Oct 3, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive back Anthony Jefferson (23) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass in the final minute against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. UCLA defeated Utah 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
While it was great for UCLA to go on the road and get a extremely hard earned win in a harsh environment, where they had to fight and sweat it out until the very end, I’d like to make a personal statement to the University of Utah Football Team:
WHAT THE SCOREBOARD SAID AT THE END OF THIS GAME MEANS LITTLE – YOU UTES ARE TOUGH!
How else do you describe a team whose quarterback threw six interceptions – five in the second half alone, as Travis Wilson did – and STILL have a chance to win the game at the end?
Any team that does that not only deserves to be called a tough team, they more than deserve to be called a very good team.
Face it Bruin Nation, Utah brought it on Thursday night, and gave Jim Mora’s bunch all they could handle before a Myles Jack interception on the 12-yard line with 22 seconds left, after Utah barely missed a tying touchdown on the previous play, ended the Utes’ hopes, saving the Bruins once and for all in their 34-27 victory.
It is 12th ranked UCLA’s first 4-0 start in eight years, and man did they ever earn this fourth win – but more on the details in a bit.
Oct 3, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; UCLA Bruins safety Brandon Sermons (25) and defensive back Anthony Jefferson (23) shake hands after the game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. UCLA defeated Utah 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
I know that as sure as the sky is blue, that the Ute players and the 45,272 black-clad fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium – Utah had asked the fans to wear black to the game to create a “Black Out” – were heartbroken at the results, but the cliches about holding the head up high and having nothing to be ahsamed of definitely rang true on Thursday, as those Utes simply refused to go away.
That was evident in the first quarter, when Utah answered a Jordon James touchdown with two of their own, starting with a 54-yard pass from Wilson to Drea Anderson. Sean Fitzgerald gave the Utes the lead a little later with a six-yard scoring catch.
Then Brett Hundley – with lots of help from his Bruin brothers – took over the game, beginning with a trick play early in the second quarter when James took the snap at the seven yard line and flipped the ball to receiver Devin Fuller, who then threw to Hundley in the end zone to tie the game at 14.
Hundley ran for 85 yards to go along with his 211 in the air on 17-of-27 passing, plus a go-ahead score to Jordan Payton after that trick play, but the interception he threw to Keith McGill in the fourth quarter – who returned it 19 yards to tie the game at 24 – was an illustration of how difficult things were for the Bruins.
His 36-yard touchdown run later in that quarter more than made up for that error in judgement, and it also proved to be the game winner as after Utah got a field goal to pull withing seven, the Bruins muffed an onside kick and gave the Utes a golden opportunity for the upset.
An offside penalty on a fourth down play – one of 13 flags thrown against UCLA (I won’t talk about that) – helped Utah along and set up the end-of-game dramatics.
One group of Bruins that should be heavily praised is the defensive secondary, a question mark at the beginning of the season because of their inexperience.
Those guys did some major growing up in this game with those six picks, Anthony Jefferson getting two of those, and that – along with Hundley’s leadership – was the reason why UCLA won their Pac-12 opener.
Wilson did all he could with his 288 yards in the air, but those six interceptions killed him and his Ute team, to state the obvious, but as was said before, he and every one of his teammates should be proud of their efforts.
Oct 3, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley (17) looks to pass down the field against the Utah Utes in the third quarter. UCLA Bruins won 34-27 over the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
They remined me of Rocky Balboa in his first fight with Apollo Creed – like Rocky, the scoreboard may have said that Utah lost this game, and although they are now 0-2 in the Pac-12 with both losses being very close (3-2 overall), they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
As for the Bruins, despite the ongoing problem with penalties and the mistakes they made, this is a good win for them in that they learned how to persevere in a very tough situation, against an opponent who would use almost any means necessary to take them down.
Which will very much help them going forward.
California Golden Bears
SITE: Rose Bowl
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 7:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN 2 or ESPNU