No Happy Endings: UCLA Basketball and UCLA Football come together on Black Friday, starting with sloppy passes and climaxing with a choke
It doesn’t happen very often, but on Friday, a UCLA Basketball game overlapped with a UCLA Football game, and the result was double-disaster. The Basketball team threw away a winnable game to an unranked VCU team 89-85, and the Football team threw away a 17-0 lead to lose to unranked Arizona State 55-34.
For Bruins fans in Vegas Sportsbooks, or in living rooms with two TV’s, it was double the carnage and double the disappointment. For the Bruin fans with only one TV, they might have missed some of the Basketball ineptness, OR, the only watchable part of the Football game. For those of you with no available TV’s — You’re the lucky ones.
The Basketball team never led for a single second. Just like on Wednesday, they started the game by giving up 8 straight points, and were never able to forge ahead. They fell behind by double-digits in the first half, thanks to repeated unforced turnovers, but clawed their way back to 37-40 at Halftime. Then they fell behind by double-digits again, before clawing their way back to come within a single point, but they never got over the hump. Early in the first half, VCU controlled the Paint, scoring 20 of their first 25 points INSIDE. Then, when the Bruins’ Defense collapsed on the Key, the Rams started sinking three-pointers. In the second half, every time the Bruins got close, VCU would hit another trey, knocking the wind and momentum out of UCLA.
The Bruins just couldn’t get the big stops when they needed them, and didn’t have enough clutch Offense, despite the return of Malcolm Lee’s outside jumper. Lee led the Bruins with 23 points including 4-for-6 from Downtown, and a Lee triple with 1:48 left cut the lead to 1. Reeves Nelson added 20 with 10 Rebounds, and Tyler Honeycutt had 18 and 13, but it just wasn’t enough in a very evenly-matched contest, to overcome 21 turnovers.
Meanwhile, in Tempe Arizona, the Bruin Football team got off to their best start in recent memory, shooting out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. The Offense finally found its rhythm, with Jonathan Franklin running the ball effectively, and with Richard Brehaut putting together his best game ever. But the Defense never found THEIR rhythm. After UCLA knocked out ASU’s starting QB, the back-up came in and torched the Bruin Secondary, for 380 yards, 4 passing TD’s, and also had a rushing TD. The Sun Devils amassed 595 yards of Total Offense, including a 71-yard TD run and several other huge plays. Add to that a 99-yard Kickoff Return TD, and you get a 55-10 spurt that led to the 55-34 final score. On a day when Alabama blew a 24-point lead in a loss to Auburn, Boise St. blew a 17-point Halftime lead in a CRUSHING loss to Pistol-packing Nevada, and even the Lakers choked away a 19-point lead in a loss at Utah, the Bruins also fell apart, and fell to a demoralizing defeat.
Once again, the Bruins couldn’t tackle, couldn’t cover, and couldn’t pressure the second-string QB. Even Rahim Moore was made to look silly on more than one occasion. Akeem Ayers got beat on a 70+ yard pass, Cassius Marsh missed a tackle that would have been a Safety, and Tony Dye, who led the team with 7 tackles, got beat badly for a huge TD. It was as if these guys WANTED the Defensive Coordinator to be fired. Or maybe they’re just snookering usc. After watching this pathetic performance, the trojan Offense must be salivating. SC’s complacency is the only hope for UCLA next week.
But of course this isn’t a conspiracy theory, because choking away the ASU game cost the Bruins their chance at becoming Bowl-eligible. Therefore, this wasn’t a case of setting up troy — It was just a case of thoroughly sucking. Too bad, because for the first time, Brehaut didn’t. He threw 3 TD passes, and was 33 for 56 for 321 yards. The 33 completions is an all-time UCLA record, breaking the mark of of Troy Aikman by 1. NO, Brehaut is defintiely NO Aikman, as exhibited by a dozen horrendous passes, and the fact that a large portion of Brehaut’s production came against a relaxed ASU Defense, after the game was completely decided. But in Brehaut’s defense, the only Interception was the fault of Receiver Taylor Embree, whose hands the pass hit before bouncing into the hands of a defender. Also, Behaut hit several 3rd Down passes under duress for big 1st Downs. He was inconsistent, but he was good enough for the Bruins to win, WITH ANY SORT OF DECENT GAME FROM THE DEFENSE.
Unfortunately, though, Brehaut’s counterpart was on fire, and the Bruin D just poured gas on the flames. At least Brehaut bounced back from his worst game ever with his best game ever, despite suffering a concussion last week. It certainly gives the Bruins a glimmer of hope that they can score some points against the swiss-cheese defense of Monte Kiffin. But if the Bruin Defense doesn’t get their ship together, Brehaut and the Offense will have to score 10 TD’s for UCLA to have a chance.
All in all, it was one of the worst days ever to be a Bruin fan (not counting losses to usc). Of course, it would all be forgotten, with just one thing: A win on December 4th. Bowl games are nice, but Beating SC is really what it’s all about. Do I think it’s really possible? Not really. I don’t believe in miracles. And that’s exactly what I wrote before 13-9. Let’s hope lightning can strike twice.