A real fourth downer
Just when it looked as if UCLA was ready to prove that it was ready to end its inconsistency, the Bruins ran into a determined Florida State team to make them think otherwise.
The underdog Seminoles used several big plays to dominate the fourth quarter and defeated UCLA, 44-27, in the Emerald Bowl on Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 40,331 at AT&T; Park.
The Bruins, who finished the season 7-6, led, 27-23, after three quarters but were outscored, 21-0, over the final 15 minutes by the Seminoles (7-6), who avoided their first losing season since 1976, Coach Bobby Bowden’s first year.
“We knew coming into the game that their record was not a good indicator for what type of team they had,” UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell said. “They may have struggled all season, but we knew they had some playmakers.”
The biggest playmaker for Florida State was senior running back Lorenzo Booker, who earned offensive MVP honors by scoring two touchdowns, rushing for 91 yards and catching five passes for 117 more.
“We really had to contain Lorenzo Booker and he ended up being the majority of their offense,” UCLA outside linebacker Reggie Carter said. “We would have him locked down and then he would do something to break out of the backfield. ... We had a game plan for it, but we just didn’t execute.”
So, nearly four weeks after their upset victory over city rival USC, the Bruins failed to get the job done against a Florida State team that finished 3-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and had lost four of its last six games to close the regular season.
“After we beat SC we were on a high, but we knew that we needed to beat Florida State to show the country that the SC game wasn’t a fluke,” Harwell said. “You can’t down the coaches because we came out well-prepared. It was just a real tough loss that was a lot closer than the score indicates.”
Florida State, which had problems scoring offensive touchdowns in its final three regular-season games, scored first when, one play after a fumble by Chris Markey, Booker, a former standout at Ventura St. Bonaventure High, ran 25 yards for a touchdown.
UCLA responded with its own one-play scoring drive when quarterback Patrick Cowan faked a handoff and completed a 78-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Breazell, who got behind the Seminoles’ secondary for the longest offensive play of the season for the Bruins.
The next time UCLA had the ball, Cowan again hurt Florida State with a play-action pass on first down. This time, junior wide receiver Marcus Everett beat cornerback Patrick Robinson with a double-move for a 38-yard pass play to set up a 46-yard field goal by Justin Medlock to give the Bruins a 10-7 lead.
After Booker’s running and catching led Florida State to a field goal to tie the score, UCLA took command for much of the second quarter behind Markey (103 yards rushing in the first half) and Cowan (eight for 13 for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the t half), who led the Bruins to 10 consecutive points.
Markey broke off a run of 33 yards to highlight a nine-play, 72-yard drive that was capped by Cowan’s second touchdown pass. Senior Junior Taylor made the play with an impressive catch in the back of the end zone between two Florida State defenders.
UCLA extended its lead to 20-10 when Medlock kicked a 19-yard field goal to complete a short drive that was set up by a 24-yard punt return by Ryan Graves.
“We had them on the run,” Taylor said. “We were getting big pass plays and [Markey] was cutting them up with the run.”
Florida State, which kicked a field goal before halftime, picked up another three points early in the second half to cut UCLA’s to 20-16 and then made a big special-teams play to regain the lead.
After UCLA had a first-down run wiped out because of a illegal shift, the Seminoles’ Dekoda Watson broke free to block a punt by Aaron Perez that was recovered by Lawrence Timmons, who ran 25 yards for a touchdown to give Florida State a 23-20 lead early in the third quarter.
But UCLA responded again with an impressive drive that was highlighted by a 19-yard run by Markey and finished off by an eight-yard run by freshman Chane Moline that gave the Bruins a 27-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Florida State took over.
The Seminoles took a 30-27 lead when Greg Carr caught a 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. They extended their lead minutes later when Booker ran for a three-yard touchdown, and then put the game away when Tony Carter returned an interception 86 yards for a score to take a commanding 44-27 lead.
“This game just shows how our season went, with ups and downs,” said Markey, who finished with 144 yards in 19 carries. “We showed at times that we can be a great team that can compete with anybody but it also showed that we’re not there yet....
“We have to learn how to finish when we have an opponent down.”
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UCLA’s loss to Florida State was the third defeat in four bowl games for Coach Karl Dorrell:
*--* Bowl Result 2006 Emerald l. to Florida St., 44-27 ’05 Sun d. Northwestern, 50-38 ’04 Las Vegas l. to Wyoming, 24-21 ’03 Silicon Valley l. to Fresno St., 17-9