Bruins Overcome Humidity, Adversity and Washington State in 42-28 Comeback Win


I imagine that UCLA’s Bruin Nation wasn’t expecting the Washington State Cougars to put up much of a fight after their Bruins beat the mighty Texas Longhorns last week; after all, the Cougars were 4-23 since the beginning of 2008.

Personally, I was telling people that Wazzu had absolutely nothing to lose in their game against UCLA and that that was an advantage for them.

And for roughly 3 1/2 quarters on a muggy and humid Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl, I was proven right as the Cougars played with a purpose, taking advantage of numerous UCLA mistakes, penalties, and breakdowns in the secondary, scoring 21 unanswered points in the 2nd and 3rd quarters and taking an eight point lead over the Bruins.

It would have been an upset of monumental proportions, but after tying the score at 28 early in the fourth quarter, UCLA stopped the Cougars on a 4th and goal from the one yard line and scored two touchdowns of their own in winning their third straight contest, 42-28, before 62,072 sweltering fans.

After throwing for a mere 27 yards against Texas, coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s goals were to throw the ball down field more, as Wazzu was ranked near the bottom of college football against the pass. Richard Brehaut, playing for an injured Kevin Prince, did well in throwing for 128 yards on 12-of-23 passing without an interception – one can say that UCLA did a better job in that department.

The two big stars of the game, however, were running backs Jonathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman.

Coleman had the game of his life in rushing for a career-high 185 yards on only 15 carries with three touchdowns, including a key 73-yard jaunt in the 4th quarter after the defense stopped the Cougars on that 4th and goal play, which helped the Bruins to score the go-ahead TD on a one-yard run by Brehaut.

As outstanding as Coleman was, Franklin was even better in rushing for 218 yards – also a career high – with a touchdown of his own in the 1st quarter to open the scoring.

It marked the first time in UCLA history that two running backs rushed for over 180 yards in the same game.

Coleman and Franklin have become a two-headed monster for the Bruins these past few weeks; I’m sure they are a source of worry for their upcoming opponents.

Although UCLA made plenty of mistakes that kept Washington State in the game, including two more lost fumbles and ten penalties – several them personal fouls and pass interference calls that led to scores – for a total of 103 yards, the Cougars must be given credit for their effort.

Jeff Tuel, having thrown for 311 yards and two touchdowns, is a legitimate quarterback who Wazzu should build their team around; they came to the Rose Bowl to play with no intention of the Bruins beating them down like almost everyone else has.

To be honest, after the game I wasn’t too sure whether to feel happy about the Bruins stepping up and overcoming adversity in the form of an upset bid to get the win, or to be unhappy over having to come back to beat a team that has been among the worst in college football the past few years.

I think I’m going to go both ways on this, and I also think that UCLA’s next game, against California in Berkeley next Saturday, may well end up in a loss if they continue to make as many mistakes and draw as many penalties as they did against the Cougars.

I’ll happily take the win, but in order for the Bruins to continue this winning streak against their upcoming opponents – third-ranked Oregon and Arizona as well as Cal – they must perform better.