PASADENA (CBS/AP) — California’s Zach Maynard kept throwing the ball to Tevin McDonald. Trouble is, McDonald plays for UCLA.
McDonald, a freshman safety, made the first three interceptions of his college career, Derrick Coleman scored three touchdowns, and the Bruins bounced back from one of their most embarrassing losses in years to beat the Golden Bears 31-14 on Saturday.
“We know we can’t win games by turning the ball over,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “(Maynard) missed on a couple overthrows, and that cost us at crucial times. You have to be accurate.”
Maynard completed 14 of 30 passes for 199 yards, but was intercepted four times — three by McDonald and once by Aaron Hester. The Golden Bears added a fifth turnover on a lost fumble.
The Bruins scored 24 of their 31 points after turnovers in handing Cal (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) its fourth loss in five games.
Coleman scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and runs of 20 and 24 yards in the final period. He finished with 80 yards on 16 carries. Kevin Prince gained a career-high 163 yards on 19 carries and completed 9 of 18 passes for 92 yards.
“We just couldn’t get into a flow,” Tedford said. “(Prince) killed us today. He made big plays and it changed the field position. We didn’t make the plays on third down and that’s what it comes down to.”
The Bears converted just 2 of 12 third-down plays.
“There are no excuses,” said Cal’s Marvin Jones, who entered the game with 40 receptions but had just one for 11 yards. “We had opportunities to score, but that didn’t happen.
“It’s not Zach’s fault, it’s all of us.”
McDonald’s interceptions set up two touchdowns and a field goal for the Bruins (4-4, 3-2), who played easily their best game of the season.
“Tonight was our night, I’m very proud of my team amidst a lot of hoopla this week,” said embattled UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who has one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed before the 2007 season. “We buckled down and went to work and executed a plan that had to be done well to have a chance tonight. It’s just a great story of what can be done if you can block out the distractions.
“Now we’ve got to prove we can be consistent. We’re 3-2 in conference and we’re still around. It proves to me our team has not given up.”
It probably looked that way to many who watched UCLA’s abysmal performance in a nationally televised 48-12 loss at Arizona on Oct. 20, a game in which the Wildcats scored touchdowns on each of their six first-half possessions for a 42-7 lead.
Neuheisel has a 19-26 record at UCLA and has led his team to just one bowl game.
Prince said he was told beforehand by the coaches that he needed to rush for at least 100 yards.
“I got over that,” he said with a smile. “It’s fun (to run) as long as I stay healthy. I like running the ball. When they gave me the green light, it kind of fired me up.”
Isi Sofele gained 74 yards on 15 carries and Keenan Allen caught seven passes for 83 yards for Cal. Allen entered the game averaging 129.4 receiving yards — tops in the nation.
UCLA gained 386 yards to Cal’s 333. The Bruins were shredded for 573 yards by Arizona nine days earlier.
The Bears needed less than two minutes of the third quarter to trim UCLA’s 17-7 halftime lead to three points, getting a 1-yard touchdown run from C.J. Anderson two plays after Jordon James muffed a punt and D.J. Campbell recovered at the Bruins’ 15.
Cal had a chance to tie the game late in the third quarter, but Giorgio Tavecchio was wide left on a 42-yard field goal attempt.
McDonald made his second interception early in the fourth quarter, picking off Maynard’s errant third-down pass and returning it 15 yards to the Cal 20. Coleman scored on the next play to make it 24-14 with 12:45 remaining.
The Bears then moved to the UCLA 22-yard line before McDonald made his third pick, setting up an 83-yard scoring drive that clinched the victory.
The Bears took a 7-0 lead on their second possession, scoring on a 1-yard run by Sofele that completed a 30-yard, five-play drive after Dan Camporeale recovered a fumble by Prince, who gained 21 yards before a jarring tackle by Steve Williams shook the ball loose.
That would be the only time the Bears had the ball in UCLA territory during the first half.
UCLA tied it with 6:37 left in the second quarter on an 11-yard run by Johnathan Franklin, capping a 64-yard, seven-play drive highlighted by Prince’s 32-yard run.
The Bruins scored 10 points in a span of 82 seconds later in the period for a 17-7 lead after Cal committed turnovers on back-to-back offensive plays. First, Tyler Gonzalez kicked a 32-yard field goal three plays after McDonald’s first 15-yard interception return to the Cal 15. Then, Coleman scored his first TD four plays after Donovan Carter recovered a botched handoff from Maynard to Sofele at the Bears’ 20.
UCLA played without wide receivers Randall Carroll, Taylor Embree, Shaquille Evans and Ricky Marvray, suspended one game each for their part in an on-field brawl late in the first half of the Bruins’ loss at Arizona. In addition, defensive tackle Cassius March served the first of his two-game suspension and guard Albert Cid was suspended for the first half.
The suspensions left Nelson Rosario and Josh Smith as the only available UCLA wide receivers who had played this season. Jerry Rice Jr., a non-scholarship redshirt sophomore, made his collegiate debut for the Bruins and caught two passes for 17 yards. Rice’s father had an NFL-record 1,549 receptions during his Hall of Fame career.
The younger Rice made his first reception for 7 yards early in the second quarter and received a polite round of applause from the homecoming crowd of 55,604 at the Rose Bowl.
The game was held up for over five minutes early in the fourth quarter when Dietrich Riley was injured. The UCLA safety waved to the cheering fans as he was carted off the field. Neuheisel said afterward that Riley injured his neck, but added that it appeared the injury wasn’t serious.
“Every test that’s back is negative,” the coach said.
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