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2013 Sun Bowl BN Roundtable: UCLA Finishes Strong, Memories of El Paso

The Bruins didn't lay an egg in this year's bowl game, and the front pagers discuss the dominant performance over Virginia Tech.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

1. Initial Impressions?

Uclaluv:  We came out strong.  In the first drive things seemed to be clicking and I felt confident.  I like blue unis!

bruinclassof10: We dominated the fourth quarter. We had the best linebacking corps in the nation this year.

Odysseus: While it was close for awhile, this was a great end to the season.  It feels great to win a bowl game and finish with the first 10 win season in years, and the first legitimate 10 win season since the 1990s.

Achilles: The game went as expected. VT is well coached and good on defense and they hung around until the fourth quarter when it got out of hand. I'm sure they're feeling like they might have won had their QB not gotten knocked out and who knows? But we were the better team and it showed.

gbruin: The first half showed some of our continuing problems with scheme/play calling and execution on some of the finer points of the game, but the entire game showed our great depth, talent, and ability to make good adjustments.  Compared to this time last year, we definitely took some steps forward.

IE Angel: Nice showcase for the program. It was a fun game to watch and it was refreshing to see the Bruins finish a game emphatically instead of fooling around and letting VT make it competitive.

Ajax: It was refreshing to see the team come out motivated and prepared from the beginning. Great overall showing for the program on a national stage.

DCBruins:  The first half showed why Hundley is a great college player who needs to come back for another year.  VT played cover 0 and left the DBs on our WR one on one but Hundley could not hit the deep pass.  He has to do that to be a pro.  On the other hand, Hundley's running was off the charts.

AHMB:  It felt like a great win to me, even though VT was clearly not the VT that we're used to seeing.  Maybe it was because it capped off the best season in a while, maybe it was because it could provide a good boost into next.  Either way, I'm ready for next year already.

2. The Good

Uclaluv:  The defense looked like they were out for blood.  I loved it.  The o finally adjusted to what could work, getting the ball out of Brett's hands fast with short passes.  Get the ball into the playmakers hands.  We have speed and we got it into space.  Brett's runs were a thing of beauty.  We pulled away and the seniors got to have a good win (margin wise) and got to go out with a great feeling of what they have contributed to.  The hits!!!

bruinclassof10: Defense looked great; our future is bright next year on that side of the ball. Jordan Zumwalt played with an intensity I haven't seen in a while and Brett Hundley did a great job running and throwing the ball when plays needed to be made.

Odysseus: The defense played solid and once the offense made some adjustments, the passing game looked pretty good in the second half.  Hundley's scrambling, obviously, was fantastic and Jack, Zumwalt and Barr were all over the place.

Achilles: The defense was consistent all game and the offense finally got it going when we went to the quicker paced, quicker strike offense.

gbruin: The OL was overmatched by their excellent D line, so when we went with the shorter and quicker routes in the third quarter, Brett and the offense got into a great rhythm.  Brett's ability to make plays with his feet before that saved us.  The defense was pretty good early, and when Va Tech had to go to their backup QB, the D was dominant.

IE Angel: The play of the defense throughout, one of the most dominant 60 minute performances by either the offense or defense this season. Brett Hundley's rushing in the first half and the passing game (including the WRs and RBs) in the second half.

Ajax: Jordan Zumwalt played like a man possessed. He was all over the field. Of course, Brett Hundley also played an outstanding game. Since I made the trek to El Paso, I also have to give props to all the Bruin fans that traveled to the game and represented the blue and gold.

DCBruins.  We were the tougher team.  We did the big hits on defense.

AHMB:  Other than the matchup between our offensive line and VT's defensive line, our guys outmatched them across the board.

3. The Bad

Uclaluv:  It got really boring after the opening.  Stupid up the middle over and over again that clearly wasn't working.  Too many 3 and outs.  There seems to be a stubbornness about running plays that don't work.  Hundley was off for a lot of the game (passing) and poor Shaq.  Glad he got to catch the long ball at the end.  Why was Adams not catching punts the whole game?

bruinclassof10: The refs. I thought these were SEC refs, not PAC-12 refs in disguise.

Odysseus: The conventional running game was disappointing, although that's not a surprise against a very efficient defense.  The passing game was not good in the first half either and if we want to break through to the next level, mistakes like the muffed punt need to be eliminated.

Achilles: Special teams were terrible. A missed field goal, a muffed punt and a safety when Covington stepped out of the back of the end zone. All three mistakes took place while the game was still really close.

gbruin: Achilles is right.  Special teams was a strong suit all season but they had some big errors, and in close games, that will cost you wins.  It took far too long for the offense to adjust to Va Tech's dominant D line.

IE Angel: Like others have said, the kickoff return unit, punt return unit, field goal execution and Sean Covington's lack of awareness on one punt (he had an exceptional game otherwise) were all really poor. The running game was absolutely atrocious outside of Hundley scrambling on broken plays.

