again the Cal defense rose to the occasion. Kato Serwanga stripped Skip Hicks of the ball and Cal's Mawuko Tugbenyoh picked the ball up and returned it four yards to the Bruin 28-yard-line.
Three plays later, on a 3rd-and-2 situation, freshman tailback Marcus Fields exploded through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 20 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, Cal was back in the game with a 21-10 deficit.
The Cal defense stuffed UCLA, but the Bruins called a punt on a 3rd-and 23 situation with McNown nailing a 67-yard punt that finally rolled dead at the Cal 7-yard-line. The play looked brilliant when Cal failed to gain a first down. Even with a 52-yard Nick Harris punt, the Bruins had the ball in excellent field position at the Bruin 44-yard-line.
On the first play, McNown found a wide open Jim McElroy, who had burned Kato Serwanga. McElroy had to wait for the ball, but he still was able to make the catch, shake off a Serwanga tackle and go 56 yards for a TD and a 28-10 lead.
Cal's offense was starting to get geared up and it responded quickly. Utilizing a 30-yard pass play to Bobby Shaw, the Bears marched 70 yards in 7 plays with Vedder hitting a slanting Bruce Pierre for an 18-yard TD to cut the margin back to 28-17.
However, the big play frustrations continued on the next series as McNown rolled left and fired a perfect strike to McElroy who caught the ball in stride, despite being blanketed by Derrick Gardner, and went into the endzone with a 58-yard catch. Thus every time Cal got close, UCLA responded with a big play and the Bruins were now up 35-17.
Both teams continued to move the football, but neither could get into the scoring column again. The Bears had a big opportunity with just under nine minutes left in the game when a Cal punt hit a UCLA player on the foot and Cal's Marc Vera recovered at the UCLA 33-yard-line. The Bears got as far as the UCLA 14-yard-line, but Brache's 31-yard field goal attempt was barely high enough to cross the line of scrimmage and was blocked by Larry Atkins.
Cal's final drive ended when a long pass from Vedder was intercepted by UCLA's Wasswa Serwanga at the 2-yard-line and returned to the Cal 26. The Bruins then ran out the final 47 seconds on the clock.