I yelled and screamed a lot tonight with Joe Fauria.
That was a satisfying win, even if it was a lot closer on the scoreboard than it felt on the field at times. Here is the full box score and our immediate post game celebration thread. I have extended blow-by-blow recap after the jump.
UCLA began the game with the ball, as UCLA began their march downfield. Unfortunately Joseph Fauria picked up the first penalty of the afternoon with a hold, but Brett Hundley hits Devin Lucien to get the penalty yardage back. Unfortunately Lucien started dancing like he just won the Super Bowl, when we didn't even convert for the first down. Anyways, we managed to convert 3rd downs like it was going out of style until the end of the drive, when Hundley misses Jerry Johnson in the end zone. Ka'imi Fairbairn came in for the 36 yard field goal but unfortunately misses wide, and it was not pretty watch.
Thankfully, Nebraska couldn't get their offense going, and Datone Jones made his presence felt as he takes down Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. Anthony Barr continues his spectacular play on defense with pressure on Taylor Martinez and Randall Goforth has an interception go through his hands. Overall, a great start on defense and Nebraska helps by shanking the punt for a grand total of 13 yards. Thank you. Why? On the next play, Hundley throws a beautiful ball to Fauria, who makes up for his holding penalty earlier and scores the first touchdown of the game, all while being held! It's nice to have a 6'7" tight end - throw the ball where only he can catch it, and he usually does. 7-0 Bruins.
However, our euphoria is short lived as Nebraska marches right down the field and scores right back in our face with a couple of runs and a long throw by Martinez. To make matters worse, on the next UCLA series, as Jordon James is scrambling for a first down, he is stripped and Nebraska recovers the fumble. For his penance, James should shave off his mohawk. Abdullah thrashes the defense again, but Jordan Zumwalt with a massive tackle behind the line of scrimmage stops Nebraska, and they wind up punting for a grand total of 25 yards. UCLA can't take advantage of the field position but thankfully we have Jeff Locke to pin Nebraska inside their own five.
Except on the next Nebraska drive, Taylor Martinez busts out for a 92 yard touchdown run. Missed tackles, overpursuit, everything. Everyone on defense missed an assignment on that play, including whoever should have made sure the ref wasn't setting up an effective screen for Martinez. Sigh.
That's fine, because anything you can do, we can do better, and we definitely converted third downs much better than Nebraska, as we marched down the field and SHOULD have scored a touchdown but Jerry Johnson was called for imaginary pass interference. Fairbairn comes in and kicks a very nice field goal from 35 yards.
After Nebraska punts again, Hundley starts hooking up again with his favorite huge receiver Fauria for first down yardage and hands the ball off to Manfro to pick up significant yardage on the ground. At second and goal, Hundley looks over the middle and locates Fauria, putting the ball only where the big man can catch it, and after a small bobble, secures the ball for his second touchdown of the game.
Some extra curricular activities during the kickoff pushes Nebraska back to their 13, and our horrible tackling returns to haunt us. Zumwalt misses on Martinez and he picks up nine yards. They're carving up our defense, picking up chunks of yardage, until Abdullah caps it off with a touchdown. Hundley has had enough, and takes off for 20 yards, picks up first downs, and then throws a beautiful deep ball to the White Mamba, Steven Manfro for the touchdown. Beautiful read.
On Nebraska's drive, Martinez throws what we all thought was a typically hilarious Martinez interception, but his knee was down and he was technically sacked by Anthony Barr, wiping out an interception by Datone Jones. Either way, it worked out for us as we stopped them again. Unfortunately, UCLA doesn't show much urgency in their "two minute offense" other than Hundley taking out Eric Yarber on the sideline and Nebraska gets the ball back and manages to kick a field goal, even after Mora tried to ice Maher. Twice. He must like how NCAA doesn't have that NFL rule.
At halftime, the game is tied 24-24. A thoroughly enjoyable if hair pulling half to watch at times. In the second half, the defense makes a reappearance after Jordan Zumwalt absolutely crushes Abdullah and Tevin McDonald picks up the fumble. Unfortunately on the UCLA possession, Hundley takes off and slides awkwardly, jamming his ankle. As the UCLA fanbase quietly weeps, Richard Brehaut comes out to try to push UCLA into the end zone ends up in a nicely kicked 22 yard field goal by Fairbairn. Hopefully he's finally finding his confidence.
Nebraska and UCLA then exchange three and outs, and our tackling temporarily reverts back to it's horribleness, and then... the stupid penalties arrive. Damien Thigpen is dinged for 15 yards for not giving Nebraska the opportunity to catch and run with the ball. That's fine, because we have Anthony Barr, TFL machine, and a Martinez sandwich being created with Kendricks and Barr bread. Delicious. Unfortunately dumb penalty #2 shows up, with Aaron Hester picking up a facemask penalty DOWNFIELD. NOT EVEN ON THE BALL CARRIER. Maher makes another field goal.
On the next UCLA possession, on fourth down we FAKE THE PUNT. It didn't work, as Brehaut tried to air it out to Fauria, but you have got to love the play call - aggressive, something we haven't seen at the Rose Bowl in years. On the next play, the defense steps up again, as Abbott barely misses a pick and Jordan Zumwalt rushes in for the sack. Unfortunately Nebraska steps up the hitting and Hundley takes a huge hit. He walks off the field fine.
Nebraska marches downfield again, running for power and dragging Bruins in their wake, but Maher misses a 37 yard field goal. THE LACES WERE... sideways.
At this point, I would like to mention more stupid penalties, as Jeff Baca, the lone senior on our offensive line dominated by freshman and a guy who is playing his second football game in two years, picks up TWO false start penalties tonight.
I will however forget those penalties as I will remember DATONE JONES coming after Taylor Martinez unblocked and he is sacked in the end zone, for two precious points. Unfortunately UCLA cannot take advantage of the free kick, as we are penalized for a block in the back on the return, and Fairbarin misses another field goal.
The Bruins really had to seize the game at this point in the fourth, and seized they did when Andrew Abbott picks off Martinez, and Franklin with his touchdown. Johnathan Franklin for Mayor, everyone, after we start up his Heisman campaign.
Unfortunately UCLA made it really interesting at the end by committing more dumb penalties. Dalton Hilliard had a late hit on the kickoff return. On the next play, Hester interferes, drawing another flag and commentary from previous teammates on twitter. Maher makes another 40 yard field goal, making it interesting. Nebraska goes for the onside kick, but Dalton Hilliard makes up for his early flag by recovering, and we are able to finally line up in victory formation for a sweet, sweet victory over a ranked opponent and over the local boy QB.
While we are all excited about this game, there are still some concerns:
- Brett Hundley's ankle - please hold up. There were rivers of tears when he was out of the game
- SILLY penalties.
- We left way too many points on the field. Missed field goals, barely missed catches for TDs. This game felt like we were dominating, yet we only won by six.
There were of course bright points. Johnathan Franklin is continuing his assault on the UCLA record books and starting up our Heisman chants. Anthony Barr is vicious on defense. Datone Jones is an absolute beast. The offensive line held up yet again. We beat a ranked opponent.
The Rose Bowl was rocking.
This is the UCLA football we all want to see. Let's see it again next week against Houston. GO BRUINS.