In senior Vincenzo D’Amato, Cal has one of the nation’s most accurate field goal kickers. But the Golden Bears are finding that you don’t win in the Pac-12 Conference by scoring three points at a time.
Cal (1-4, 0-2) takes on No. 11 UCLA (4-0, 1-0) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night, and maximizing opportunities in the red zone will be paramount against a team averaging 48 points a game.
In order to turn yards into touchdowns, the Bears must finish drives inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. And to do that, they need to run the ball better.
Through five games, Cal has called 38 runs in the red zone and those plays have netted an average of 1.7 yards. “That’s not good,” first-year Sonny Dykes said.
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CAL VS. UCLA
RECORDS: Cal 1-4, 0-2 Pac-12; UCLA is 4-0, 1-0.
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena.
SERIES HISTORY: UCLA leads 50-32-1. Cal won 43-17 last season and has won nine of the past 14 meetings, but just one of the past six in Pasadena.
STORYLINES: Playing its fourth Top-25 team this season, the Bears hope to recapture the magic of a year ago against the Bruins when they rode four touchdown passes from Zach Maynard and 151 rushing yards from C.J. Anderson to their best victory of the season. … UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, who had a touchdown passing, running and receiving last week at Utah, had his worst career game against the Bears last season, intercepted four times and sacked five times. Cal’s Kam Jackson had three of the picks. … Three more defensive players are out due to injuries this week, including starters Stefan McClure and Jalen Jefferson. McClure is done for the season after knee surgery this week.
INJURY UPDATE: Cal — CB Stefan McClure (knee), LB Jalen Jefferson (head), CB Joel Willis (head), OG Matt Cochran (ankle), C Chris Adcock (knee) are out. UCLA — DT Ellis McCarthy (head) and RB James Jordon (ankle) are doubtful. OT Torian White (leg) is out.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal left tackle Freddie Tagaloa vs. UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Tagaloa’s job is to protect quarterback Jared Goff’s backside, but the super-quick Barr, a second-team All-American a year ago, has 15.5 sacks the past two seasons.
STATS THAT MATTER: Cal has been outscored 86-31 in the first quarter and allowed the opposing team to score a touchdown on its first possession in every game. … The Bears have 10 turnovers the past two games and rank 118th nationally in giveaways at 3.2 per game. … A 25 1/2-point underdog, Cal has failed to cover the spread in 11 straight games. … UCLA ranks last in the nation in penalties with 10.75 per game. … UCLA is the fifth opponent in six games with an unbeaten record entering its game vs. Cal. Those six teams were a combined 13-2 at the time they faced the Bears.