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Bruins can salvage season if it goes back to winning after Utah loss

That thud felt late Saturday night didn't require anyone to scurry to their emergency survival kits. The tremor was merely the earth moving under the cleats of the UCLA football team.

How big the seismic shift remains to be determined.

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The Bruins, ranked eighth heading into Saturday's game with Utah, were cleared for takeoff in the polls, and in national perception. Yet, in the end, they merely joined the other top-10 teams who stumbled this past week — Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M.

Utah held on for a 30-28 victory when Ka'imi Fairbairn's 50-yard field goal drifted wide on the final play. How does this affect the Bruins' season? Not at all, if they can fix the glaring issues on display Saturday and get back to winning when they face No. 12 Oregon on Saturday.

There were obvious talking points.

• Pass protection.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley threw for 266 yards, and had two long touchdown passes, but was sacked 10 times. Three came on consecutive plays with the Bruins trailing, 24-21, in the fourth quarter.

• Run defense.

The UCLA defense allowed 242 yards rushing, 156 by battering-ram running back Devontae Booker. Utah ran the ball nine consecutive times for 63 yards to get in position for an Andy Phillips 29-yard game-winning field goal.

• Field goals.

Fairbairn was put in a difficult spot, first on a 55-yard attempt and, after Utah's running-into-the-kicker penalty, the 50-yard try. But Fairbairn is now eight of 17 on kicks from 40 or more yards.

Postgame postmortems begin with the offensive line.

The Bruins are 124th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in sacks allowed. Hundley has been sacked 109 times in 32 games since 2012.

"We struggled on the edge a little bit and were pretty solid up the middle," Coach Jim Mora said. "A couple guys who usually play pretty darn well, did play as well as they were capable, and we didn't get them help quick enough."

Center Jake Brendel said, "It wasn't so much scheme. We just didn't take care of our jobs. … We have a very important job. It's something we take pride in. It's something we need to do a lot better."

Utah, which leads the nation in sacks, also did an effective job denying Hundley scrambling lanes.

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"As a quarterback, I can help the linemen by getting the ball out of my hand," Hundley said. "Whatever I have to do to reduce that number, I have to do it."

Still, Hundley threw a 93-yard touchdown pass to Devin Fuller and a 40-yard touchdown pass to Eldridge Massington in the fourth quarter, leaving the Bruins with a 28-27 lead.

The defense couldn't hold it.

"Great defenses have to stop the run when you know they are going to run," defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "We knew they were going to run, and we didn't stop it. I always put it on my shoulders. I have to try to get them into a better call."

Mora said, "First and foremost, we came after them and played darn good defense for the most part."

But, he said, "Anytime you qualify a statement with 'for the most part' you're looking at problems. We played hard, fast and physical, but in the second half, we struggled to stop the run. It was positioning, tackling and trying to do too much sometimes."

Still, the game was left on Fairbairn's foot. Mora said that there was no thought about a 'Hail Mary' pass.

"I felt with four seconds left, the 50-yard kick was a much better opportunity for us to get a win than throwing a 'Hail Mary,'" Mora said. "I know there have been a rash of 'Hail Marys' caught lately, but statistically, your chances are better kicking the field goal that our kicker can make."

Injury report

UCLA cornerback Fabien Moreau was helped off the field with a right leg injury late in Saturday's game. Mora said it was a "bruise."

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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