UCLA’s regular-season finale against Cal will be a family affair

At least two families will be divided in the final days of Thanksgiving week when UCLA hosts Cal in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.

UCLA redshirt freshman quarterback Ethan Garbers and sophomore kicker RJ Lopez will recognize their siblings in a different shade of blue and gold.

Fifth-year senior Chase Garbers will make his 32nd start as the Golden Bears’ quarterback while redshirt sophomore Nick Lopez is the team’s backup kicker.

It will be the first meeting between the Garbers brothers at the college level.

“I haven’t talked to him,” Chase said. “I probably won’t talk to him until we see each other Saturday.

“We normally don’t talk during the (season). We talked briefly after his first start but we’re both busy with our respective teams.”

Chase would have been on the opposing sideline from Ethan, who transferred out of Washington to UCLA, for the opener of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The Golden Bears were unable to field a competitive roster because of a positive COVID-19 test and the game was canceled, though the teams ended up scheduling a Sunday meeting on short notice the following week when both of their opponents had to cancel due to COVID concerns.

“They’re a good team and a great matchup for us,” Chase said about this week’s game. “It is nice to actually have a full week of preparation and go (to the Rose Bowl) with the game plan oriented toward them and not another team.”

The Garbers brothers went to Corona del Mar High, but they were never on the same varsity roster together.

The Lopez brothers went to different high schools and have experience being on opposite sides of each other in the same game.

Nick made all six field-goal attempts as Mater Dei beat RJ and Mission Viejo in a 2017 CIF-SS Division 1 semifinal.

RJ competed in last year’s UCLA-Cal game, but Nick didn’t play.

WHEN CAL HAS THE BALL

Chase Garbers is also familiar with UCLA defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro, who coached Cal’s defensive line in 2017.

“He was here for one year when I was here,” Chase said. “His defensive play style is pretty aggressive and pretty exotic. They like to create havoc.”

The Bruins’ defense has created chaos in consecutive wins against Colorado and USC, using pressure to sack quarterbacks and create turnovers, but the secondary remains susceptible to giving up explosive plays down the field.

“They were really balanced (against Stanford), I thought they mixed the pass and the run really well.” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said of Cal. “They also mixed their formations well and could get multiple receivers on the field to spread things out. If they do that you have to be aware of Garbers as a runner.”

Garbers became Cal’s all-time leading rusher as a quarterback earlier this season.

“They run the ball really well and he’s part of the running game,” Kelly said. “He can affect the game with his feet. … he’s doing a really nice job in running their offense.”

Damien Moore (516 yards, six TDs) and Christopher Brooks (497, one TD) are the featured runners out of the backfield this season, while Garbers has 424 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

WHEN UCLA HAS THE BALL

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is coming off an impressive performance (349 yards passing, four TD passes, two TD runs) against USC, but he said he has already put that game behind him as he prepares to lead the offense in what could be his final home game at the Rose Bowl.

The quarterback can’t afford to get too comfortable against a Cal defense that has shown a consistent ability to create turnovers.

The Golden Bears have intercepted two or more passes in their past three games. Before the Bruins start throwing the ball around, they’ll look to establish the run game with running back Zach Charbonnet.

“The running back is extremely hard to tackle,” Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon said. “He’s a very powerful runner with the way they use him.”

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