Stephen Dunn - Getty Images
No witty headline this week! Just a win!
It wasn't flashy, overly abundant with offense, there were definite mental lapses on special teams, but in the end, it was a mostly clean football game that didn't feel tenuous until the latter half of the fourth quarter. What more can you ask for? (Allright, smartie arties, I know you're going to fill the responses with what you wanted.)
We start the game on offense, where Brett Hundley is hit immediately, which affects him on his next pass, a complete overthrow. UCLA calls timeout, setting off alarms, but it was probably to give Hundley a bit of a breather. We pick up the blitz on third down but Damien Thigpen is unable to pick up the first down and we punt. Our defense shows up on Utah's first possession and makes their presence known for the day. They allow Utah to pick up an easy first down, but on a ball tipped by Eric Kendricks, Andrew Abbott picks up the free ball and holds on for the interception.
To win, you need to convert turnovers int points, and we do that beautifully on our next drive. Shaq Evans begins to assert himself as the number 1 receiver on this team, aided by a Utah flag. Passes to Joseph Fauria, runs by the Mayor Johnathan Franklin and Damien Thigpen, and we end the drive with Brett Hundley waltzing into the end zone after a beautiful fake.
Our defense keeps up the good work and forces a three and out on Utah's next drive. However, we commit our biggest blunder of the day on special teams. Steven Manfro is back to field the punt, and starts backing up. Mistake number 1. He tries to catch the ball. Mistake number 2. He muffs it and it starts bouncing around in the end zone. Mistake number 3. Utah picks it up and falls on it for the touchdown. Sigh.
Our offense comes out ready to go on the next play. Hundley hits true freshman Jordan Payton, who fights for the first down. Great play by the freshman. On the next play, Hundley hits Shaq Evans and he has nothing but green grass ahead of him as he runs for in for a touchdown. Utah is unable to do anything the rest of the quarter, as Travis Wilson makes the acquaintance of one Anthony Barr and is welcomed to the legion of starting quarterbacks that touch the Rose Bowl grass courtesy of our defense. The first quarter ends with UCLA up 14-7.
In the second quarter, Utah starts playing vintage UCLA football, with various penalties negating positive plays. On a pivotal fourth down, Andrew Abbott stops them short of the first down marker, which was the theme of the day, as they did not convert on both of their fourth down tries. Great job by the defense.
On our next drive, we finally pick up our first penalty flag of the day, 26 minutes in to the game. Amazing, isn't it? Unfortunately our follies worsen from there, as we are about to go for it on fourth down, Utah calls time out... and we wind up with a delay of game penalty, forcing us to punt. One step forward, two steps back.
To end the half, Owa says hello to Travis Wilson, aided by Anthony Barr and Damien Holmes and the half ends with UCLA up 14-7.
To start the second half, the defense reasserts itself, Although Aaron Hester should have caught the pass thrown right to him for an interception. One area of weakness for the defense would probably be throws over the middle, as Utah kept converting on that play. It doesn't matter though, as UCLA stops Utah again on fourth down, courtesy of Erick Kendricks and Dalton Hilliard.
The next UCLA drive is an absolute beauty, and what I expect out of the UCLA football team. I wouldn't mind fewer pitches to the outside, but we move efficiently down the field, with Hundley running, passes to Fauria, and lots of Johnathan Franklin saying "I AM THE MAYOR" as he heads into the end zone. 21-7 Bruins. (Downside would be the 15 yard penalty on Marvray for a chop block.)
We let Utah back into the game as Utah begins throwing downfield on our secondary, realizing our weakness. On third and goal, the helmet rule nearly comes to bite Utah in the behind, as Wilson is forced to leave the field after having his helmet ripped off on third and goal. Hays comes in and manages to throw for a touchdown on fourth down, and the score comes way too close for comfort, at 21-14.
21-14 is the final score, although it is too close for comfort, as we are unable to pick up a first down in the last minute of the game so that we can line up in victory formation, but Utah is unable to pull off their best Cal imitation, throws a forward pass that is flagged by the refs, and UCLA comes away with a win over the Utes.
I was never really that nervous. I never felt meh. It was just a win over a team we should have beaten, but it never felt that far out of hand. "only" 7 penalties for 43 yards. Allright!
This thread is for UCLA/Utah discussion. If you're watching the other games today, head over to this post.