Cal, UCLA unexpectedly get to continue long rivalry

·3 min read

Two longtime rivals who weren't expecting to see each other this season will attempt to make the most of an awkward situation when the California Golden Bears and host UCLA Bruins collide in a belatedly scheduled Pacific-12 Conference football game on Sunday morning.

The game was created on Friday out of the ashes of when each's originally scheduled contest was canceled.

The Golden Bears (0-0) were supposed to play at Arizona State on Saturday, while the Bruins (0-1) were slated to host Utah. Those games were scratched this week because of COVID-19 issues among the Sun Devils and Utes.

So instead of not meeting this season, which would have marked the first break in a rivalry that began in 1933, Cal and UCLA will match up at the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive season.

The Golden Bears prevailed 28-18 last November behind a defense that sacked Bruins quarterbacks Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Austin Burton six times.

Thompson-Robinson was impressive in his 2020 debut in a 48-42 loss at Colorado last week, rushing for 109 yards and throwing for 303 yards and four touchdown passes. Tight end Greg Dulcich was on the receiving end of four of Thompson-Robinson's completions for 126 yards and one score.

The Bruins hurt themselves with a porous defense and four turnovers in the loss, areas tight end Mike Martinez insisted he and his teammates could address during the week even without knowing if there'd be a game or who the opponent might be.

"In terms of the game, that's something that we don't have any control over," he said. "So all we can control is focusing on our fundamentals and our effort every day in practice. So as a team, I think that's just our focus every day. And then we just let the rest happen."

The Bruins will be facing a Cal team that's done nothing but practice this fall. The Bears' scheduled opener last week in Berkeley, Calif., vs. Washington also had to be canceled.

Despite not having gone up against an opponent this season, Cal's Chase Garbers remains the Pac-12's most experienced quarterback, having started 19 games in his career. He threw for 230 yards and one TD, and rushed for 40 yards and a second score in the win over UCLA last season.

Cal finished 2019 with three consecutive wins, scoring at least 24 points in each, yet landed last in the Pac-12 in scoring for the second consecutive year.

That prompted a change at offensive coordinator, with former Oregon standout and longtime NFL player and coach Bill Musgrave taking the reins this season. Musgrave insists he's ready for a new level of challenge after having last been seen directing the offense of the NFL's Denver Broncos.

"I enjoy that element of coaching, whether it's at the pro or the college level," he said of having a hands-on opportunity in building a roster. "The X's and O's are great, but I also enjoy the balance of the personnel and recruiting part, too. It kind of rounds out the day in the correct way."

Musgrave will get an opportunity to balance his offense between Garbers and running back Christopher Brown Jr., who rushed for 111 yards in the win at UCLA last season.

--Field Level Media