Hey guess what? We're bowl eligible! Thanks, Colorado!
On Senior Day, the Bruins came out blazing, stopping Colorado on their first drive although the missed tackle bug started to return. As a Senior Day gift, Taylor Embree was also allowed to return the ball on punt returns today, actually accumulating 13 yards of return yardage. On our second play from scrimmage, UCLA uses a little play action and Kevin Prince throws a perfect strike to Shaq Evans, who just has to put his hands out and a ball is placed in there for a touchdown.
Of course, we can't do anything right without doing something wrong, and Evans is flagged for excessive celebration, the first of nine penalties on the night. For once though, the flags don't hurt us in this game.
On the next series, Tyler Hansen's pass bounces off the receiver and Sean Westgate is in the right place at the right time to intercept the ball, and we are given another 15 yards when Colorado nearly rips Westgate's head off by the facemask. Prince hands the ball off to Jonathan Franklin, and BOOM, touchdown. 14-0.
After Colorado can't do anything after Jeff Locke kicked the ball off out of bounds (and some good UCLA defense after Westgate misses a tackle) UCLA gets the ball back and it's all Kevin Prince, Joseph Fauria, and Nelson Rosario on the drive, as Prince broke off a few nice runs, Rosario went over 2000 receiving yards in his UCLA career, and Fauria shows off his acrobatic skills, diving into the end zone for the touchdown. We're not even out of the first quarter, and we're up 21-0.
This is the effort we have been waiting for ALL SEASON, and it showed up... when we played the worst team in the Pac-12, Colorado. Don't celebrate too much everyone. It's COLORADO.
In the second quarter, Colorado scores after their touchdown is reviewed but they miss the extra point. But some worry creeps in, as UCLA starts acting like UCLA, committing dumb penalties, and going super conservative on the play calling as we run for the end zone, but miss a field goal from 25 yards. The first half ends with a lot of stupid penalties, particularly one by Randall Carroll on a punt, but we're lucky that Colorado is Colorado, and that we played "well" in the first half to make most people forget about the penalties.
The first quarter was fun. Too bad we'll never see anything like that again (or maybe when we get a new coach...)
In the second half, we run (literally) down the field. Throwing the ball apparently is out of the question early in the third, as we run, run, run and wind up needing to kick a field goal of 22 yards, converted by Tyler Gonzalez.
Colorado and UCLA exchange turnovers on their next drives, as Andrew Abbott picks off Hansen, but Jonathan Franklin fumbles the ball right back to them. Nothing comes out of the exchange, except for Iuta Tepa MMBOPPING Tyler Hansen. (I couldn't resist.)
Derrick Coleman comes into the game to make his usual impact, barreling down the field where no one accounted for the huge running back. Bad strategy, Colorado. Prince then hooks up with Fauria again for another touchdown, Fauria using every bit of his 6'8" body. Later on, Kevin Prince throws for his fourth touchdown of the night to Nelson Rosario, who drags a receiver into the end zone.
The game ends on a nice note, after a spectacular second interception by Andrew Abbott, with Nick Crissman coming in to hand the ball off several times to Malcolm Jones, who scored the final touchdown of the night. Also spotted on the play is Jerry Rice Jr. A feel good ending to a night where UCLA dominated Colorado with 553 yards of offense, 328 of it on the ground, and holding Colorado to only 229 yards.
But remember, this is Colorado. Don't celebrate too hard now. This is how we should be dominating teams below us in the standings.
So yes, the eye test:
1) Is our defense prepared for each and every team we play?
2) Do we call offensive plays to catch our opponents off guard?
3) Do our players look like they know what they should be doing at all times?
4) Do our players play for 60 G-D minutes every game?
5) Do our players execute?
6) Do we have leaders on the field?
1. Yes, we were prepared to play one of the worst teams in all of football and we stopped them. Andrew Abbott had two spectacular interceptions, and Keenan Graham had a great sack today, VROOMING into the backfield to get to Hansen.
2. If you thought we'd throw the ball that often and score 4 touchdowns through the air, raise your hand. Put your hands down, you liars! We converted on a team that gives up 38 points a game and is 116th in the FBS in points against. We were going to score. They were some really nice throws by Prince though, and everyone was making a genuine effort to catch the ball.
3. Yes. Ok, except for the nine penalties for 102 yards, we didn't look completely lost. We still can't tackle to save our lives, but we didn't look completely incompetent.
4. The players executed all 60 minutes. The second and third quarters were iffy (I was scared the second quarter, I felt that corner turn back to where I didn't want to go, like if I accidentally went the wrong way on Figueroa or something...) but the game kept moving.
5. Um, see number 4. I answered two questions in one. My hands are cold. Sue me. (Actually many of you are lawyers, don't sue me. Please present a compelling memo.)
6. I think Kevin Prince played so well tonight, and he moved the team up and down the field. Datone Jones finally played like the Datone Jones we've been expecting all year (he has to start up his clip reel for the NFL) and Andrew Abbott, a former walk on, has been playing so well for the UCLA defense this year. I'm so proud of the kid.
If you have more thoughts, please elaborate. I know there's a sense of euphoria that we won, but also remember a few key events:
1. This was Colorado that we played
2. It was Senior Day and emotions were definitely high.
3. We were playing for our bowl game lives, so the effort was finally there.
4. See #1.
Now, someone go tell SC we need them to lose so that Oregon can get in the national title game - we need additional funds for the Athletic program for our Head Coach fund.