Eagle Bank Bowl: UCLA Overcomes Cold Weather And Temple Determination In 30-21 Win


It was not looking good for the UCLA Bruins in our nation’s capitol yesterday.

The temperature at Washington D.C’s RFK Stadium was 32 degrees with a wind chill factor of 19 and 20 mile-an-hour winds; plus the field was frozen, making it difficult to get footing.

And on top of everything else, the Temple Owls, playing in their first bowl game since 1979 after having their first winning season in 19 years, were extremely motivated, rocking on the sidelines as they raced to a 21-10 lead in the first half.

In only their third bowl game ever, Temple outplayed the Bruins in the game’s first two quarters, with Owl quarterback Vaughn Charlton completing 12 out of 16 passes for 153 yards and a score.

Then the second half started.

Led by Terrance Austin’s 32 yard touchdown catch on a fourth down play from Kevin Prince early in the third quarter and linebacker Akeem Ayers intercepting a fourth quarter pass at the Temple two yard line and running it back for the winning score, UCLA overwhelmed the Owls to earn a 30-21 victory in the Eagle Bank Bowl in front of a small but bundled up crowd of 23,072.

After having given up 241 yards and 21 points in the first half, the Bruin defense stepped up big time in allowing a mere 41 yards the rest of the way, shutting out Temple and their two stud running backs, 5’5″ speedster Matt Brown, who led everyone with 83 yards on 20 carries, and standout freshman Bernard Pierce, who was knocked out of the contest just before halftime with an injury.

Being that Pierce had over 1,500 rushing yards this season and was his conference’s freshman of the year, losing him clearly hurt Temple and their chances.

The plays that turned the momentum around for UCLA?

Stopping Brown on a fourth and one play from the Bruin eight yard line in the third quarter was key, keeping the game within reach, as well as Rahim Moore’s 10th interception (which leads the NCAA) later that quarter to end another Owl threat.

After a shaky start in which he was like a baseball pitcher who couldn’t find the strike zone, UCLA’s Prince settled down to throw for a total of 221 yards on 18-for -31 passing, with a 47 yard score to Nelson Rosario to go along with his TD to Austin.

Chane Moline made some key second half runs, ending with 113 yards, 69 of them rushing, in his last game as a Bruin.

The Bosworth twins, Kyle and Korey, also played well in their final games, as did Reggie Carter, who came up with a sack in that pivotal third quarter, and Brian Price who, as expected, announced after the contest that he was making himself available for the NFL draft.

Since Price was the Pac-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year, no one was surprised at his decision; he is projected as a first round pick.

It was plain to see that UCLA (7-6) gave an outstanding effort throughout the game, as they have had for much of the season.

The execution, however, was not quite there until the last two quarters, much like it was for a good part of 2009; A+ for effort, a somewhat lesser grade at times for results.

The fact that the Bruins overcame adversity, the cold, and an Owl team (9-4) from Philadelphia determined to show that they can play with the BCS big boys says much about UCLA’s character and resilience. As coach Rick Neuheisel mentioned afterward, the Bruins could have went with the “it’s not our day” mentality after falling behind, but they fought back and got the win, their first in the post season since beating Northwestern in the 2005 Sun Bowl.

That not only boded well for the outgoing seniors, allowing them to go out on a good note, it also bodes well for next year, as UCLA continues to build their program.

By winning their bowl game, a significant step was taken in doing just that.

In the meantime, I’m sure that after earning their first winning season in three years, the Bruins will more than enjoy their flight back from the frigid District of Columbia, return to Westwood knowing that their football campaign ended well, and look forward to Spring practice and 2010.