Bruins Rise From The Dead In Win Over Cal


After the disaster that UCLA’s football team suffered at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson, it was obvious that their season was on the line at the Rose Bowl vs. California, and that it was imperative for the Bruins to come out and play with a chip on their shoulder.

And like they had something to prove – which they did.

Not only did Rick Neuheisel’s team do exactly that in their 31-14 victory over the Cal Golden Bears before a Homecoming crowd of 55,604 that was quiet and subdued at first, but grew electrified by what they saw as the game unfolded and the Bruins showed their mettle, it was easily their best performance of the year, led by a defense that was much maligned all season and was pushed around like a girls’ powder puff team in the Arizona desert.

“I’m proud of my team amidst a lot of hoopla this week…It’s just a great story of what can be done if you can block out some of the distractions,” coach Rick Neuheisel said after the game.

Four interceptions, three of them by safety Tevin McDonald and one by cornerback Aaron Hester on Cal’s last drive, highlighted UCLA’s defensive effort, as were the six sacks of Bear quarterback Zach Maynard, two of them by Datone Jones in the 4th quarter; the Bruins forced five turnovers in all.

Plus they kept the nation’s leading receiver, Keenan Allen, to 85 yards on seven catches – overall, a very good effort indeed.

This was the first time that defensive coordinator Joe Tresey’s unit showed its potential, which was great to see at long last as the two touchdowns they gave up were a result of Cal having a short field due to a fumble and a muffed punt; otherwise the Bruins may well have shut the Bears out.

As for UCLA’s offense, they must have heard me when I stated, as one of the keys to the game, that the running attack had to get a hell of a lot more than the 37 total yards obtained in their last outing…I believe that their 294 yards on the ground more than took care of that key.

Kevin Prince did very well in running the pistol offense behind center, and was magnificent in running the ball as he gained a game-high 163 yards on just 19 carries and got numerous crucial first downs, recovering nicely from his fumble that led to Cal’s first touchdown and a 7-0 lead, which was erased by Johnathan Franklin’s ten yard run to the end zone in the second quarter.

Prince wasn’t too bad throwing the ball either, completing 9 of 18 passes for 92 yards and – most importantly – no interceptions.

Derrick Coleman solidified his status of Bruin super stud and Most Valuable Player (in my book) with his three touchdown runs of two, 15, and 24 yards among his 80 for the night, on 16 carries. The 15 and 24 yarders came in the fourth quarter, with the 24 yard run helping to put the nail in the the Golden Bears’ coffin along with Hester’s pick.

That same 4th quarter saw a scare as safety Dietrich Riley, after colliding with a Cal running back, lay motionless on the field for several minutes. He needed a stretcher and a gurney to take him off the field amid applause from the fans, and was taken to the hospital where – thank goodness – he had movement in all his extremities and was released on Sunday. “Everything checked out fine”, Neuheisel said.

This win was quite satisfying not only because it saved Neuheisel’s job – at least for the time being – but also because it went a long way toward giving the Bruins respect, as they were targets of ridicule and pity in the college football community after what happened in their previous game.

It also showed how UCLA, despite everything, played its heart out and showed tons of guts against Cal. They were a determined bunch of Bruins who refused to quit and were going to win by any means necessary – all without four of their prominent wide receivers and a defensive lineman who were suspended for the game, plus an offensive lineman who sat out the first half.

That’s what the Bruin Nation saw at the Rose Bowl on Saturday; it’s certainly what I saw.

And it showed once and for all how good the UCLA Bruins can be in football.

Oh, by the way – Jerry Rice Jr. caught a couple of passes, which for a walk-on that has never played in a real college game, who was pulled off the scout team for Cal, was a job well done.

And I suppose I’ll expect all the fans who have savaged Neuheisel and his team in the online fan forums, calling for the coach’s head and writing the Bruins off, to jump back on the bandwagon – at least for this week.