Okay, the trap was avoided.
As well as overlooking the two-win Washington State Cougars toward this week’s upcoming showdown with the crosstown rival.
Not to mention overcoming the cold in the Palouse as the temperature dropped to 22 degrees by game’s end amid a flurry of Cougar points in the second half after Wazzu endured a 30-point onslaught in the second quarter to make things interesting, along with Johnathan Franklin being held to a mere 66 yards on 19 carries.
Luckily for UCLA, Connor Halliday’s 330 yards and five touchdowns – four of them in the second half – in relief of Jeff Tuel were not enough as the Bruins got their fourth straight win before an obviously bundled up crowd of 28,110 at Pullman’s Martin Stadium, 44-36, which upped their record to 8-2 and marked their fifth win in the Pac-12 Conference, keeping them in first place in the South and raising their AP and BCS rankings to 17th.
Those eight wins are the most for a UCLA team since 2005, when they went 10-2.
The best thing that Bruin Nation can say about this game is that though it got unpretty toward the end, it’s a win on the road in front of a hostile crowd, atmosphere, and conditions which the Bruins will gladly take.
Brett Hundley continued his efficient play with his 261 yards and three touchdowns in the air, completing 85% of his passes in the process, but it was UCLA’s defense and special teams that did much of the damage in the first half as the Bruins scored 37 of their 44 points during the game’s first 30 minutes.
Sheldon Price’s 68-yard run off a blocked field goal try by Datone Jones opened the scoring in the first quarter, and for the second time this season Eric Kendricks – whose 15 tackles upped his total to 45 over the last three games as he now leads in the conference in that category, had a 40-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter off a fumble that Cassius Marsh caused due to a sack.
After building that 37-7 halftime lead, the Bruins, particularly the pass defense, seemed to go into cruise control as they were outscored by Washington State 29-7 during the game’s last two quarters.
And the penalty problems miserably continued as Jim Mora’s bunch once again had more than 10 yellow flags (12) for over 100 yards (126) for the second straight week, which in a proverbial broken record sort of way included pass interference penalties by Price and Aaron Hester.
“We have to learn from our mistakes,” Price said after the game. “We made errors that we normally don’t do.”
Note to the senior cornerback: Talk is cheap! And we in Bruin Nation are absolutely fed up with the screw-ups by you and the rest of your friends in the secondary! FIX IT! NOW!!
And thanks to all the ungodly yards in the air that UCLA’s defense has given up throughout the season as well as all the yellow handkerchiefs thrown against them, the Bruins currently stand at a dismal 103rd out of 120 teams in the FBS against the pass – and have reclaimed their spot as the most penalized team in the country with 9.2 flags dropped against them per game.
But as was said before, it was a win.
And at the risk of offering cliches, at the end of the day, a win is a win – especially on the road, in the cold, and in front of a Wazzu team with nothing to lose who was allegedly trash talking on the field for much of the night.
Now that their business was handled in the Palouse, the Bruins can now commence with focusing on their next opponent, a certain rival with the other major college football team in Los Angeles which would normally be a big enough game due to the fact that the schools are but 11 miles apart, but now has the added aspect of these two bitter crosstown rivals being ranked with the Pac-12 South Division title and a spot in the conference’s championship game on the line when these foes meet at the Rose Bowl, as of this writing, in six days.
A preview of the crosstown rivalry game, also known as “The Crosstown Showdown” and “The Battle For L.A” (I personally call it “The Crosstown War”) versus the USC Trojans, as well as additional rivalry coverage, will appear on this site later this week.