Akeem & Rahim Desecrate Temple: Rahim Moore’s 10th Interception keeps UCLA in the game, and Akeem Ayers’ Interception-TD gives them the game, as the Bruins come back from 14 down to become EagleBank Bowl Champs (31-20), finish the season with a winning record (7-6), and lay claim to the future Pac-10 throne, recently vacated by the deposed and about-to-be-beheaded former rulers (u$c)
“To err” is human… but “to Ayers” is Divine.
Did Temple Quarterback Vaughn Charlton “chews” to throw the ball “to Ayers” on his most important pass of the EagleBank Bowl? Nope — In fact, he never even SAW Ayers, who had slipped on the frozen turf before scrambling to his feet to snag the Interception and return it 2 yards for the game-winning Touchdown. Ayers’ TD — his second of the year — came with 6 minutes left in the game, and it gave the Bruins’ their first lead of the game, at 26-21. The Bruins went for two, obviously, and QB Kevin Prince dug out a bad snap, struggled to get a grip on the ball, but then found Nelson Rosario in the End Zone for the completion and a 7-point lead. On Temple’s next possession, UCLA quickly forced a punt, but the snap sailed over the Punter’s head through the End Zone for a Safety, making the score 30-21. The Bruins then ran out the clock, to make it the FINAL score.
During the running out of the clock — in a two-possession game — Temple Coach Al Golden called a Time Out, just like Rick Neuheisel did against sc. This is more proof that Neuheisel did nothing more than follow the Coach’s Handbook, when correctly calling the T.O. And in the EagleBank Bowl, after Golden’s Time Out, Neuheisel did not throw a hissy fit by calling up a Bomb. He just continued to run out the clock, like any other Coach who isn’t a jackass would do.
For most of the game, it didn’t look like Rick would have this non-dilemma. Temple came out on fire, with the emotion of being in their first Bowl game in 30 years. Also, they were not fazed by the frigid temperatures or frozen turf, while the Bruins struggled greatly with their FOOTING.
Temple came out on their first drive, and totally fooled the Bruin Coaches by relying heavily on the Pass. Temple was a horrible Passing team all year, and a fantastic Running team, so the Bruins were all fired up — and lined up — to stop the Run. Knowing that, Temple used Play-Action Passes to march 80 yards. Charlton threw a 43-yard strike that burned Sheldon Price, and then, on 3rd and 9, a 26-yard TD Pass to the Tight End that burned Tony Dye.
The Bruins failed to strike back immediately, but after Temple’s second drive, Terrence Austin returned the punt 47 yards to the Owl 46. On the very next play, Norm Chow dialed up a Bomb — from the “I” Formation — and Prince found Rosario, who made a juggling catch for the game-tying Touchdown.
The Bruin Defense forced Punts on 4 straight Temple drives, but a rusty Kevin Prince couldn’t capitalize. He missed a few throws, a screen pass was dropped, and despite Chane Moline looking like Toby Gerhart on a 22-yard rumble, the Bruin Ground game was not productive. With a tattered Offensive Line, the Bruins were NOT winning the battle of that trench, but the Defense was doing better, until…
After 4 unsuccessful drives by Temple, the Owls finally recaptured the rhythm of their first drive, with a very balanced, 85-yard drive for the go-ahead TD. Prince followed it up with an overthrown pass that was picked, and it led to another quick 7 points for the Owls.
The Bruins failed to respond and had to punt, and things were starting to look gloomy. The Bruin message boards started to implode, with calls for Prince’s head, and doomsday predictions for the rest of Prince’s tenure as the Starting QB. But even though some FANS quit, Neuheisel didn’t quit, and neither did his players. With 32 seconds left in the Half and Temple facing a 3rd and 3 at their 27, Neuheisel called a Time Out. Temple followed with an Incomplete pass, giving the Bruins a chance to score before Intermission. After some nice short passes by Prince, Kai Forbath hit a Field Goal to give the Bruins momentum going into the locker room, even though they were down 21-10. It took guts to call that Time Out, since it COULD have led to a Temple Field Goal, and a 24-7 deficit at the break.
That late Bruin score allowed Neuheisel’s positive motivation to really take root with the Bruins at Halftime, because they came out in the Second Half and really turned things around. After they got outgained 241-129 and out-possessed by 13 minutes in the 1st half, they completely shut down Temple after the break.
The Offense started the 2nd half domination, by following a good Kickoff return by Austin with a TD drive. But it took a gutsy call by Chow to get it done. On 4th and 1 at the Temple 32, after a failed run on 3rd down — and WITHOUT a Time Out to set it up — Chow called a Rollout Pass, and Prince hit Austin, who broke a tackle, and used a good Taylor Embree block to break free down the sidelines and go all the way for the score. The TD by Austin, who is now #2 (to Maurice Jones-Drew) on UCLA’s Career All-Purpose Yards list, made it 21-17 with about 12 minutes to go in the 3rd.
At this point, the Bruin D took over, with an assist: One of the Owls’ two excellent Running Backs — who were equally successful in the 1st Half — got injured late in the 2nd Quarter, so instead of having Thunder and Lightning, they just had Lightning. And on the drive after the Austin TD, Temple was moving again, until they really needed their BIG Back. On a 3rd Down play, the 5′ 5″ Tailback dived for the 1st Down, and landed on the yellow stripe. It looked like a 1st Down, and was reviewed. But it turns out the yellow line was projected incorrectly, and the Owls did NOT get a 1st Down. So on 4th and 1, without the Bruising Running Back available, they handed off to the Scatback up the middle, and he was stuffed for no gain.
