At long last!
Just what the UCLA football team needed – a blowout victory in a game they needed to win!
Actually, the Bruins’ game against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Rose Bowl this past Saturday could be more accurately described as an extremely loud statement as they came out like, well, rabid Bruins in their 45-6 win before a smallish but focused crowd of 57, 334.
That leaves UCLA with – get this – a chance to clinch the Pac-12 South title this coming weekend.
And it also leaves the Bruins with a 5-1 record at home for the season, which even the most cynical and critical member of Bruin Nation can’t find fault with.
Rick Neuheisel’s offense was on fire in the first quarter, scoring three touchdowns on their first three possessions, including a 54-yard pass from Kevin Prince to Shaquelle Evans on the Bruins’ second play from scrimmage.
That clearly set the tone for the game as UCLA scored twice more after that, on a 14-yard run by Johnathan Franklin and a five-yard pass from Prince to tight end Joseph Fauria.
The first half was not without its problems, however.
The Bruins’ issues with penalties continued as they committed eight for a total of 97 yards in the game’s first two quarters, several of them of the pass interference kind with one of them being committed by Sheldon Price on a key third down play at the end of the first quarter, which led to a Colorado touchdown to begin the second, a 20-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Hanson to Toney Clemons.
That turned out to be the only score that the Buffaloes would get, the defense playing with a determination in forcing punts and getting turnovers; Hanson threw three interceptions for the Buffs, one to linebacker Sean Westgate that led to Franklin’s TD run and two to cornerback Andrew Abbott in the fourth quarter.
And speaking of the fourth quarter, that was when UCLA really flexed its muscles and delivered the knockout blow as they scored touchdowns on their last three possessions, including an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Nelson Rosario, who had a stellar day with six catches for 102 yards.
Prince had his best day as a Bruin on Saturday, which would have been hard to imagine on September 17 against Texas when he threw three interceptions in the first quarter.
No one thought that day that he would ever throw for a career high four touchdowns in a game, but that’s exactly what Prince did against the Buffaloes, including two in the 4th quarter – the 11-yarder to Rosario and one for 15 yards to Fauria, which was the tight end’s second TD catch of the night.
Prince ended up with 225 yards in the air on 15-of-19 passing, plus 84 yards in ten carries on the ground.
For how he persevered over the course of the season, and for his toughness, the junior quarterback has earned my respect.
And he was definitely the player of the game along with Franklin, who ran like a wild maniac in the zone in going for a game high 162 yards on just 15 carries, with that touchdown early in the game.
Franklin wasn’t perfect as he fumbled away a ball during a third quarter drive, but with the way he got all of those yards, that is akin to a student getting a couple of questions wrong on a midterm exam and ending up with an A- instead of an A.
Which is exactly the grade I would have given him for this game.
After their bad showing against Utah the previous week, it was great to see this UCLA team so focused, intense, and firing on all cylinders.
The defense, particularly the front seven, was especially stingy in giving up a total of 229 yards, including 87 on the ground, while the offense piled up 553 yards in what was, overall, UCLA’s best performance of the season.
“I’m very pleased with the ability that our team has shown, that we have been able to respond and…not point fingers,” Neuheisel said regarding how the Bruins have been able to play well following a loss.
That high level of effort, focus, intensity, and execution will be sorely needed this coming Saturday as Neuhesel’s squad will be facing a team – a bitter rival really – from a certain crosstown school that wears cardinal and gold, has a fuzzy-helmeted guy carrying a sword on a white Andalusian horse as its mascot, and is on a complete roll and playing perhaps the best football of any team in the country.
It will be the 81st time that UCLA and this school will meet; I’ll give you one guess as to who it is…
And in the meantime, here’s a link to a highlight video clip of the win over Colorado: