PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Freshman safety Tevin McDonald made the first three interceptions of his college career, Derrick Coleman scored three touchdowns, and UCLA bounced back from one of its most embarrassing losses in years to beat California 31-14 on Saturday.
McDonald’s interceptions set up two touchdowns and a field goal for the Bruins (4-4, 3-2 Pac-12), who took the heat off much-maligned coach Rick Neuheisel, at least for the time being, with their most impressive performance of the season.
Neuheisel, who has one year remaining on the five-year contract he signed before the 2007 season, has a 19-26 record at UCLA and has led his team to just one bowl game.
The Bruins scored 24 of their 31 points after turnovers in handing Cal (4-4, 1-4) its fourth loss in five games. The Golden Bears committed five turnovers, four on interceptions thrown by Zach Maynard, who was 14 of 30 for 199 yards.
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.
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 in a 48-12 loss Oct. 20. The Wildcats scored touchdowns on each of their six first-half possessions for a 42-7 lead.
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.
Updated October 29, 2011