Toddlers and Tomorrows — UCLA’s Freshman QB Brett Hundley is just a babe, but with a bright future, as his nimble legs allow the Bruins to escape this contest with the blue ribbon, despite this victory not being a beauty
There was a lot to yell “Boo, Boo” at, but most Bruins fans just want wins, and they got one on Saturday. UCLA outlasted Utah 21-14 on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, despite another slew of dumb penalties, a major Special Teams gaffe, and the continued inability to cover a slant pattern.
The Jim Mora Bruins did not look like they’ve come a long way from the previous regime, continuing to lack discipline, but the difference is that they are now able to overcome their shortcomings and still come out on top. And the main reason for this improvement is QB Brett Hundley. In the past, when the protection broke down, Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut and Kevin Craft and Ben Olson went down too. But now, when the Offensive Line fails, Hundley doesn’t. As I reported last year, Hundley has a superhuman ability to feel the rush, avoid it, elude tacklers, and make something out of nothing. He hasn’t been doing a lot of that this season, protecting his health instead of putting himself in harm’s way. That makes sense, considering his back-ups, but sometimes, you have to rely on your strengths.
So with Utah’s tough Defensive Line controlling the line of scrimmage, and with the Ute defenders accounting for the other ten Bruins, Hundley repeatedly broke containment, and scrambled for crucial yards. Jonathan Franklin was held to 79 yards on the ground and Hundley was held to 183 through the air, so the Bruins really needed Hundley’s 68 yards Rushing.
The First Touchdown of the game came on a Hundley 12-yard run, but the lead was short-lived, when Steven Manfro muffed a punt that was recovered in the Bruin End Zone by Utah for the tying score. Manfro should have never attempted the over-the-shoulder catch inside his own 5-yard line. Yes, he’s very young, but that play was still indicative of bad coaching.
But UCLA responded immediately, with a 67-yard TD catch and run by Shaquelle Evans. That made it 14-7, still in the 1st quarter. Utah was able to move the ball on UCLA’s Defense, going to school on the Cal game and dialing up inside screens and slants over the middle to exploit the Bruins’ short-pass Defense. But Utah’s Offense was unable to get the ball into the end zone until it was too late. A 3-yard Franklin TD run made it 21-7 in the 3rd, and the Bruin D pitched a shutout until there was under 4 minutes to go in the game. Then UCLA was able to take the clock down to 8 seconds before punting the ball back to the Utes. And on another poorly-coached play, a punt cover guy caught the ball on a backwards bounce, instead of just letting it go while the clock ticked to zero. So that gave the Utes 1 second left, to try a Cal vs. Stanford Band Lateral play, which actually almost worked, but the Bruins finally snuffed it out to end the game.
The Bruins are 5-2 now, with tougher competition on the horizon. 5-2 is fine, but the team will have to show improvement to keep winning. Utah is a bad team, who rivalled UCLA in dumb penalties. Their Freshman QB missed some open targets, too. But the Bruin Defense did step up, pressuring the QB, and forcing some bad throws and some Sacks. Andrew Abbott picked off an early pass, as UCLA continues to be one of the top teams in the Country in Interceptions. Linebacker Eric Kendricks was also a big factor on Defense, as the Bruins exacted revenge for the shellacking they received in Utah last season. Cassius Marsh, Anthony Barr, Damien Holmes, and Datone Jones also contributed consistently, while Tevin McDonald led the team with 8 tackles. The Bruins stuffed Utah on two different 4th Down attempts, and Utah could not come back from those drive-killers
UCLA had everything to lose and nothing to gain on Saturday. A victory was to be expected, so no one will get excited over beating a weak Utah team, but losing to them would have basically ended the season. So the Bruins took care of business, and need to be more focused and disciplined if the want to embark on a winning streak. And they have a long way to go before they will be able to challenge u$c. The trojans got up on Washington 24-7 at Halftime, in Seattle. But then Barkley sucked for the entire second half, and the Huskies made a game of it. It took 3 4th quarter Turnovers by UW, including a fumble on the trojans’ doorstep, to allow sc to escape with a W. But I shudder to think what they will do to the Bruins, unless UCLA stops the mental and fundamental errors that have been plaguing them.
Below are a record SIXTY photos from the game and Cheerleader rally. I took 898 photos on Saturday, and I have about 300 more after today that are worthy of publication, so be sure to check back soon for more installments.