Terrific fanpost from Orlando Bruin, which we are lifting up into our cover (and river space immediately below the top part) as a feature post. GO BRUINS. - BN Eds.
The season is not over yet, and as you will see, much of my analysis regarding a "big conference road win" depends on how the season ends up. For example, even though UCLA beat Oregon State (who ended up 3-9) on the road last year, the Bruins' 6-8 record (as well as Oregon State's poor win loss record) eliminates that win from consideration.
So, if UCLA does not finish respectably in the next four games (plus a bowl game), then this analysis could be rendered completely moot. I have looked at each of our conference road wins from this season going backward (I love you, College Football Data Warehouse) and have drawn the following conclusion:
UCLA has not won a bigger conference road game since 1998 in Cade McNown's senior season. The Neuheisel years are out of consideration. The few, scattered wins were against poor competition and not one of UCLA's final season records justifies inclusion. Neu's best season was 7-6 and the one conference road win, a 43-7 drubbing of Washington State in Pullman is dulled by WSU's pathetic 1-11 record.
What about Karl Dorrell? The Bruins went 10-2 in Drew Olsen's senior year. It was a fun season with some terrible blow outs to Arizona on the road and U$C* in their house. What about UCLA's conference road wins? UCLA beat a 4-7 WSU team and a 5-6 Stanford team on the road. Many may remember the exciting Stanford game (I think UCLA scored 3 TDs in the last 5 or 6 minutes to win), but the truth is that it should not have ever been close. That's about it for the Dorrell years.
Which brings us to Bob Toledo's last season, in which UCLA went 8-5. UCLA won on the road at Arizona (4-8), Washington (7-6), and Oregon State(8-5). Of course, the Bruins also were blown out at home by WSU and U$C* in our last 2 games, Toledo was fired, and Kerzarian won the bowl game.
So Oregon State in 2002 was arguably our last biggest conference road win. If the Bruins go 2-3 to finish the season, including the bowl game, and ASU ends up around 8-5 as well, a strong argument can be made that the '02 OSU road win was as big as yesterday's game. Even assuming this undesirable and unacceptable finale to this season (and I do not expect such a result), I would still counter-argue that the '02 win came as the Toledo regime was crashing on the rocks with underperforming players, whereas Mora is a first year coach playing a lot of first year players, and UCLA is therefore trending up.
So, for me, the '02 win against OSU doesn't quite measure up, unless the bottom falls out on the rest of UCLA's season. Of course, if UCLA can win a few more, meets the expectations of this forum (including a win against U$C*), and wins a bowl game, this potential statement win against ASU would take on a much greater significance than the '02 win against OSU.
If that becomes the case, you have to go all the way back to Cade's senior year, 1998, to find a better conference road win. UCLA won all of its conference road games that season, including a 52-28 win over a 12-1 Arizona team, handing the Wildcats their only loss. Remember 'Zona's vaunted "Desert Swarm defense? The Bruins put over 50 on them. UCLA also beat Cal (5-6, meh), Oregon State (5-6, meh), and UW (6-6, meh).
So, arguments can be made that yesterday's conference road win was the biggest in 10 years or the biggest in 14 years, depending on how the rest of the season plays out. Either way, it says a lot about the frustration of the last 14 years, the team's performance over a ton of adversity (some of it self-inflicted), and the hope that the Bruins are (finally) on the verge of building something special again.
- Orlando Bruin