Barely 18 — Butler fires up an ice-cold 18% from the field, as UConn’s Defense takes away the Bulldogs’ One Shining Moment, and the fired-up young Bruins ignite a few heated moments of fighting on the practice field, before the shining, in-the-moment Defense gets about 5 take-aways
So much for Butler being comfortable in the Title Game because they played in it last year. The UConn Huskies are now the National Champions, for the 3rd time in a dozen years, after holding the Bulldogs to 12-for-64 shooting in a 53-41 victory. In what’s being called the worst Title Game ever, the Huskies shot only 34% themselves, and were losing 22-19 at the Half, but since Butler in the Second Half went 6 minutes without scoring, and then another 7 minutes without scoring, UConn was able to pull away.
Every team goes cold every now and then, but not usually in the biggest game of the year, and not usually led in futility by their two star players. Howard and Mack were both horrible, and the 18% shooting was the worst in Finals History. The Bulldogs did miss a lot of lay-ups and open jumpers, but UConn should get credit for smart D. Coach Jim Calhoun — at 68, the oldest Coach ever to win the Title Game — had his guys prepared and playing disciplined Defense. They blocked 10 shots — against only 12 made buckets.
But if Defense wins Championships, then UCLA Football had something to smile about after Monday’s practice. The Bruin Defense forced at least 5 Turnovers — Two fumble recoveries, and three Interceptions, including one by Jordan Zumwalt over the middle, and one by Courtney Viney in the end zone. There was also a physical pass break-up along the sidelines, but I think Coach Rick Neuheisel screamed at the DB for having his hands on the Receiver before making the play.
Another impressive Defensive move came from Sean Westgate, during a blocking drill, when he faked a guy out of his jock strap before making a beeline to the tackling dummy QB. But the Defense really turned up the heat AFTER getting bawled out for wasting their breath by FIGHTING. There were at least three skirmishes, which all found Tight End Joe Fauria in the midst of the action. Of course since he towers over the rest of the players, he’s easy to spot, but he really was involved in all the melees. The first one was between him and the much smaller Eric Kendricks, after the two were entangled during a play, but wouldn’t stop competing. The thing I got out of that incident was that scrappy Kendricks refused to back down from the imposing Fauria. In fact, Kendricks had to be restrained by teammates, to keep him for going back for more.
A few minutes later, Linebacker Cassius Marsh mixed it up with an Offensive Lineman, which led Fauria to come in as Peacemaker. Marsh and Fauria were about to have a steel-cage match, before everyone broke it up. Marsh was ready to go ballistic, so the Coaches told him to leave the field. He thought they were kicking him out of practice, so he went to the locker room. He returned after a half an hour, after it was explained to him that he wasn’t banned. Marsh later admitted that he made a mistake, by letting his emotions get the best of him. He was mad because he says he was getting held. Fauria also commented later, saying that everything is okay, and no grudges were being held.
I do NOT blame Fauria for his involvement in any of the exchanges. It actually looked like he was showing leadership skills, and purposely upping the intensity of his teammates. According to Neuheisel, the whole team was not showing the proper energy during practice, so Fauria was probably just trying to pump everyone up with HIS tenacity. Fauria also caught a few balls during the competition, and it looked like the Defense tackled him with a little more desire, so maybe his attitude was helping.
The interceptions were the flashiest plays of the day, but I don’t want to give the impression that the Offense was dominated. This next sentence might be a huge over-generalization, but QB Richard Brehaut looked good throwing slants, and Brett Hundley looked good on outs. I think I saw Running Back Jordon James make a good catch in the flat and turn it upfield, and I saw Malcolm Jones break a run through the middle. But mostly, it looked like Jonathan Franklin was the one who was finding the most daylight. Of course, they don’t seem to be going 100% in terms of bone-jarring tackles, so don’t read too much into these random observations.
Instead, just check out these 28 photos from Monday. You can see a few plays being made, and you can also see what some of these young kids look like up close. I want the negative, overly-critical jerks out there to keep in mind that these guys are teenage students, trying their best — They are not just soul-less machines just here to be insulted mercilessly by so-called “fans.” And most importantly, all these guys are BRUINS, sacrificing their blood, sweat, and tears for UCLA.
[Click on the photos to enlarge them, especially the horizontal ones]