Return of the Kings of the Road? It’s Force of Hobbit — The Bruins’ Unexpected Journey has them Baggin their 9th straight Road Victory (6-0 this season), 44-30 over the Huskies, behind 4 TD’s from Brett Hundley and 1 spectacular TD run by Myles Jack, as UCLA explodes out to a 25-point lead and hangs on for a Precious 14-point win, which should vault them up from a Middle Earth-like #18 ranking, since many above them suffer losses, dragon them down.
Could the Bruins be peaking at just the right time?
UCLA cleaned up their act on Saturday, cutting down dramatically on penalties, eliminating Turnovers, and playing solidly if not superbly on Offense AND Defense, manhandling Washington 44-30 to go 8-2 for the season. The usually penalty-prone Bruins went flag-less in the first half as they built a 31-10 lead. They picked up only 3 penalties in the second half, and 1 of those was intentional (delay of game before a punt, purposely burning clock), as a suddenly efficient squad sustained drives and repeatedly stopped the Huskies’ Offense on 3rd downs to get the ball back.
QB Brett Hundley was focused and on target, throwing for over 300 yards including TD’s to Kenneth Walker III for 57 yards and to Mossi Johnson for 15. Hundley also RAN for 2 scores, as UW’s young Defense couldn’t stop anything. The Bruins gained 174 Rushing, including 98 by Paul Perkins, and 38 by Myles Jack, 28 of those on an eye-popping TD run that included a powerful straight-arm, a devastating spin move, and a tightrope act along the sideline to stay inbounds.
Hundley’s two favorite pass patterns were also effective — bubble screens to Wide Receivers like Devin Fuller, and slants to Thomas Duarte, who just returned from a hamstring injury. Duarte struggled early, badly whiffing on two blocks during screen passes, but made up for it with 3 catches for 34 yards, including one acrobatic snag of a tipped ball that could have been intercepted.
While the UCLA Offense was rolling, their Defense was stout, as they were last week against Arizona. They gave up only 1 TD in the first half, and only 1 TD in the second half. Washington’s other TD was on a 100-yard Kickoff Return. The Huskies have a Jack-like two-way player named Shaq Thompson, who is a great, tough Running Back, and he did amass 100 yards on the ground, but that was a fair trade-off considering that the Huskies were playing catch-up, and the Bruins decided to take away the Passing game, which they did. The Huskies got only 155 yards through the air. The Bruins didn’t get any Interceptions until the final, virtual garbage-time minute (by Fabian Moreau), but they constantly had great coverage, including a great play by Moreau, and an even better, Touchdown-saving break-up by Anthony Jefferson. The coverage was aided by the continuous pressure applied on the Washington QB, mainly by the front four, especially Owa Odigizuwa, and Deon Hollins off the edges. But the play of the day by the Bruin Defense was made by Linebacker Eric Kendricks, when he laid the hardest hit of the year on a Washington ballcarrier. It was completely clean, but you could hear it in L.A., without a TV.
The game was never really in doubt in the second half, since the Husky Offense hadn’t shown any ability to sustain drives or gain big chunks of yardage through the air. So even when they cut the lead to 14 early in the 4th quarter, there was no panic. The Bruins controlled the lines of scrimmage enough to use clock, and keep the Dawgs at bay. The victory gives the Bruins their second 4-game winning streak of the year, sandwiched around losses to Utah and Oregon. The Bruins still need ASU to lose another game, if UCLA is to make the Pac-12 Title Game. And of course, the Bruins have to beat u$c and Stanford for an ASU loss to even matter. The Bruins have a bye this week coming up, so that means an extra week for Coach Mora to prepare for the trojans. The trojans get what is similar to a week off: A home game against Cal. So both UCLA and u$c should be well-rested for the big game on November 22nd at the Rose Bowl.
Usually, the game being at the Rose Bowl would be a huge advantage, but this year in the Conference, Road Teams have won more than they have lost, and the Bruins seem to play much better as Visitors. Maybe Mora will put them on a plane next week, or feed them only hotel food, or even maybe make them wear AWAY UNIFORMS for the game. I hope not. I actually prefer both teams in home (dark) jerseys for this game. It’s the best LOOK of any game in the Country. But I’d trade a good look for a victory over sc, any day of the week.
Speaking of good looks, let’s play 52-pick-up: Here are 52 more brand new, never-before-seen photos of the UCLA Spirit Squad, from both the Oregon and Arizona games. Click on them to enlarge, and enjoy.