September 27, 2008

Heartbreak at the Rose Bowl

The opening kickoff of this game was a microcosm of things to. Bouncing back from a lackluster performance a week ago, Terrence Austin let the Rose Bowl crowd of 73,963 know that he came to play when he returned the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown. Unfortunately it was called back due to a holding penalty nullifying the play.

The Bruin offense went three and out, forcing an Aaron Perez punt that was promptly returned for 63 yards and a touchdown. You don't have to be a mathematical genius to figure out that's a 14 point turn around and in a six point game that is a lot.

This young Bruin team showed fight and went on a seven play, 65 yard drive that tied the game that was aided by the return of Kahlil Bell who ran for 27 yards on the drive.

The defense set up UCLA's next score when junior defensive end Korey Bosworth deflected a pass and defensive tackle Brian Price intercepted.

UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft quickly hit freshman wide receiver Taylor Embree for a 20 yard pickup. Craft then converted a third down when hit Austin, who made an outstanding 12 yard catch at the Fresno State 17 yard line.

As young teams will due the drive stalled in part when Craft was sacked for an eight yard loss. The Bruins battled back, but fell one yard short of a first down and UCLA settled for a 25 yard field goal by Kai Forbath to the lead 10-7.

The Bruins didn't get a chance to celebrate their lead long as the Bulldogs rebounded to take the lead on a two play 79 yard drive that was highlighted by a Ryan Mathews 49 yard touchdown run.

On a day when there were many odd things, Fresno State tried to go for two and failed miserably.

UCLA most explosive team on the day was the kickoff return team. Austin answered Fresno State with a return of 73 of his UCLA record breaking single game kick return yard total of 206 to the Fresno State, 21 yard line.

With the help of a Fresno State personal foul, the Bruins scored on Bell seven yard touchdown to put the Bruins up 16-13. Forbath had his PAT blocked.

Remember odd things happened in the game.

The Bruins went on a 10 play, 53 yard drive, while still up 16-13, when UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel decided to go for it fourth and less than a yard, but Fresno State held.

In what should never happen after a change of possession, the Bruins made a young team mistake and these are the mistakes that cost ball games.

The Bruins had 12 men on the field and were called for illegal participation that cost UCLA 14 precious yards and a lot of field position. Experienced teams make you pay for mistakes such as these and pay the Bruins did.

The Bulldogs ended up going 82 yards on seven plays to take the lead 20-16 lead.

This young team refused to quit. Craft hit Ryan Moya for a pickup of 32 yards and then again for another 13 yards that set up another Forbath field goal. This one was good from 46 yards and ended the half on a high note, only down one point, 20-19.

Fresno State started the third quarter at the UCLA 30 yard line and looked like the Bruins were going to hold the Bulldogs, but they were aided by a very, questionable pass interference call on tMichael Norris. To make matters worse, it was third down and instead of the Bruins getting the ball back, the Bulldogs were in business with a first down at the UCLA 38.

The Bruins were able to hold the Bulldogs to a field goal to make the score 23-19 in favor of Fresno State.

Once again the Bruins battled back thanks to another great return by Austin, UCLA started the drive at the Fresno State 44. When you're hot, you're hot and Austin was hot so the Bruins gave him the ball on an end around where he picked up 20 more yards.

The drive stalled and once again the Bruins settled for a Forbath 35 yard field goal, getting the Bruins back to a one point deficient 23-22.

Once again the Bruins were their own worst enemy, helping the Bulldogs, with an albeit questionable, roughing the passer penalty by Tom Blake who pushed Tom Brandstater to the Rose Bowl turf.

Also on this drive one of the more controversial decisions of the game was made. The Bruins held the Bulldogs to a fourth and 12 at the UCLA 15, but Fresno State was called for holding and Neuheisel elected to take the penalty and push them back 10 yards.

On third and 22, the Bulldogs not only converted, but scored a touchdown on an excellently executed screen pass of 25 yards to give Fresno State the lead 30-22.

"It was a chip shot field goal from where it was," Neuheisel said. "Ten yards makes it a 40-some yard field goal, which has a lower trajectory kick. I asked the defensive coaches what their opinion was, Fresno State made a great play on a screen. It was third and 22, we need to be able to stop them."

The Bulldogs increased the score to 36-22 when Brandstater hit Chastin West on 28 strike near the end of the fourth quarter for a score.

Again oddity struck, as the Bruins blocked Fresno State's PAT and Bruin senior safety scooped it up and raced 96 yards for a two point score making the score 36-24, breathing life back into a young team.

The Bruins showed a glimpse of the future when true freshman running back Derrick Coleman rushed for 51 yards on the drive including a 44 yard scamper from a straight snap.

Craft finished the drive with a 20 yard touchdown pass to Chane Moline for a touchdown and that is where the scoring ended, but not the excitement.

While trailing 36-31 with dreams of a Tennessee comeback, the Bruins started play at the 50 yard line and were marching for a go ahead score when Coleman fumbled the ball at the Fresno State 13 yard line with 8:55 left in the game.

The Bruins never saw the ball again.

What was seen at the Rose Bowl was a young inexperienced team that fought hard, but at key points in the game were their own worst enemy. This is a team that still needs to learn how to win and make plays that help in that endeavor.

Today UCLA's inexperience was a factor, but there were enough good things for the team to remain relentlessly positive. This is an inexperienced team that has to take the good from the game and build and learn from the mistakes.

Fresno State head coach Pat Hill had the following to say.

"I give a lot of credit to UCLA," Hill said. "They're going to do some good things here. I give a lot of credit to our kids in a very must win game for us."

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