Well, UCLA’s football team certainly gave a very strong effort this past Saturday at the Rose Bowl; you can say that much.
They fought the Arizona Wildcats all the way to game’s end and were a very determined bunch of Bruins.
Unfortunately, their execution on defense, particularly in the first half as they missed several tackles leading to long Wildcat gains and scores, ultimately did them in as Arizona outlasted Rick Neuheisel’s crew, 29-21, their third loss in a row and fourth straight to the Wildcats, who are off to their best start since 1998.
In front of a Homecoming crowd of 53,408 which featured a band alumni reunion at half time, UCLA did a lot of things right in facing a team now ranked 13th in the AP poll, 15th in the BCS, and first in the Pac-10 Conference on defense, but…
They also did a lot of things wrong.
Wildcat quarterback Matt Scott, filling in for the injured Nick Foles, escaped several sacks as he threw for 319 yards on 24 of 36 passing with a 41 yard touchdown pass during their opening drive in the first quarter.
The Bruins refused to crumble in answering right back with a drive of their own, capped by an 11 yard touchdown run by Derrick Coleman to tie the game at 7.
However, missed tackles plagued UCLA’s defense for the rest of the first half as Arizona gained yardage and first downs galore. Although their performance in the second half improved and gave the team a chance to win the game, the Wildcats (7-1, 4-1 in the Pac-10) ended with a season high 583 total yards, including 264 on the ground, Scott accounting for 71 of those yards while behind center as he has become a legitimate double threat.
It was the second straight week that the Bruins gave up over 500 yards, and the fact that Arizona’s 32 first downs more than doubled UCLA’s 15 didn’t help matters.
As for the Bruins (3-5, 1-4 and in ninth place in the Pac-10), their fans clearly saw their determination as they showed a lot of fight in trying to get back into the win column. After getting beaten down by Cal and Oregon the previous two weeks, it was encouraging to see.
In his second game since Kevin Prince went down for the year with an injured knee, Richard Brehaut stepped up. He threw for 228 yards – a Bruin season high – with two touchdowns, one for 68 yards to Randall Carroll to open the third quarter, and the other for 49 yards to Josh Smith off a flea flicker to bring UCLA to within five points in the fourth quarter, thus establishing his ability to throw the ball down field once and for all.
That ability, which Prince lacked, bodes well for the Bruins because opponents will no longer be able to stack the line against their “revolver” offense and their running game.
The lack of execution on the defense in the first half, and a fake punt which resulted in a key first down for Arizona late in the game, finished UCLA off, as well as some questionable play calling during their final drive, namely running the ball on 2nd down and 20 with time starting to run out instead of throwing the ball.
But as Neuheisel said after the game, the effort was there. Big time.
That will bode well for them when they face their next opponent, Oregon State. Although the Beavers whipped Cal 35-7 in Corvallis their last game, the Bruins have a shot at winning if their passing continues to develop and their execution improves on defense.
And if they find a way to stop the Oregon State’s all-everything tailback, Jacquizz Rodgers.