- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Penalties have officially become a problem for UCLA.
The Bruins racked up 12 penalties for 99 yards during their 43-17 loss at California on Saturday and now lead the nation in both number of penalties (53) and yards penalized (519).
UCLA has lingered near the tops of those lists for most of the season, but before Saturday it hadn't really been an issue because the Bruins were winning in spite of them. Against Oregon State, UCLA's only other loss, the Bruins had season lows of seven penalties and 56 yard penalized.
But Saturday, penalties became an issue on both sides of the ball, helping to extend California drives and serving to stop UCLA drives on offense. Coach Jim Mora said he knew a reduction in penalties would be needed at Cal and so it was more disappointing that the numbers stayed high.
"It wasn't really a concern to me until (Saturday) night," Mora said. "The reason it became a concern was because we put an emphasis on it."
The Bruins committed two personal fouls, a facemask, an illegal block and three defensive offsides Saturday, and several were critical.
In the third quarter, Cassius Marsh jumped offsides on a third-and-2 play and gave Cal a first down. A sack on the next play set up a second-and-21, but a facemask by Aaron Hester gave Cal another first down. Two plays later, Zach Maynard hit Keenan Allen for a 34-yard touchdown that gave the Golden Bears a 29-14 lead.
With about nine minutes left to play and UCLA trailing 29-17, quarterback Brett Hundley completed a pass to Johnathan Franklin to the California 8-yard line, but a holding call wiped it out. Instead of knocking on the door for a touchdown that would have gotten the Bruins to within five points, they faced a second-and-16.
Two plays later, Cal defensive back Michael Lowe intercepted a Hundley pass and returned it 57 yards to set up the game-sealing score. But it wasn't the timing of the penalties that had Mora as concerned as the nature of them, he said.
"If we have a hold or a facemask, first of all, are we up against a guy that maybe we're overmatched?," Mora said. "If that's not the case then are we not doing things technique-wise to get ourselves in position to avoid the penalty?
"I felt like some of the penalties that we had ... we just weren't using the appropriate technique that we should use to get ourselves in position to not have to hold and not have to grab a facemask or not have to reach out and trip somebody or something like that."
The solution? Better coaching.
"It's just something we've got to continue to stress and we will continue to stress," Mora said.