I had a feeling that UCLA’s Bruins would come out strong when I saw them rocking the buses that brought them to the Rose Bowl from the inside before their traditional walk through the tailgaters.
I was so convinced that their game against Arizona would be a classic showdown, featuring an offensive shootout as the Wildcats arrived in Pasadena with the fourth ranked offense in the country at 553.6 yards a game. Not to mention the fact that this U of A team from Tucson was ranked in the top 25 in both the AP and the BCS polls, and they had just come off an upset of USC.
Well, the shootout did come to pass.
Unfortunately for Arizona, the shootout was completely one-sided, and the one-sidedness wasn’t theirs as UCLA used an incredibly wicked amount of energy not just from the Bruin players, but from their fans as well – all 81, 673 of them (save for the couple of thousand Arizona faithful) as Jim Mora’s navy blue-clad squad made like a buzz saw in routing the Wildcats, 66-10, on Saturday night.
Not a bad way to celebrate a Homecoming, and definitely not a bad way to pay back Rich Rodriguez’s program after that 48-12 humiliation the previous time these two teams met.
The 66 points were the most scored by a Bruin team since 1997, when they reached that number twice in wins against Texas and Houston, and it was only six points short of the all-time single game record, set in 1954 against Stanford.
21 points were scored in each of the first two quarters as UCLA did whatever they wanted against Arizona’s defense, which was ranked 110th out of 120 FBS schools. Johnathan Franklin didn’t waste much time in becoming the Bruins’ career leader in rushing yards, surpassing Gaston Green with a 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to open what would turn out to be an avalanche of points, the first of two from him as the senior finished with 162 yards on 26 carries.
By halftime, it was all but over as the Bruins led 42-3.
The main factor that kept the game from being what I and many others felt would be a shootout by both teams was UCLA’s defense.
Simply put, they stepped up huge in harassing heralded quarterback Matt Scott for much of the night, forcing three Wildcat turnovers and doing an incredible job of containing U of A’s offense, holding them to a total of 257 yards while – in a case of total contrast – the Bruins racked up 611 yards of their own, 308 on the ground and 303 through the air.
Talk about a balanced attack!
“Arizona was putting up points on everybody, a high-powered offense, and…it was a challenge,” cornerback Sheldon Price said after the win. “And I think we really stepped up to it.”
If people aren’t including Brett Hundley among the top young quarterbacks in the Pac-12 Conference, if not the country, they really need to do so after he threw for 288 yards and accounted for four touchdowns; one by rushing – his sixth of the season, which is the most by a Bruin quarterback since Tom Ramsey in 1982 – and two scoring throws to Joseph Fauria among his three touchdown passes.
It’s interesting how things can be so different from one week to the next as just nine days before their date with UCLA, Arizona was riding high in Paradise, complete with an offense that was capable of scoring at will and having just beat a team that was ranked number one before the season and was picked by many pundits to go the BCS championship game.
However, by the time the fourth quarter arrived the Wildcats were one frustrated and dejected bunch, with Scott being knocked out of the game in the third quarter with an apparent concussion, crippling Arizona’s attack as the wind went completely out of their sails.
Having another one of their players leave the game in an ambulance late in the second half didn’t help things any, as the cliche “What a difference a week makes” certainly applied here.
As triumphant as UCLA was in their overwhelming rout, which earned them a rise to 17th in the AP poll, 19th in the coaches’ poll, and 18th in the BCS, which is not only their first appearance there but also ahead of USC, who for the first time in a long time is behind the Bruins in all of the aforementioned polls and in the Pac-12 South, the night wasn’t a perfect one for this particular reason:
As in 13 committed by the Bruins for an ungodly 134 yards, signifying a major backslide from the previous few games.
Many of the penalties were personal fouls and pass interference calls, with cornerback Aaron Hester’s unnecessary late hit directly leading to Arizona’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter. Hester’s defensive backfield mate, Price, had three pass interference flags by himself; luckily the Wildcats couldn’t capitalize on them.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am SO sick and tired of UCLA’s players making these kind of mistakes and showing such lack of discipline.
Being that they are now 7-2 and sit atop the Pac-12 South at 4-2, the Bruins are poised to potentially accomplish great things over the course of their remaining three games, which includes Stanford on November 24 and what is fast becoming an epic rivalry showdown against USC the Saturday before that. However…
Hundley, Franklin and company absolutely cannot overlook their next opponent, Washington State, or take those Cougars lightly when they play them in the Palouse this coming Saturday night.
Or else that contest will end up as the ultimate trap game.
As defensive back Andrew Abbott said, “We can’t get caught up in all the hoopla.”
A preview of the Washington State game will appear on this site this Wednesday.