It may not have been the granddaddy of crushing losses for an unbeaten UCLA football team, but it certainly earned a spot on the family tree of disappointment.
Over the last quarter century, the “Hurricane Bowl” against Miami in 1998 stands alone among soul-sucking defeats. Edgerrin James busting off one long run after another and the Brad Melsby phantom fumble will always occupy the darkest of Bruins’ nightmares after the team bungled a chance to appear in the first Bowl Championship Series title game.
Other cry-till-you-laugh losses that ended hopes of unbeaten seasons followed.
UCLA won its first six games in 2001, rising to No. 4 in the national rankings, before falling to Stanford and going 7-4.
UCLA started 8-0 in 2005, earning a No. 7 ranking, before a desert disaster against Arizona preceded an eventual appearance in the Sun Bowl.
UCLA posted five consecutive victories to open 2013, rising to No. 9, before a loss to Stanford was compounded the following week by a loss to Oregon.
The current Bruins are headed to the Rose Bowl, but don’t get too excited, it’s just for a home game against Stanford next weekend. Hopes of playing in the Rose Bowl game for the first time since Jan. 1, 1999, took a small but possibly inconsequential hit Saturday during No. 9 UCLA’s 45-30 loss to No. 10 Oregon at Autzen Stadium.
Whether the defeat becomes a fender scuff or a permanent paint stain depends on what happens from here. Here are five takeaways from the defeat that dropped the Bruins to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll:
Everything remains in reach
Kazmeir Allen set the expectation in training camp with four words.
“Rose Bowl or bust,” the wide receiver said as eyebrows arched among reporters used to players resisting the urge to look ahead beyond their next opponent.
That goal remains attainable even after this weekend. UCLA (6-1 overall, 3-1 Pac-12) fell into a tie with Utah for third place in the Pac-12, one-half game behind USC and one game behind Oregon.
Oregon could remove Utah from contention if the Ducks beat the Utes on Nov. 19 in Eugene, Ore. If UCLA defeats USC that same day at the Rose Bowl and wins the rest of its games, the Bruins would almost surely end up at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Dec. 2 for the Pac-12 championship game.
The messiest scenario would be if Utah beats Oregon and ends the season in a three-way tie atop the conference standings alongside the Ducks and Bruins. Since the three teams would each have gone 1-1 against one another, the next tiebreaker would be their record against the next highest-finishing common opponent in the conference standings.
It’s too early to start looking at those possibilities. All the Bruins have to do to “viva, Las Vegas” is win the rest of their games.
The cracks in UCLA’s defense were blown wide open by Oregon, which took some cues from the old, Chip Kelly playbook to cruise to a 45-30 win.
A tip of the cap
Yes, the UCLA defense struggled mightily to pressure Oregon quarterback Bo Nix.
A related development: The Ducks’ offensive line might be the best in the Pac-12. It had given up only one sack before Saturday and did not yield any against the Bruins, who hurried Nix only once.
“We couldn’t get to him, we didn’t do a good enough job of disrupting his timing,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said after the game, “and because of that, we paid the price.”
Edge containment was part of the problem and Nix was also hard to bring down in the open field. On fourth and one in the third quarter, Nix made a run for it and outmaneuvered three UCLA defenders to gain two yards and pick up the first down.
Tale of the tape?
Some UCLA fans groused after the game that an Oregon player delivered an illegal block on the onside kick before the ball traveled the required 10 yards in the second quarter.
Kelly did not address that possibility after the game, saying only that he did not think the Ducks recovering the ball swung the momentum in their favor because the Bruins’ inability to get defensive stops was the bigger problem.
Nevertheless, Kelly suggested that his team needed more practice preparing for onside kicks.
“There’s a possibility for that, a lot of people do it and we’ve talked about it,” Kelly said, “but we haven’t drilled it enough, in my opinion, to make sure that we don’t have that happen again.”
There will be some inspiring moments interspersed in the Bruins’ largely depressing film study.
Safety Mo Osling III’s tackling will be among the highlights. His open-field tackle of Troy Franklin on Oregon’s first drive saved a touchdown, and he prevented another touchdown in the second quarter when he corralled Nix at UCLA’s two-yard line.
Osling finished the game with a career-high 17 tackles, the most by a Bruins defender since linebacker Jayon Brown made 18 in 2015 against Colorado.
LSU re-entered the Associated Press College Football poll at No. 18 while USC is back in the top 10. UCLA slipped down to No. 12.
Don’t do that
One moment in particular should prompt some head-shaking when Kelly rewatches the game.
After running back Zach Charbonnet ran for 33 yards in the third quarter, the Bruins gave back 15 yards because linebacker Kain Medrano pushed Oregon’s Justin Flowe to the turf after the play near the UCLA sideline, earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Kelly said after the game that he did not see the infraction when it happened, but it will certainly catch his attention on the replay.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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