Bruins don’t need a bag o’ tricks to beat these not-so-wonderful-wonderful ‘Cats — UCLA shuts out Arizona for 57 minutes after gifting them 7 early points (on 3 penalties for 35 yards and two drive-extending 1st Downs); The Bruin Offense puts up two 3rd Quarter TD’s, and then a blocked Field Goal ices it, as UCLA claims a 17-7 victory
#12 Arizona did not look like a #12 team on Saturday, as the usually high-powered Wildcat Offense was impotent for the whole night. Did they just have an inexplicable off-night, or was the Bruin Defense that dominant? Of course, whenever you ask a question like this, the answer is always “a little bit of both.” The highly-touted Arizona QB Anu Solomon played like the Freshman he is, missing wide open Receiver all night. However, that may have been caused by the Defense, who controlled the line of scrimmage and continuously pressured Solomon.
Solomon was nifty and elusive, often avoiding tacklers who broke into the backfield, and then scrambling for big chunks of yards. But he couldn’t keep drives going, as the D-Line stopped the Running Backs and the D-Backs maintained tight coverage most of the time. The most surprising thing about this Defensive effort is that it was NOT led by the two stars Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack. Kendrick had only 4 Tackles, and Jack only 1. This was not a memorable night for Jack, who committed two 15-yard penalties on the opening drive, both allowing U of A to avoid 4th Downs. Right after the second one, Solomon threw a TD pass.
The Bruins committed 9 penalties in the 1st Half for 98 yards, showing an equal lack of discipline on both sides of the ball. It seemed like every O-Lineman got caught for holding at some point in the game, as did two Wide Receivers as well. All these miscues, plus a missed 37-yard FG, kept the Bruins from getting anything going. They went into Intermission down 7-3. But in the 3rd Quarter, they finally woke up. While the Defensive Line — especially Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark — continued to wreak havoc on Arizona’s game plan, the Offense finally started to click. QB Brett Hundley used his legs more than ever before this year, racking up a season-high 131 Rushing Yards. The great blocking by the O-Line also allowed Paul Perkins to gain 78 yards on the ground and Nathan Starks to add 41 on only 5 carries, in his best game as a Bruin. After a good run by Hundley, Perkins struck pay dirt first, on a 5 yard run. Moments later, Hundley hit Jordan Payton for a 70-yard TD bomb. The ball was underthrown and Payton had to slow down and wait for it, but the Defender was beaten so badly on a double-move that Payton was able to collect the ball and take in to the house.
With a 10-point lead at that point, the Bruins were in control, because the Wildcats couldn’t sustain a drive. They finally got into the red zone with a few minutes left — after Hundley lost a fumble! — and when they stalled, they tried a Field Goal to make it a one-score game. But Ishmael Adams came around the edge, and Kendricks came through the middle, and they were both in position to block the kick. UCLA’s website says Adams got it, while ESPN insists it was Kendricks who knocked the ball down. I think it’s possible that they COMBINED to block it. Either way, the game was, for all intents and purposes, over at that point.
ASU beat Utah last night, so now the Bruins need those teams to lose one time each, and then, if the Bruins win out, they would earn a rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game. Yikes. Not much incentive there, but it is still a GOAL to win the South Division, even if it does mean another date with the Ducks. Who knows — Arizona beat Oregon this year, so maybe the Bruins can too. Of course, Oregon was missing a key O-Lineman when they lost to the Wildcats, but with a month to go in the season, maybe they will lose another one. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — One game at a time is the mantra, and next up is a game against the Huskies, IN Washington — no easy task. But if the Bruin D plays like it did against Arizona, without relying on their stud Linebackers to make every tackle, then they have a good chance. And with Hundley running the way he has in the last two games, going over the Century mark twice in a row, the Bruins’ chances go from good to great.
Speaking of great, the UCLA Spirit Squad was in top form on Saturday. Three girls even straightened their hair, which I love, so it was a good hair day for me. And the weather-timing was perfect: The rain stopped — and a rainbow came out — right before the Cheerleaders emerged from the locker room to take Lot H by storm. Below are SEVENTY-SEVEN photos from the game, and of the Cheerleaders. Check back soon for more Cheer photos, as I have another 150 from the Oregon game, and maybe another 100 from the Arizona game, to share with you over the next three weeks, before the evil trojans come to town.