Well, for more than a week we collectively dreaded UCLA's Pac-12 opener against Utah at Rice Eccles Stadium. And now we know why we had good reasons to be worried. Bruins pulled out a heart-stopper in Salt Lake City and escaped the Beehive state with a thrilling (but sloppy) win. The final score was 34-27 but it felt a lot closer than that. Here is the boxscore.
Bruins were locked in a nail biter with Utah for most of the game, heading into the fourth quarter with a lead of 24-17 (but the game felt much closer). Then things got dicey when a Hundley pick-6 tied up the game at 24. The Bruins couldn't get anything on offense. But thanks to some outstanding secondary play (more on that later) Bruins were clinging to a 27-24 lead late in the game. Bruins finally cashed in after a second pick from Anthony Jefferson, when no. 17 took it to the house and got us up by 10 with less than 4 mins in the game.
But it got SCARY after Utah recovered an on-side kick after scoring a FG with a chance to drive down against our D to tie up the game. I can't lie. All kinds of bad memories of prevent defenses were going through my head when Utah got the ball with a chance to drive for the game-tying score. But ultimately perhaps a future Bruin-legend-to-be Mr. Myles Jack saved the day.
No doubt who were the stars of this game for the team in Nick Pasquale Angel Whites. Let's give a huge shout out to the young cubs (plus Anthony Jefferson!!) in our secondary and our LBs. Our secondary was the most inexperienced bunch coming into this season in a loaded defense. Collectively they stepped up in a big a way tonight with 6 picks against one of the more under-rated QBs in the conference. Myles Jack had a game saving pick that locked up the game for Bruins. Jefferson and co. were simply sensational tonight and were the collective MVPs for our Bruins.
Brett Hundley had a great start to the game, methodically driving the Bruins down the field in our first series that ended with a Jordon James TD. He had a good first half in which he threw for a TD and also caught one from Devin Fuller. But it pretty much went all downhill in the second half when he couldn't get the offense going. He did have to leave the game for one series due to what I think was a contact lens issue, but he didn't really have a clean game after he came back. He threw a costly pick-6 and also looked bit unsure in number of other plays. But, despite all the issues Brett came through at the end with a big TD run late in fourth quarter that got the Bruins up by 10.
Also, a player who deserves a lot of kudos tonight is red-shirt freshman RB Paul Perkins, who had a great game on the road. Perkins finished the night with 92 yards and 16 carries which included a number of tough runs and he also had 2 huge receptions for 49 yards, the first of which was a 44 yarder - 43 of which seemed to be Paul tiptoeing along the sideline after the catch - setting up our first TD.
So we wrote after the blowout win against New Mexico State that despite that 59-13 score, the Bruins had looked sloppy, undisciplined and often out of sync. They appeared to be suffering from the same issues through a good chunk of this game by constantly killing themselves with questionable calls, stupid penalties (yes, you can blame some of them on SPTRs but this has been a pattern under the current coaching regime) and mistakes. Bruins were flagged 13 times for 100 yards. Awful.
And speaking of mistakes - it is tough to name a specific player as we have to keep in mind these are kids and first and foremost students before athletes. But it was a tough night for UCLA's usually dependable center Jacob Brendel who has been a rock since breaking into the rotation last year. Brendel had his worst game as a Bruin with numerous bad snaps that disrupted the rhythm of the entire offense.
But it wasn't just Brendel's fault for the offense being out of sync. We also saw Noel Mazzone got out-schemed and out-coached by his Utah counterpart through most of second half as the much hyped Bruin OC failed to make any necessary judgments besides have a talent advantage against the Utes. He didn't have much answer for the relentless pass-rush deployed by Kalani Sitake.
We will also have to keep an eye on injury notes for next few days as we had two guys, Jordon James and Torian White who left the game with injuries. Also, Shaq Evans looked banged up at one point but he came back in the game.
As for the SPTRs really what else there is left to say. Larry Scott ought to be embarrassed at the ineptitude at the these Pac-12 clowns in zebra costume.
But, all in all despite our negative emotions, frustrations and agony - evident all throughout our comment thread, this was a possibly character building win for our Bruins. These are the kind of games - a tough venue against a well coached team - we would have gone blown out under the leadership of Donahue disciples during the lost decade of darkness.
Anyway, I gotta run as I have to get up at 5 am to catch a flight to East Coast. So I will leave you all to fire off your immediate reactions in our post game thread. As always, if you have extended reflections.