Last week's loss to Washington State put us in a must win situation for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, our last two games are on the road. Fortunately, we play better on the road. That being said, Rice Eccles is not an easy stadium to quiet down. Fortunately for us, the news coming out today is that Utah's Devontae Booker had season ending surgery on his knee and will not be playing.
As always, it is the problems we displayed last week that our foremost in our minds. Our problems in the punting game, and an inability to punch it in from the 2 yard line are completely within our control. Our inability to get a fair shake from yet another SPTR crew is not. In my mind, we cannot continue to give our opponents room to take advantage of the SPTR's help. We need to jump on the Utes early, and jump on them good. On that note, here is my bold prediction for today:
Whoever scores the most points wins.
The game began with 28 yard pass to Duarte. After 6 plays and 87 yards, the possession was capped off with a 28 yard TD pass to Duarte between defenders. Great way to start the game. The Utes took the field and managed to go three plays before the refs screwed Randall Goforth out of a sweet interception. 9 plays and 61 yards later, Joe Williams fumbled, giving us the ball back. The Bruins promptly marched down field, 71 yards on 11 plays before settling for a field goal. Score: 10 - 0 Bruins. After a Kaimi Fairbairn kick off, the Bruin defense played with purpose, and held the Utes to 9 yards on 3 plays, forcing them to punt. UCLA took the field again and put up 7 yards on 4 plays to end the quarter.
The Bruins began the 2nd Qtr with a 2nd and 21 after a Benenoch holding penalty, and did not go much further, punting from a 4th and 12. The Utes took over on the Utah 12, and battled for each of 66 yards and each of 14 plays, before grinding to a halt and kicking a 39 yard field goal. Score: 10 - 3 Bruins. UCLA came back out and ran 3 plays for 9 yards when the coaches refused to go for it on a 4th and 1. Punt, Bruins, Punt. The Utes began their next possession on the Utah 18. They came out battling once again, driving 72 yards on 10 plays before settling for a FG.
The Utah Utes came out on fire, driving the ball behind a number of Joe Williams and Travis Wilson runs. After moving the ball 71 yards on 14 plays before the Bruins Defense held strong at the 2 yard line, and forced the Utes to kick a Field Goal. UCLA began their 1st drive of the 2nd half with a nice 29 yard return by Roosevelt Davis. 69 yards and 14 plays later, we scored behind a tough 2 yard run by Perkins. Score: 17 - 9 Bruins. The Utes got the ball back and promptly went nowhere, managing only 5 yards on 3 plays. Punt, Utes, Punt. Starting on the 37, the Bruins returned the favor, going -2 yards on 6 plays after an 8 yard loss on a sack of Rosen. Bruins end the quarter by punting.
Utah opened the 4th quarter by going 9 yards on 3 plays before punting. Beginning on the 24, UCLA struggled again, including a flukey ball coming loose, but luckily was picked out of the sky by Paul Perkins. 2 yards, 3 plays, 1 punt. Boy, this has become repetitive. Utah, 6 yards, 3 plays; punt. The Bruins got the ball back and moved the ball well, but ultimately fizzled out after 52 yards on 10 plays. Record holding Kaimi Fairbairn came out for a 49 yard FG, but missed. This gave the Utes the ball on the 31. The Utes' struggles continued, going -16 yards on 3 plays. But, Fuller almost gave the ball back when he let the ball slip through his fingers on the return. Luckily, he was able to pounce on the ball and we began the drive on the 18. Managing only 16 yards on 6 plays, we punted once again. Utah took the field, determined once more and moved the ball 41 yards on 7 plays before being faced with a 4th and 9, and no choice but to go for it; Travis Wilson scrambled for his life while being pursued by the UCLA defense before getting the 1st down. With renewed life, the Utes went another 10 yards on 4 plays when they fumbled the ball on a play action gone wrong. The Bruins got the ball back with 1:01 left in the game. The Bruin coaches then dialed up 3 straight run plays to burn up the clock. One punt later, and the game was over.
Boy what a punt. I meant game. What a game. Needless to say, it was a defensive battle. The Bruins and Utes would combine for 11 punts and at one point traded 5 punts in a row.
On one hand, one of my pregame concerns, settling for FGs instead of TDs, was not necessarily fixed. We would end up scoring 2 TDs out of 11 possessions. That being said, a lot of credit has to go to the Utah defense. We did not see any head scratching moves like going jumbo on the 2 yard line and coming away with 3 points. Luckily, the SPTRs did not seem to be a big factor in today's game.
Ultimately, I'm kind of happy with today's result. I mentioned in the opening of this post that we would need to jump out to an early lead, and hang on. We did that. We opened the game with a TD followed by a FG, and never looked back. When Utah scored their 3 FG to make it 10-9, the Bruins picked up the challenge and marched down field for another touchdown.
Two weeks ago, I commented that out of the 3 season ending games, the Utah game was the unwinnable game. I was wrong. The Bruins rose to the occasion and are coming home victorious.