UCLA football: A fan's look back at California
Knoxville in September seems so, so long ago.
Such is the reality when it comes to being a UCLA football fan, and after three consecutive losses that make a 3-0 start seem but a distant memory, one can't help but wonder whether this is yet another lost season.
The perpetually positive Rick Neuheisel certainly isn't going to admit that, yet he even conceded that at this point he no longer can measure a successful season by whether or not the Bruins make a bowl game.Here are "observations, opinions and reflections from the fan's chair" after UCLA's 45-26 loss to California.
-- As always, let's start with some positives. Did you see it? Jeff Locke hit the goalpost for a touchback on the opening kickoff. That might have been the high point. OK, it wasn't that bad.
-- The first down battle between the teams was even at 17-17. ... UCLA's 448 yards in total offense was only 56 fewer than Cal. ... The Bruins averaged a season-high 6.6 yards per play. ... OK, enough of the rose-colored glasses.
-- Should have known it would be a long day when Cal's Shane Vereen took an option pitch to the short side and scampered untouched down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown run on the first drive. Remember, this is a Cal team that hadn't scored a touchdown in its previous nine quarters.
-- Then it got worse the next quarter when Jahvid Best went 93 yards for another touchdown, which saw several Bruins try and miss tackling him as he juked his way into the open field.
-- I love Kyle Bosworth, but that was just unfair when he had to pick up Best out of the backfield before Best strode right by him and quarterback Kevin Riley hit him perfectly in stride on a 51-yard scoring play. Brilliant play-calling to exploit a matchup by Cal. We haven't seen enough of this from Neuheisel and Norm Chow this season.
-- Relatively speaking, it was a bad day for defensive back Alterraun Verner with Marvin Jones beating him twice on first-half scoring passes. Haven't seen Verner be handled that way too often (though his coverage of Jones on the second touchdown was much better than the first).
-- Glad to see Logan Paulsen step up and show glimpses of the way he's capable of playing. Five catches for 96 yards is a start, but we're expecting more.
-- And don't worry, Taylor Embree. I noticed you had a good game too.
-- Terrence Austin's 225 return yards on punts and kickoffs certainly were impressive, though it would be great if he could be even half as effective as a receiver.
-- Johnathan Franklin, bad ankle and all, looked pretty darn good on his 74-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to make it 21-14 Cal. At that point, it was anyone's ballgame.
-- One of these days, the offense AND defense will play well on the same day. Might not be this season, though.
-- Kevin Prince may have passed for 311 yards, but his interception in the fourth quarter that was returned for a touchdown was probably one of the most woefully thrown passes I've ever seen. Paulsen was so wide-open it seemed to scare Prince. And to think that during that drive, I still actually thought the Bruins had a chance. Nothing like a game-changing play to jolt you into realizing just how far apart things really were.
-- Also, Prince's fumble in the first quarter was inexcusable and exactly the type of play that erases many of the strides that he might have made.
-- I still don't think we'll see any more of Richard Brehaut, though -- especially with UCLA playing at a hot (and I'm not talking about the weather) Arizona team next week.
-- That's cute that Reggie Carter still thinks the Bruins can go 9-3. I guess you have to believe things like that when you're a player, because otherwise what's the point, right? Still, it sounds a little silly and is ringing more and more hollow as the losses pile up.
-- Glad to see that Datone Jones wasn't seriously hurt late in the third quarter and that he was able to return. By the way, that facemask penalty called on Jones while UCLA had stopped Cal on a third and long early in the fourth quarter was extremely ticky-tack on the part of the officials.
-- Nelson Rosario is a specimen with all kinds of potential, that much is certain. But he actually needs to start making plays consistently at receiver. Potential buys you time, but production brings you the love.
-- Kai Forbath's four field goals tied a career high he set earlier this season at Tennessee, but frankly I don't want to see him continue to match the mark anymore because all that means is that the offense isn't converting in the red zone.
-- Final grade: C. With the offense finally showing some life, it helps to keep the grade from getting any lower. But the defense picked the wrong week to have its worst game of the season or else the result might have been different. Despite this, the defense actually had its moments, but the number of big plays it allowed was the ultimate killer. Is it wishful thinking that a change of scenery and a road trip might help these Bruins find their passion?
-- Jim Barrero
Photo: Jahvid Best runs for a 93-yard touchdown against the Bruins. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images.