It looked like more of the same for the California Golden Bears when junior quarterback Zach Maynard's first pass attempt of the game against the No. 25 UCLA Bruins was intercepted Saturday night, Oct. 6.
Instead, Maynard was almost perfect the rest of the night and the Golden Bear defense forced six Bruin turnovers and California shellacked UCLA at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., 43-17.
It was the Golden Bears' first victory this season over an FBS opponent and the program's first victory against a ranked opponent since a 34-28 win at No. 14 Stanford Nov. 21, 2009.
Maynard looked like a different quarterback than the one who was 9-for-28 in a loss at home to Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 29.
So what was the difference? Maynard had enough time to throw. He still took three sacks, but that's a marked improvement for the Cal offense from the 20 sacks it had surrendered in its previous three games - all losses.
Maynard was 25-for-30 passing for 295 yards and matched his career-high with four touchdown passes. In the second half he had a stretch where he completed 13 straight attempts. For good measure, Maynard added a touchdown run.
Instead, it was UCLA freshman signal-caller Brett Hundley who was cast in the role of indecisive and battered passer.
Hundley was 31-for-47 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw four interceptions and was sacked five times. Three of those picks were by Golden Bear cornerback Kameron Jackson.
The win will also likely turn down the heat in the seat of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. A 1-4 start had the Golden Bear fan base restless but a blowout of a ranked UCLA team should go a long way toward calming some of those frayed nerves.
After all, for a Cal fan, next to beating Stanford in The Big Game, the sweetest thing is to beat one of the "pretty boy" teams from Los Angeles. Call it a regional distaste between the Bay Area and the Southland.
Up next for the Golden Bears is a trip to Washington State (2-4), a game that has to be considered very winnable against the Cougars - who are still adjusting during their first year under head coach and noted pirate enthusiast Mike Leach.
After that is The Big Game, to be played Saturday, Oct. 20 at Memorial Stadium. History has shown that anything is possible when the Golden Bears hook up with the people with the tree for a mascot (click here for video).
Phil Watson is a 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry and a Cal Golden Bear fan since "The Play" in 1982.
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