Coming off a road win at Colorado, No. 25 UCLA will head into more hostile territory this weekend when they meet Cal in Berkeley. The Bruins will attempt to earn their first win there in more than 10 years.
Coach Jim Mora noted that the Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) will look to establish the rushing attack early on. The Bruins are ranked fourth in the nation in total offense and are going up against a Golden Bear (1-4, 0-2) defense that has allowed an average of 426 offensive yards a game.
“Even though we’re a team that likes to spread it out and throw it, my belief in terms of general philosophy of football is you have to be able to run the football regardless, so (the running backs) have got to be able to make some tough yards and we’ve got to be able to block it up front,” Mora said.
Sophomore offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo and his fellow linemen will be a determining factor in the success of the Bruins’ run game. Wednesday, Su’a-Filo stressed the importance of staying aggressive on offense and not looking past the Golden Bears.
“We’re preparing this week just like every week, the standard doesn’t change,” Su’a-Filo said. “Cal’s a good team and they’re hungry to play us. We know Cal’s a talented team; their record doesn’t really matter. We can’t take them lightly at all.”
Defensively, UCLA will be on the lookout for Cal’s veteran senior running back Isi Sofele as well as junior wideout Keenan Allen, an athletic playmaker who leads the team in receptions and receiving yards.
“They’ve got three really good running backs, and Keenan is a guy you better have an answer for,” Mora said. “He’s a special player, and you can’t go into the game without a way to try to eliminate him on certain plays.”
Sharing is caring
Eleven UCLA receivers caught passes against Colorado, and that level of offensive balance is something Mora and the offense are hoping to see repeated this week against Cal.
“It’s really important, we want to be fast and when we’re going fast we have to have a lot of players play, just to spell each other a little bit,” Mora said.
“We’ve got to get the ball to eight or 10 guys, to be able to do that, to spread it around and play fast.”
Redshirt junior receiver Jerry Rice Jr. had three receptions for 30 yards at Colorado, and also noted the importance of being able to spread the ball around on offense.
“It’s really nice because it shows that everybody can make a play. We’ve got to block everybody so we can get this run game going so it can open up our passes, it doesn’t make us one-dimensional. We’ve got to make sure that happens,” Rice Jr. said.
Back in action
Junior outside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt practiced Wednesday after missing time on Tuesday, and Mora said he will play, albeit in a smaller capacity, on Saturday.
Zumwalt missed last week’s win over Colorado after suffering an injury Sept. 23 in an off-the-field incident. Redshirt senior outside linebacker Damien Holmes started in his place.
“We had him in a red jersey; he wore his helmet. … He didn’t practice yesterday, and in my mind he’s going to be a little bit limited Saturday night, but he can spell (Holmes), he can spell (junior outside linebacker) Anthony Barr,” Mora said.