UCLA’s 34-12 upset of No. 7 Texas is a story with a great hook to it
This wasn’t 66-3, but it will do in Westwood.
UCLA went to Austin for a game it could not win. Texas, ranked seventh, was too good. The Bruins needed to just get out of the game in one piece.
Then a stunned crowd of 101,437 watched Saturday as those preconceptions turned into misconceptions. The Bruins stomped all over Memorial Stadium, and ran over the Longhorns, before strutting off with a 34-12 victory that was an echo from their past.
UCLA’s 66-3 victory over 11th-ranked Texas in 1997 altered the Longhorns’ future, as it led to coach John Mackovic’s firing and the hiring of Mack Brown.
And this one?
“I hope we look back on this and say this was our turning point,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Cornerback Aaron Hester was already there, saying, “This gives us a boost we can ride through [Pacific 10] conference play.”
Heady stuff for a team that lost its first two games. But the Bruins earned it. They manhandled the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation, gaining 264 yards, and then danced their way to the locker room, pausing to whoop it up with the 4,000 or so UCLA fans who came to town toting blind faith.
“The first two weeks, we didn’t exist,” safety Tony Dye said. “This is our team right now. If we keep rolling like this, we’re going to win the [Pac-10].”
The Bruins (2-2) are now two for Texas, having beaten Houston a week earlier. The Longhorns (3-1), meanwhile, were handed their worst home loss since . . . that’s right . . . UCLA last came to town.
“This one is embarrassing for me,” Brown said. “As head coach, I’m responsible for everybody in this program. . . . This was not fair to Texas fans. It was not fair to the players.”
Fair wasn’t in the Bruins’ game plan. Running the ball was, and by the time they were done, the Eyes of Texas were cringing.
Texas had given up an average of 44 yards rushing per game before the Bruins took the field. When they skipped off at the end, Johnathan Franklin, alone, had 118 yards rushing, as the Bruins’ “pistol” offense blew holes in the Texas defense.
“This game started for us on Tuesday,” running back Franklin said. “Tuesday, we already knew we could move them.”
The Bruins lived off the Longhorns’ generosity in the first half. Texas had four turnovers that led to 10 UCLA points. At halftime, UCLA had 77 total yards and a 13-3 lead.
“I told them at halftime that hope wasn’t how we’re going to win this game,” Neuheisel said. “We weren’t going to hope for the clock to run out. We weren’t going to hope that they keep making mistakes. I said, ‘Go out and fight and enjoy the fight.’”
Franklin’s tackle-shedding 11-yard run ended an 80-yard drive that gave UCLA a 20-3 lead to start the third quarter. When quarterback Kevin Prince scored on a 38-yard run later in the quarter, Longhorns were being “pistol"-whipped.
“Texas was good up front, but we jived together,” center Ryan Taylor said.
Pretty soon, Texas wasn’t even good up front.
“We’d stick our blocks on them and they’d start complaining, ‘Hey man, get off me already,’” tackle Sean Sheller said.
Supporting Franklin was Derrick Coleman, who had 94-yard rushing day, including a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Bruins’ running game was so strong that Prince passed only eight times, completing five for 27 yards.
“If you’d have told me I would have that going into the game, I’d have been scared,” Prince said. “Everyone was talking about Texas’ run defense and our line took it personally.”
The defense did the rest. The Bruins gang-tackled and pressed the Longhorns into mistakes.
“This started in the off-season; we probably outworked Texas,” safety Rahim Moore said. “We went at it in training. We’ve been waiting for this week.”