The prospect of facing the pistol offense again should elicit a collective gulp from Bears Nation. But Cal fans can find consolation in one important detail: The sequel is being produced by a different author.
Cal was humiliated earlier this season by Nevada's pistol offense in a 52-31 loss. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the Bears defense will be under the same gun when UCLA comes to town.
But there is one reason to believe Cal may handle the Bruins attack better than Nevada's: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince is not Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
While it was clear the Wolf Pack outschemed the Bears, even more important to Nevada's success was the flawless performance of the 6-foot-6 Kaepernick, a freakish athlete who burned Cal with his legs and his arm.
Kaepernick, a four-year starter who runs the pistol offense with elite precision, rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns and completed 10 of 15 passes for 181 yards and one score. He ranks seventh nationally in total offense (319.2 yards per game) and has the undefeated Wolf Pack (5-0) ranked No. 21 in The Associated Press Top 25.
"He's been in it a long time so he really understands it," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Secondly, he's very fast. Not that Prince isn't -- when Prince gets out on the edge, he can hurt you as well. But (Kaepernick) is just used to that offense. That's his offense and he runs it perfectly. UCLA does a nice job with it, but they're not as in-depth as Nevada, as of yet."
This is the first year the Bruins have employed the pistol, and coach Rick Neuheisel says their scheme is still evolving. And he admits Prince doesn't present the same running threat as Kaepernick, who ranks 17th nationally in rushing (109.6 yards per game). Prince has rushed for 142 yards all season.
Prince sat out UCLA's win over Washington State last week with a sore knee but will start against the Bears.
"I don't think so," Neuheisel said when asked if Prince provides a similar running threat to Kaepernick. "I don't think that's necessarily who we are. Kevin has shown he has the ability to make plays with his legs. It's just we haven't isolated the quarterback as much as maybe Nevada does."
One definite similarity between Nevada and UCLA is that each features strong play from the tailback position. Wolf Pack running back Vai Taua rushed for 151 yards against Cal and is eighth in the country in rushing (128.2 yards per game). UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin averages 125 rushing yards per game, 10th in the country.
Bruins backup tailback Derrick Coleman pitches in with 82.8 yards per contest.
The ground production is something new for UCLA. The Bruins rank 10th nationally in rushing (262.4 yards per game). In the past two seasons, UCLA has ranked 116th and 97th in rushing, respectively.
"They have two great running backs who hit it hard," Tedford said. "I think it's a product of the pistol. They've always had good running backs. It seems like they are really gaining momentum with it."
The Bears say their biggest problem against Nevada is they were overaggressive. Players tried to help teammates on certain plays and in the process missed their own assignments, leading to big plays. The chance to review the game tape against the Wolf Pack, as well as having two weeks to prepare for the Bruins, have given Cal's players confidence the second go-round against the pistol will go better than the first.
"Everyone was kind of doing their own thing (against Nevada) and we weren't really trusting one another," Cal safety Josh Hill said. "It was crazy. We have to step it up and show the world we can defend everything that is thrown at us. If we execute better and trust each other, we'll be OK."