Phew. It was another interesting but at times frustrating night at the Rose Bowl. Just like our previous game, UCLA got off to a fast start against another over-hyped Pac-12 team tonight, but had to hang in second half due to sloppy mistakes, predictable playcalling and some bizarre coaching decisions. Nevertheless, the Bruins hold on to win by a score of 41-31 (boxscore), and send Steve Sarkisian back to Seattle to close out another overhyped and underachieving football season.
For the second straight game Bruins had to depend on the heroics of a super-freaky true freshman defense to win the game. Yes, Myles Freaking Jack had yet another break-out performance on national TV tonight with 4 TD scores, 3 of which came in the first half. It's kind of amazing to watch. The Jackpack formation became pretty predictable as the game continued, and yet the Huskies had no answer for the greatest Bruin freshman phenom from the Pacific Northwest since Kevin Love (but we get to have Jack for 3 years). He also became the first Bruin since MJD to have a 4 rushing TD in a game since 2004 when MJD ran for 5 against the Huskies in Seattle.
Jack wasn't the only one who got to score in the Bruin #dofense. Cassius Marsh is also got in the fun in first half by catching a 2 yard TD pass from Brett Hundley. It was fun to watch. But, rest of the Bruin offense was pretty MEH. The Huskies actually out-gained the Bruin offense (even though the Bruins knocked starting QB Keith Price out towards the end of first half) by 26 yards (432 to 406.
Hundley had another so-so night (13 of 22 for 159 yards and 2 passing TD), and big part of it had to do with his receivers not helping him out. Our guys dropped a lot of balls and there was Noel Mazzone once again with his frustrating and predictable play-calls, which made the Bruin offense look out of rhythm, a good portion of the night. Bruins had only 22 passing attempts all night, while rushing the ball 53 times - often just running the ball up the middle for frustrating no gains.
Bruins were also hurt by two really bad fumbles. Malcolm Jones coughed up the ball near our goal line when we were up 27-7 in second quarter, which the Huskies turned into a TD. And then Darren Andrews had another bad fumble to start the second half on KO return, which Huskies took advantage of to close the gap between 27-23.
There were also two strange coaching decisions to take note of. In the first situation, Bruins had a 3rd and 20 from their own 32 yard line. At that point Bruins had 1 TO left. I thought the coaches would just call for a safe run. Yet they had Hundley run up the middle in an effort to get the first down. He got 19 and got to Washington's 49 yard line. I thought UCLA may just be a little daring a go for hail mary pass. Instead Mora just ran out the clock. It didn't make any sense given how Mora/coaching staff put Hundley at risk of injury by having him rush up the middle. If they were intent on not trying to score, they should have just run up the middle with a running back. It didn't make any sense.
The second strange coaching decision came early in fourth quarter. On 4th and 1 from our 31 yard line when Bruins were in an obvious punting situation Mora tried to get the Huskies to jump offside with a hard count. When the Huskies didn't bite instead of taking the penalty, Mora burned a timeout. Again, it was head-scratcher that didn't make any sense.
Thankfully it was Sarkisian's dumb coaching move that bailed out the Bruins in fourth. After the defense stopped the Huskies on 3rd and 1 on Washington 41 with lot of time left on the click Sark decided to go for it and call a pass play with his back up QB. The defense held. And, in the very next offensive series UCLA took advantage of an all out corner blitz, with a huge 40 yard TD reception from Devin Lucien.
It's also worth mentioning that our special teams had a mixed performance tonight. For the second time this year, the ST got completely faked out on a punt, leaving the entire field open in third quarter. It could have been a costly for the Bruins given we had the chance to take a commanding leading in the game at point up 34-24. Thankfully it was the special teams that made a big play few plays later when they blocked a FG try to keep the margin at 10.
Let's also note that the announced attendance at the Rose Bowl was 68,106. This was a complete FAIL on the part of the Dan Guerrero's incompetent athletic department, which failed to execute a basic promotional campaign to gin up the excitement a special Friday night game. Thanks to the Bruins for getting it done, despite another Morgan Center FAIL.
Anyway, after all that Bruins are now 8-2, and in position to close out the season strong. As frustrating tonight was at times there is still time and room for improvement. As Achilles said after the Arizona game, let's take it one week at a time for now. Bring on the Devils.
Enjoy your Friday night. If you have extended reflections, blog them in our fanpost section. Otherwise, thread it up in this post-game victory party.