AP Sports Writer
PASADENA, Calif. — UCLA has yielded 124 points in its last three games with a defense battered by injuries and frustrated by its ineffectiveness.
And now Jared Goff is headed to the Rose Bowl to try to make things even worse.
The annual UC rivalry game will do a reverse from its recent history when the schools meet again Thursday night. No. 20 California (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) has the national ranking and conference title hopes, while unranked UCLA (4-2, 1-2) is reeling from two straight losses and clinging to its Pac-12 dreams.
The Bruins have never lost three straight regular-season games in the mostly successful four-year tenure of coach Jim Mora, who revitalized a mediocre program and turned UCLA into a contender. Yet the longtime NFL defensive coordinator has never had this many problems with his defense, which wasn’t able to prevent consecutive Pac-12 losses in October for the third straight season.
“The important thing is that you don’t rush to the other side of the boat and start taking on water,” Mora said. “If you believe in what you are doing, you do it and keep trying to do it better and make improvements.”
While Mora’s team is in its October stall, Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ rebuilding project is right on schedule, even with a narrow loss at No. 3 Utah in the Golden Bears’ last game. With a potent offense led by Goff’s powerful arm, the Bears’ next win will make them bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011.
Cal has its highest ranking in six years and ample optimism about its trip to the Rose Bowl, where the Bears have won just once since 1999.
“Part of our maturation as a football program is believing that we’re good enough to win against good football teams on the road, and especially when we don’t play well,” Dykes said.