Temple got the ball right back, but after a punt was negated by a Roughing penalty, Charlton threw a Bomb that was picked off by Rahim Moore, for his Nation-leading TENTH Interception.
It was still 21-17 in the 4th Quarter, when Prince drove the Bruins down the field again. He hit Embree on a big 3rd & 9, and Moline had another Gerhart Moment, after catching a short passes and breaking three tackles to get some major YAC.
Then Prince threw a deep pass to the Goalline that Logan Paulsen couldn’t hang on to. On the sidelines, Neuheisel said something very close to: “C’mon! It went RIGHT THROUGH HIS HANDS!!” Forbath mopped up the drive with a Field Goal to make it 21-20.
Temple was unable to respond, thanks to Brian Price. Price made back-to-back amazing stops, the second one a running, reacting, and diving tackle. Price, a Junior, who announced after the game that he is going Pro now, led the 2nd Half onslaught, along with Reggie Carter, BOTH Bosworths, and especially Ayers, who led the Bruins with both 7 Unassisted Tackles, and 9 Total Tackles. Alterraun Verner and Moore also made some nice open-field tackles, helping to shut out the Owls after Halftime.
But the biggest play came with 6 minutes left and the Owls facing a 3rd and 21, when Charlton hit Ayers for the game-winner. Charlton went 1-8 in the Second Half, completing twice as many passes to Bruins as to Owls. And in that 2nd Half, Temple’s possessions ended like this: Turn over on Downs; INT; Punt; Punt; INT; Safety. According to Neuheisel, the Bruins made some adjustments to overcome the footing problems that they were having, and those adjustments, along with the HEART of players who refuse to quit, were the difference, between a winning season and a losing one.
On the Bruins’ final drive, they needed one last first down to put the game completely away, and Chow called a QB Draw. The play worked beautifully, except that Prince hurt his shoulder and had to come out of the game. It did not look serious, but if Prince is the Starter next year, the Coaches might want to protect him just a little bit more than they did this year.
But you gotta love the toughness, if not the brains, of Prince (who was ALWAYS the right choice), and after all, it did lead to a Gatorade Shower for Neuheisel, after a Bowl game. Oddly, Neuheisel did NOT have to be caught by surprise to get doused — He actually allowed it, despite the freezing temps — after he figured out what was happening. He said that he was tipped off when Courtney Viney said that he wanted to talk to him. Neuheisel said that since Viney normally NEVER talks to him, he KNEW something was up!
The victory completes a “sweep” of sorts for Neuheisel and the Bruins: They went 6-0 this year, WHEN FAVORED. That means the Bruins won the games that they were SUPPOSED to win. As the Bruins continue to recruit better players, the amount of games that they are SUPPOSED to win will increase, so it is a good reputation for Neuheisel to earn, and one that can’t be attributed to Terry Donahue, Karl Dorrell, or even Pom Pom Pete Carroll.
The victory is also a serious feel-good moment for Neuheisel and his boss Dan Guerrero. At Halftime, Bruin fans were lamenting that Neuheisel was getting severely out-coached by Temple’s Al Golden, who was a candidate for the Bruin vacancy before Rick got hired. For 30 minutes, Golden looked like not only the better Strategy Guy, but surprisingly, the better Motivator, too, as the Temple players were actually doing massive communal group hugs while jumping up and down on the sidelines. Maybe it was just to keep warm, but it looked like good spirit and camraderie.
So for the Bruins to show the mettle to fight the bitter cold and fight back from 14 down against the “Temple T-U-F-F” Owls, without many Bruin fans supporting them — with many gutsy and non-conservative calls along the way — it’s a huge feather in the cap for Neuheisel, and therefore, for Guerrero. Neuheisel beat Golden, head-to-head, with a team of players who — due to the elements and injuries — weren’t substantially superior, and who spotted Golden’s team a two-Touchdown lead.
Not only did Guerrero’s choice win out, but one of the fans’ desired Coaches, whom Guerrero did NOT pick, got in trouble yesterday. Texas Tech has suspended Rick Leach from his upcoming Bowl game, for apparently sticking an injured kid in an electrical closet. He is fighting the suspension, but it’s just nice that this scandal is happening to the Red Raiders, and NOT to the Bruins.
And speaking of Coaches in trouble, there has been a new development in Bushgate, if you can believe it. Reggie Bush was trying to make the proceedings of the lawsuit against him confidential, but a new ruling has been made that allows the opposing lawyers to demand that Bush and Carroll give depositions in public court. Push & Pom Pom would be grilled under oath about the pimped-out Impala, the house in San Diego, the Agents, and everything else that the NCAA has been waiting to get their hands on.
It WOULD be exciting, except that it is still possible that this ruling could be overturned. Meanwhile, the Lawyers suing Bush say they will try to start the depositions immediately. This could really be a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
And speaking of happy, here are 6 more UCLA Spirit Squad photos. The Bruin Football season may have stopped, but the photospreads won’t.