Take a guac on the wild side — UCLA dominates early to lead at the Half 31-6, but have to recover a last-minute onside kick — twice — in order to stave off a valiant Kansas State comeback attempt and take the Alamo Bowl 40-35
Texas may be the Lone Star State, but when the Bruins played in San Antonio on Friday evening, it was all four of their biggest stars who had huge games and carried the team to victory. It started out easy, as #1 Bruin star, Quarterback Brett Hundley, in his final game as a Bruin, led the way with a scramble TD, and then a Read-Option rushing TD — on a FOURTH DOWN — and completed 9 of his first 11 passes, to guide #14 UCLA to an early 17-0 lead over #11 Kansas State. And the reason high-powered K-State had zero was simple: UCLA’s two biggest Defensive stars were stymie-ing the Wildcats’ attack. Butkus Award Winner Eric Kendricks was, as usual, all over the field, gumming up the Offensive works of KSU. And when it wasn’t Kendricks, it was Myles Jack, on pass defense and run support. A Jack Interception and 41-yard return set up UCLA for their third Touchdown. Kendricks finished with 10 tackles, 3 for loss (totaling 21 yards), and Jack had 8 tackles, 2 for loss, plus the huge INT, which set up the fourth star, Running Back Paul Perkins. Three plays after the pick, Perkins scampered 32 yards for the first of his two TD runs. GAME MVP Perkins ended up with 194 yards rushing, including the game-winning 67-yard TD run with 2:20 left in the game, when the Wildcats had cut the lead to 6.
But it wasn’t as simple as the Big 4 doing everything right, by themselves. After going 9 for his first 11, Hundley missed on his next 7 passes. And Perkins lost a fumble in the 3rd quarter that aided the KSU comeback. Then, with 1:21 left in the game and UCLA up by only 5, KSU attempted an onside kick, which Perkins caught, but apparently fumbled, almost costing the Bruins the game. It looked like he was down by contact, but Jordan Payton is being credited with recovering the ball, so apparently, the ball was still live after Perkins had his hands on it. So yes, Perkins was the MVP, but he can give an assist to Payton.
There was one more player who had a monumental individual impact on the game, and that was Deon Hollins, who had THREE QB SACKS and 2 QB “Hurries.” For most of the game, UCLA put immense pressure on the KSU QB, including two passes batted down by Owa Odighizuwa. Fellow D-Lineman Eddie Vanderdoes contributed too, with a Fumble Recovery after D-back Marcus Rios jarred the ball loose from the QB on a blitz-sack. My point is that it wasn’t just the big 4 stars that played well. They had plenty of help, especially in the first half, when the Bruins held K-State to 104 yards of Offense and just two Field Goals.
In the Second Half, the Bruin D lost their edge, and allowed the two star Wide Receivers way too much room to operate, as each of them surpassed 100 yards receiving. The Bruins also had major penalty issues all game, committing 15 fouls for 128 yards, many of them costly and leading directly to possessions and points.
But just when it looked like the Wildcats had all the (Ala)mo-mentum, and Bruin fans were afraid that the UCLA staff was playing too conservatively or playing not-to-lose, Perkins broke free for his 67-yard TD with 2:20 left, that everyone including the announcers thought was the dagger. But K-State showed heart, and refused to die, quickly cutting the 12-point lead back to 5, on a long pass to their MVP WR. It was pretty sad that the Bruins would allow him to get so wide open at that juncture of the game, in that situation. That screw-up with 1:21 left gave life to the KSU comeback. The Wildcats tried a TRICK onside kick, with the Kicker switching directions at the last second, wrapping his right (kicking) leg around his plant (left) leg, and hitting the ball backhanded (“back-footed?”) with the outside of his foot, to his right. The ball went right to Perkins, who made the grab, then lost it in the scrum, with — according to the box score — Payton saving the day.
The exhilirating victory escape gave the Bruins their 10th win of the season, for an unprecedented second year in a row. A lot of people make a big deal out of this, and UCLA will use that stat in recruiting. However, they play more games in a season than they used to, so I think it’s a misleading stat. They should actually concentrate on how many LOSSES they accrue in a year. Don’t get me wrong — Of course I am happy with 10 wins, because 1 of those 10 was the third straight beatdown of u$c. But the Bruins did lose three games this year, ALL AT HOME, and was favored to win 2 of those. So let’s not call it a “Perfect 10.”
That being said, the year is still a success, despite the sky-high expectations which were not quite realized. The Bruins will probably finish in (or very close to) the Top Ten in the final Polls, and most importantly, they spanked sc again. So congratulations to Jim Mora, Brett Hundley, and the whole Program. Handley is leaving (early), but he’s earned that right. Hopefully, Mora won’t do the same. His goal of beating Oregon and Stanford still lingers, so he still has challenges to overcome here in Westwood/Pasadena before he leaves for another crack at the NFL. I don’t think 10-win Mora could be easily replaced.
Meanwhile, the Basketball team may not get to 10 wins for a while, as a Colorado team missing one of their star players beat UCLA on Friday night 62-56. The Bruins actually gave Colorado a very competitive game in the Buffaloes’ arena, but poor shooting finally did them in. Bryce Alford had another poor Road performance, shooting TWO-FOR-SIXTEEN, and 0-for-9 from Three-point land. You would think when he’s that cold, he would concentrate more on dishing the ball to his teammates, but Alford has a shooter’s mentality, even as a Point Guard, so he wasn’t able to lead his team to victory. Next up is Utah, which will be a tall order. At this point, I just want to BEAT SC, and anything else is gravy.
Now, in honor of the 40 points UCLA hung on K-State to become Alamo Bowl Champions, here are the rest of 40 new UCLA Cheerleader photos.