Welcome to Pac-12 Conference Play. Apparently there is a fourth Manning child, named Sean.
Wait, what? There isn't? His last name is MANNION? Could have fooled me, Mannion plowed through the UCLA offense like he was Peyton or Eli. Also, OSU followed their game plan from Wisconsin - stop the run, stop the running back. Save the cheerleader. (oops, wrong show.) Even when Mike Riley pulled some Mike Riley-isms, we topped it with our own history of -isms, bad timeouts, penalties, bad play calling, dropped passes, etc, that led to this absolute halt to the momentum we had after starting non-conference 3-0.
On our first play of the game, Brett Hundley bombs it deep to Shaq Evans, who unfortunately catches the ball out of bounds. Perhaps that was a sign of what type of game we'd play today - one that was absolutely UGLY in the first half for UCLA fans, bringing back bad memories of the past decade of UCLA football. (oh and great punting. We'd be absolutely nowhere without Jeff Locke.)
OSU scores on their first drive, marching down field, carving us up through the air, knowing that our secondary is a weakness, and aided by a facemask penalty by Aaron Hester, they kick a 22 yard field goal. 3-0 OSU. We're fortunate they only kicked a field goal, since our offense is doing absolutely nothing. Without Jeff Baca to anchor the offensive line, the line looks lost and unable to create the holes for Johnathan Franklin to go out and prove he is worthy of the Heisman talk. It also doesn't help when Joseph Fauria is dropping balls he should have had. Just, ugh. Bad memories start creeping back in full on at this point.
A question many of us had today was "what the hell was going on with the secondary" and that question popped up as Mannion found receiver after receiver, even when he is pressured. There was no help, Sheldon Price being burned all day, and eventually yanked later in the game after allowing another touchdown. Fauria didn't help, as on the next UCLA possession, at the goal line, is called for the false start, costing us a touchdown and possibly a very different game. Ka'imi Fairbairn sneaks the 22 yard field goal in around the left goal post and the game is tied.
For the next ten seconds, as Mannion hits Cooks for a 75 yard touchdown and the lead. No penalties to bail us out this time. And from this point on the beautiful dream becomes a nightmare. Sure there were some nice parts through the rest of it, and fleeting glimpses of hope, but I already felt the pit grow after this touchdown. Especially since OSU knew we wanted to run, Hundley was scared to throw downfield until the second half, and even if we threw the ball, the receivers were dropping them. Oh, and on defense, the Price was wrong.
At the end of the first half, after the Beavers score again, but we manage to run our two minute offense well as Hundley connects with Shaq Evans for a touchdown, bringing us within a touchdown at the end of the first half, 17-10 Beavers.
The last three games, we saw second half adjustments that led to our victories. This time... not so much. What did we see in the second half? Well we saw the defense pick it up a bit in the second half, with two straight turnovers, forcing a fumble (hell yes, Anthony Barr with the sack and strip) and an interception (hell yes, Stan McKay) but we fail to take advantage, as Darius Bell, yes, a wide receiver, picks up a false start, Hundley throwing to a wide open patch of grass, a few overthrows to wide open receivers, wide receivers with a case of the drops, and of course, more penalties.
Don't worry, the defense also committed untimely penalties, as Damien Holmes picks up a roughing the passer penalty, and Sheldon Price, on third and fricking goal, picks up a pass interference penalty, and of course, Oregon State scores.
We keep the game interesting though - we have a very efficient drive, capped off with Hundley scoring a touchdown from the 1, with mayyyybe a little assist from Franklin, but in this game, we take the points anyway we can get them. Too bad we give them back as quickly as we score them, as Oregon State hits a field goal, and Fairbairn misses his 42 yarder. It was nice and high though, if you're looking for a positive in the miss.
At the end of the game, Hundley added to his stats as he started making long throws and his receivers finally started catching the ball, but it was probably too little, too late. Fairbairn hits a 36 yard field goal to bring UCLA within 7, but we are unable to recover the onside kick (after Mora ices his own kicker with a timeout) and UCLA loses for the first time this season, 27-20.
Oregon State was ready for us - ready for the run, forced Hundley to throw (which he did a nice job of, when his receivers caught the ball) but the game felt like last year, or the year before, or five years before. Sluggish. Silly penalties. A feeling that if we took advantage of all our chances, we would have won. After the gains we made to start the season, we're back at square one. Sure, we're 3-1, and we may be heading to the doormat of the Pac-12 South next week, but this game should have told us that we cannot count on any games being a gimme if the plays are not executed, the play calling is not inspired, and the refs aren't there to help us out.
Til next week...