UCLA Football: Bruins lose heartbreaker to Washington State, 31-27


The following UCLA recap will be presented in the form of the Five Stages of Grief. For guidance and details on these stages, I consulted what I figured would be a reliable source for this subject, grief.com.

Stage 1 – Denial

The UCLA Bruins did not lose to Washington State 31-27 Saturday night. Josh Rosen never led his team down the field in a 10 play, 80 yard drive capped off by his 37 yard scramble to the end zone, followed by a successful two-point conversion to go up 27-24 with 1:09 to play. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk certainly did not respond by throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Gabe Marks with three seconds remaining.

The offense certainly didn’t stall in the red zone on its first two drives. I don’t recollect Kai’mi Fairbairn making two 22-yard field goals and breaking the UCLA and Pac-12 Conference records for most points scored in a college career. Falk didn’t leave the game in the second quarter for with what appeared to be a head injury, and then somehow passed a concussion test and returned after halftime.

UCLA is now 32-0 in the Jim Mora era when leading at halftime. There is no way the Bruins lost despite only allowing 38 rushing yards, gaining 554 total yards, and converting on 12 of 19 third downs. Ishmael Adams played a pretty solid game. Oh, and the referees actually weren’t that bad.

Stage 2 – Anger

After the game, I, like most other Bruin fans, had an internal rant. I won’t repeat this rant as I am expected to keep things at least PG-13, so I will instead use Cincinnati Enquirer reporter C. Trent Rosecrans’ description of Bryan Price’s (the manager of the Cincinnati Reds) diatribe back in April:

"…What followed was a five-minute, 34-second expletive-filled tirade. The final tally was 77 uses of the “F” word or a variant and 11 uses of a vulgar term for feces (two bovine, one equine)."

Let’s start with the most obvious source of anger: the referees. When a sports fan complains about the referees, you take it with a grain of salt; it’s natural to blame the zebras. But when the coach is mad with the referees, then they become a legitimate talking point. And when the coach does this…

…an examination of the officiating crew is warranted.

The twitterverse was armed with one of Saturdays’ favorite hashtags, #pac12refs, and had an absolute field day. In all, 13 penalties were called against UCLA, most of them pre-snap offenses. However, the real issues were the booth reviews and the flags that weren’t thrown.

Both of the Bruins’ turnovers were fumbles which were results of questionable booth reviews. At the Rose Bowl, I didn’t have access to commentators’ insights on the rulebook, so I don’t think its my place to go on a rampage about their results. I’m still befuddled by the second fumble–I didn’t see any indisputable evidence–but perhaps the replay official saw something that I didn’t on the jumbotron. I’ll give the stripes the benefit of the doubt.

But then there were the holding calls, or lack thereof. I can’t give the referees the benefit of the doubt when there is no doubt that DEON HOLLINS WAS BEING MANHANDLED AND VIOLATED ALL NIGHT LONG. Especially in the final drive. Let’s go to the tape:


And on the game winning play:


It is now 1:46 am and Gabe Marks still pushed off. This will not change, regardless of what the clock reads.

I also learned that when talking about intentional grounding, when a player is “in the vicinity” of a throw it means the ball is within a 30-foot radius of him. To be fair, the officiating team wasn’t totally against UCLA, Washington State was jobbed on occasion, as well. The ludicrous intentional grounding rules applied to both teams. There was also this play, which was not called targeting:

That wasn’t targeting from Tahaan Goodman. That was first-degree attempted murder, and the penalty isn’t 15 yards and a first down, it’s 10+ years in prison.

Nov 14, 2015; Pasadena, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Gabe Marks (9) celebrates after scoring on a 21-yard touchdown pass with three seconds to play against the UCLA Bruins in a NCAA football game at Rose Bowl. Washington State defeated UCLA 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve already shown an incredible amount of restraint by not being thrown into an all-caps rage while discussing the referees. Ishmael Adams’ performance, on the other hand, makes that caps lock button really tempting.

With a little over two minutes to go in the first half, the Bruins led 13-7 and stopped the Cougars near midfield on third down. The special teams unit punted a ball that was destined to go into the end zone for a touchback. Despite the ball being over his head, Adams backpedaled to the 2 yard line to field it, returned it to the 14, and fumbled†. The defense stopped Wazzu on first and second down. They did it again on third down, only for Adams to be flagged for defensive holding, which kept the drive alive. The Cougs threw for a touchdown the very next play.

But wait, there’s more. See that flag in the photo above? That was for pass interference against Adams on the game winning touchdown. Adams had shoved Marks, and still allowed Marks to haul it in. It was a truly terrible night for him. People will have no shame making a bunch of Uber jokes tonight.

† – This was a #pac12ref version of a fumble, so we don’t know how legitimate it really was

Stage 5 – Acceptance

It is now 2:18 am, and my brain is too tired to bargain and be depressed. It is ready to accept, and so should Bruin fans.

Next: Predicting the 2015-16 UCLA Basketball Regular Season Record?

With Utah losing to Arizona tonight, the Bruins still control their own destiny. They can still win their next two games, win the Pac-12 Championship game and go to the Rose Bowl. The grandaddy of them all is still within reach.

Josh Rosen showed his potential all night long. Had the Bruins won, the final drive would have been a signature moment for him. His throw to Thomas Duarte in the back corner of the end zone for the two point conversion was sublime. The future is in capable hands.

The blame game helps no one, the Bruins lost this game as a team. They were doomed once they settled for field goals after getting to the two yard line twice. Most of the thirteen penalties were warranted and shot the Bruins in the foot (paw?). It’s time to learn from our mistakes, put this one in the rearview mirror, and move on to the next one.

It’s time to focus on…Utah. In Utah. Good grief.