Bruins can’t take it easy
UCLA linebacker Christian Taylor grimaced even before he had moved a muscle to put on his pants. He had been waiting to exhale for 60 minutes at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, and the relief was as evident as the pain.
“That was a hard game,” Taylor said. “I hope they are not all like that. I think we learned something valuable, that adversity is going to come. The more you work through it and the more you overcome it, the more confident you become.”
That was the postgame posturing after a 27-17 victory over Brigham Young in front of 72,986. The final phew sounded when tailback Chris Markey cut outside for a three-yard touchdown run with 1:12 left, leaving the Bruins (2-0) able to wax philosophical after surviving in a game in which they had a 20-0 lead late in the first half.
“If college football was easy, then I wouldn’t even be here,” Bruins defensive end Bruce Davis said. “I’d be out skydiving or something.”
As a coincidence, Davis, and the Bruins, got to experience the rush of a free fall before the parachute opened.
UCLA outlasted a BYU team that had an annoying little-brother-like persistence. The victory provided some answers -- that Stanford couldn’t win the Mountain West Conference -- while other questions were dangling -- could the Bruins win the Mountain West?
A week ago, the 13th-ranked Bruins had reason to crow after a 45-17 victory over Stanford. This week, they were almost eating it.
The Cougars (1-1) had won 11 consecutive games, with No. 12 there for the taking before the Bruins came up with the necessary plays.
Davis sacked Hall, forcing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Tom Blake at the UCLA 13-yard line with 10 minutes left. The Bruins’ defense held the Cougars to a three-and-out on their next series. UCLA’s offense, which made only cameo appearances throughout the afternoon, took nearly four minutes off the clock -- aided by two BYU penalties -- with Markey finishing things with his touchdown run.
“I like to call this kind of game an eye opener,” Davis said. “I think our defense needed that because teams aren’t going to be like Stanford every week. They going be more like BYU. We needed to get a scare. We’re not perfect, and we still have a lot of work to do.”
The lesson, learned cheaply enough, was taught by Hall, who completed 30 of 52 passes for 391 yards and had two third-quarter touchdown passes that pulled the Cougars to within 20-17.
Early in the fourth quarter BYU had a chance to take the lead, with a first down at the Bruins’ 13. Hall rolled slightly to his right, then was hit from behind by Davis, with the ball rolling and ricocheting before being engulfed by Blake.
Said Davis: “That was the toughest game I have ever been a part of.”
The Cougars all but abandoned the run, much like Stanford did a week ago, and Hall picked the Bruins apart.
UCLA cornerback Trey Brown was the microcosm of the day the defense endured.
Brown was very good. He returned an interception 56 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 Bruins lead in the first quarter. He also scooped up a fumble and returned it 21 yards to set up Kai Forbath’s second field for a 20-0 lead with 3:28 left in the first half.
Brown was also very bad. He was twice burned by Austin Collie for touchdown passes in the third quarter.
In the bigger picture, the Bruins were carved up by Hall, but they also sacked him four times and knocked him down on a handful of other plays.
“We hit him hard and he kept after us,” defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. But he added, “If teams are going to throw the ball at us 55-60 times, all I care about is the score. I don’t care about anything else.”
There might have been more for Walker to worry about if the Cougars hadn’t had 11 penalties for 84 yards, the most crucial being a personal foul by receiver Michael Reed that wiped out an 18-yard gain to the Bruins’ 47. The momentum shifted back to the Bruins after that play, though they could do little with it.
While the defense was clinging throughout the day, the offense seemed to let go, gaining a measly 236 yards a week after quarterback Ben Olson led a 624-yard performance against the Cardinal.
Going into the game, Hall, in sizing up things up, said, “This isn’t going to be Max Hall versus Ben Olson.” The Bruins are lucky it wasn’t. Olson completed 13 of 28 passes for 126 yards and had one pass intercepted.
The Bruins, who were a paltry two for 12 on third-down conversions, sustained only two drives, one an abbreviated 47-yard march where Kahlil Bell gained every inch, including a four-yard run for a touchdown, and their last one that ended in relief.
“We were talking the whole game that they were doing nothing, we were stopping ourselves,” guard Shannon Tevaga said. “It frustrates me how hard we worked this week and to come out here and struggle, struggle, struggle.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
Chris Foster’s keys to the game and how UCLA measured up:
1. Playmakers. The Bruins got the ball to receivers Brandon Breazell and Marcus Everett early, but the Cougars were effective in keeping the play in front of them, and not allowing receivers deep. They kept the ball from players who could hurt them.
2. Tackling. The Bruins had a better day tackling and held the Cougars to 44 yards rushing. BYU receivers gained few yards after making catches, being wrapped up quickly.
3. Line push. This went back and forth, much like the game. The Cougars’ offensive line gave quarterback Max Hall enough time to allow him to punish the Bruins with 391 yards passing. Yet, the Bruins’ quickness up front led to big plays. UCLA had four sacks, two by Bruce Davis, who also stripped Hall on a key play in the fourth quarter.