The door to the UCLA locker room was slightly ajar, and a vociferous roar emerged from within.
It was the Bruin football team singing the fight song to celebrate its first win of the season after the worst start in school history since 1943.
“So happy we did it today,” redshirt junior outside linebacker Keisean Lucier-South said. “It took a long-ass time.”
UCLA (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) routed Cal (3-3, 0-3) by 37-7 on Saturday, and the Bruin defense feasted on an inept Bear offense.
In the first five games of the season, UCLA had only forced five turnovers and surrendered six of its own – it registered five takeaways against Cal and didn’t give up any.
“As far as any good defense, to force turnovers is something that’s exceptionally a key part to winning any football game,” redshirt senior safety Adarius Pickett said. “It got the ball back for (the offense), got them a rhythm, got them short fields. … It was a key part of our success tonight.”
Pickett recovered the first turnover, a fumble by Cal running back Patrick Laird. The ball bounced toward the sideline, close to staying in the Bears’ possession, but Pickett ran it down and dove on top right before sliding out of bounds.
“We practiced that this whole offseason with the new coaching staff,” Pickett said. “We had city ball and country ball so that was a city ball kind of moment just to dive and wrap around and squeeze.”
Cal quarterback Brandon McIlwain was the culprit for the other four turnovers, as he threw two interceptions and was strip-sacked twice.
Junior linebacker Krys Barnes recorded the first interception when McIlwain stared down his receiver in the middle of the field. Barnes stepped in front of the pass and corralled the ball while falling to the ground.
Lucier-South’s interception was more athletic.
He was rushing the quarterback, but saw McIlwain wind up to throw so he stepped back and jumped to tip the ball in the air. After tracking down the trajectory of the ball, Lucier-South tipped it to himself and caught it.
Later in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman outside linebacker Odua Isibor flew around Cal’s right tackle and smashed McIlwain, who dropped the ball. Lucier-South picked it up and sped past the offense for his first career touchdown.
“He looked like a natural out there,” said redshirt junior running back Joshua Kelley, who ran for a career-high three touchdowns.
Including Lucier-South’s fumble return, turnovers led to 17 points. A fourth-and-1 stop by freshman defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia spurred another touchdown drive by the offense.
Once the Bruins’ defense got that stop, the Bears’ offense shut down.
After Cal scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the second half, its next five possessions ended in a turnover on downs, two interceptions and two lost fumbles. That stretch put the game away for good.
“We saw a lot of different guys contribute and then hopefully we can build upon that,” said coach Chip Kelly. “We’ve got some real learning experiences when we sit down and watch film with them on Monday and build from it.”