Ajax: The running game (outside of Hundley) was atrocious. I understand that it is necessary to show the defense the handoff to the RB on the zone read, but that play has consistently been a wasted down all season. There are two issues here: Hundley handing it off when he shouldn't be and the lack of push from the OL. I am hopeful that those issues can be ironed out next season.

DCBruins: Hundley could not throw deep.  Special teams were bad.

AHMB:  Our offensive line could not get any push and constantly got beat in pass protection.  Improvement is needed if we're going to compete at a higher level.

4. Game's Most Valuable Player(s)?

Uclaluv:  I would really like to give it to the coaching staff for turning things around in the right direction and for getting this team prepared for the bowl game this year.  Same with the whole team.  This team worked so hard all year and they came into this game with determination.  But for players, I give it to Jordan Zumwalt.  He changed the energy of the game and brought out the fight in the team.  I think this helped the offense get the nerves out.

bruinclassof10: Game ball goes to Jordan Zumwalt. Despite Brett carrying the team with his legs, Zumwalt played his heart out in his final game as a Bruin. We will miss his energy and intensity next season. He is often overlooked because of Barr and Jack's celebrity status and Kendrick's consistensy, but he has been making plays all season long (remember DAT getting destroyed by him?) I look forward to seeing some of his hard hits at the next level.

Odysseus: Jack was making plays all over the place and Hundley had a nice game, but I agree, Zumwalt really deserves it.

Achilles: Zumwalt.

gbruin: Easy.  Jordan Zumwalt on defense, Brett Hundley on offense.

IE Angel: Jordan Zumwalt is the easy choice and the correct choice.

Ajax: Gotta go with Jordan Zumwalt on D and Brett on O.

DCBruins:  Agree with Ajax and UCLALuv.

AHMB:  Jordan Zumwalt.

5. Honorable Mentions?

Uclaluv:  Brett and Myles Jack

bruinclassof10: I agree with Uclaluv here. Brett deserves his share of the prize as does Click Clack Jack.

Odysseus: Agree.

Achilles: Hundley and really the whole front 7 on defense.

gbruin: Anthony Barr was strong all day.  Myles Jack was very good.  The secondary played one of their better games.

IE Angel: Myles Jack had a hell of a game on defense, as did Anthony Barr (despite the lack of stats). Brett Hundley deserves praise for his dominant rushing first half and passing second half.

Ajax: I am going to go with the coaching staff for an honorable mention. The team could have easily gone through the motions after its selection to a second tier bowl game, but the staff kept the kids focused and on task. Getting that 10th win was important, and the staff drove that point home with the kids.

DCBruins: Myles Jack.

AHMB:  Brett Hundley.

6. The Extra Point.

Uclaluv:  The second half was really fun.  I am so happy they got this win.  The players that started with Neu really got to feel success and how talented they are.  I am really happy that they got to experience the good.  I also loved how Mora handled the press afterwards, especially the questions about Brett.  Mora is a mensch through and through.  He, the staff, and our players make me proud to be a Bruin (I am anyway, but just saying).  It was also great to see everyone at Barney's, hoping to see you all at the Rose Bowl next year!

bruinclassof10: If I were a high school recruit, I'd be calling Mora right now asking how quickly I can commit. Did you see how much fun our team was having at the bowl game? Compare that to Southern Cal's atrocious behavior on and off the field at the Sun Bowl last season and you know immediately why we are UCLA and they are a 2nd rate program with a 2nd rate coach. I've said this many times; I was not a fan of the Mora hire but you can call me one of his fans now. The man knows how to act, the players love him and he is a class act.

Odysseus: I agree that the running game and the predictable inside zone were problematic.  Although Mazzone can be faulted for playcalling, I think he's right not to give up on the running game, different play calls in the running game would obviously be an improvement.  The players and coaches were having fun and let's hope it keeps building into next year.

Achilles: I thought the whole thing added up to a good experience for the program. The team played well and seemed to have fun. Very, very happy for a bunch of seniors who came into the program under the last coach and endured the change and even thrived.

gbruin: The bowl game was a pretty good summary of this team: an underwhelming start followed by some obvious adjustments and superior talent that culminate in a win going away.  Overall, it was a very good finale to a very good season.  Considering how last year finished, the win over Southern Cal and a big win in the bowl game showed that Mora and the team learned a lot

IE Angel: 10 wins. Very few teams get to that number every year, but this should be the norm moving forward. Too much talent in this program to accept anything less.

Ajax: Even though the team fell short of that coveted Rose Bowl berth, they finished strong with a ton of momentum going into national signing day and offseason training. The program is definitely on an upward trajectory and in good hands with Coach Mora and his staff.

DCBruins:  I feel the team has turned the corner.  We have talent galore on defense and the "culture" is so much better.  If feels good watching our games now.

AHMB:  Coach Mora's squad laid an egg in last year's Holiday Bowl.  He said at the time that it was his fault for not getting his team ready to play.  I'll be honest- I wasn't sure what to expect coming into the Sun Bowl, but the team was clearly ready to go.  I hope Coach Mora learned from the Holiday Bowl and understands bowl preparation better going forward.