This time, the pistol didn't have any bullets.
After getting shredded by Nevada's pistol offense last month, Cal's defense brought UCLA's similar offense to a standstill Saturday, limiting the Bruins to just 144 total yards in a 35-7 victory in front of 61,664 at Memorial Stadium.
"That was a big thing for us today," said Cal outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who had a superb game with 2½ tackles for loss. "We had to redeem ourselves playing the pistol. That was a big deal."
The Bears yielded 497 yards of offense in a 52-31 loss at Nevada. Although the Bruins run the same scheme, they depend more on their tailbacks than the quarterback for production. UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin entered the game ranked 10th nationally in rushing (125 yards per game), but Cal held him to just 54, with 31 coming on one play. Including the Bears' five sacks of quarterback Kevin Prince, the Bruins rushed for just 26 yards. They were averaging 262.4 rushing yards coming in, also 10th in the country.
"I don't want to put their offense down at all, but I think they would admit that it's not quite to the (Nevada) stage yet," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Reno has been doing it a long time, and their quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) is excellent with it. UCLA is not quite there yet. But once you play it the first time, which we did, you learn lessons from it. And we definitely needed to learn from our last experience with it, and I think we did."
Cal's coaches and players said the problem against Nevada was that there were too many missed assignments -- that players were trying to help others do their job and forgetting to do their own. The Bears had the benefit of a bye week to spend extra time correcting their mistakes against the pistol, and they had a strong collective belief Saturday that things would go a lot differently this time.
"That's kind of what we focused on for the two weeks," said Cal inside linebacker Mike Mohamed, who didn't play against Nevada because of a sprained toe. "We felt like we had a lot to prove. We lost our identity. Having a second round with the offense meant a lot. We just wanted to go out there and prove what kind of defense we were."
Cal (3-2, 1-1 Pac-10) got off to a strong start offensively, scoring on four of its six possessions in the first half. The Bears also capitalized on a Franklin fumble deep in UCLA territory.
The Bears led 28-0 at halftime, the fourth time in five games this season Cal's defense pitched a shutout in the first half.
Running back Shane Vereen continued his All-Pac-10 caliber season in his first year as Cal's featured back. He rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and also caught three passes for 51 yards.
"We all understand what Shane brings to the table," Tedford said. "He's been a productive, consistent back, whether it be in a backup role or as a starter. He's very dependable, very tough and a very smart guy. We all know we can count on him."
The Bears needed to depend on him because their passing game was AWOL. Quarterback Kevin Riley, perhaps still feeling the effects of a hamstring injury that forced him out of practice during the bye week, appeared to be laboring and was off the mark on a handful of throws. He also failed to throw the ball away at times when he could have avoided sacks. Riley was 9 for 16 for 83 yards and a touchdown.
"There are times when quarterbacks don't have good games," Riley said. "Hopefully, this is my one. Hopefully, I'll get better from here. If you win 35-7 and your quarterback has an off day, that's pretty good."
The Bears scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time this season, marching 70 yards on 10 plays with Vereen scoring from 1 yard out. Backup Isi Sofele, who rushed for a career-high 80 yards on 13 carries, had a 24-yard burst out of the Wildcat formation. Vereen scored from 5 yards out after Franklin's fumble, and Riley made a nice play on a 10-yard touchdown throw to Keenan Allen, avoiding a sack and throwing on the run.
Riley added a 1-yard touchdown run on an option play near the end of the first half.
UCLA (3-3, 1-2) scored on its first possession of the second half to make it 28-7, and Cal's offense, getting no help from its aerial attack, went into hibernation. But the Bruins simply could never sustain consistent ball movement against the Bears' defense.
"You have to give credit where credit is due to Cal's defensive plan," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Certainly their scheme was important."
The Bears had just 121 of their 387 total yards after halftime and six of their 22 first downs. They finally got a big play in the second half on Marvin Jones' 48-yard touchdown run on an end around.
"I wasn't happy at all about the second half," Tedford said. "I'm very disappointed about the way the offense played in the second half. The defense just kept answering. It's got to get better. The defense cannot be on the field for that long."
Monte Poole: Coach Jeff Tedford knows passing game must improve. Page 7
next saturday's game
Cal (3-2) at USC (4-2), 12:30 p.m. CSNBA