UCLA Beats Texas, Giving the Bruins a Much Rosier Outlook
AUSTIN, Texas – Two weeks ago, the UCLA Bruins were reeling and seemed to have far more deficiencies than they had hands to cover them up.
They seemed to be void of playmakers on both sides of the football. The new pistol offense seemed a silly gimmick. Just maybe the playbook coach Rick Neuheisel decided to use just wasn't going work.
But two weeks removed from the humiliating 35-0 drubbing by Stanford in the Pac-10 opener, the Bruins outlook appears quite a bit Rosier (excuse the pun). That's what consecutive wins over Top 25 opponents, including Saturday's stunning 34-12 upset of No.7 Texas, will do for a team that seemed on fast track to obscurity.
Some 13 years since crafting the 66-3 beat down also known as "Rout 66" in these parts, the Bruins returned for the first time to the scene of one their best victories and Texas' worst defeat and again turned Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium into their playing field.
Chants of "UC L-A! UC L-A!" were all that could be heard as most of the 101,437 had cleared out and just pockets of faithful Bruins fans became as dominant as their team had been on the field all afternoon.
"I can't grasp this. It's like a little kid at Disneyland pretty much," said UCLA offensive tackle Sean Sheller. "Just going over to the diehard fans that traveled over here, they were awesome. We heard them during the game sometimes more than the home crowd. That was amazing."
The feeling was likely mutual as the Bruins put forth an effort that was so impressive that it wiped out the frustration of the first two weeks of the season when they lost to Kansas State and Pac-10 rival Stanford. UCLA stood toe-to-toe with mighty Texas on Saturday and clearly came away with far fewer bruises.
During the first half, it was the Bruins defense and special teams pummeling the Longhorns into four turnovers while holding them without a touchdown. Then in the second half, UCLA's emerging ground attack pounded the Longhorns' top-ranked rushing defense with big run after big run by running backs Jonathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman. Even not-so-fleet-footed quarterback Kevin Prince got into the act with a 38-yard game-sealing touchdown run late in the third quarter.
"It's a huge thrill for our program to come in here and play in this kind of environment," Neuheisel said. "And to be able to play the way we did and to go in there and feel like we are maybe getting closer to being a program that can be counted on back where our roots are as a top program in the country." Neuheisel's team improved to 2-2 overall after also adding injury to insult a week ago in thwarting the University of Houston.
"Certainly don't mistake what I am saying, that we are in that category yet, but there is certainly reason to believe it can happen when you go in and play the way we played today. You can't wait to go back to work and fix some of the things that could have made it an even cleaner game."
It's hard to imagine this UCLA team playing much cleaner as long as you don't look at the woeful passing attack that mustered just 27 yards and a one-yard touchdown and put up a total of six yards in the first half while managing to lead 13-3 at the intermission. But the Bruins may not be much of a passing team this season.
If the patchwork offensive line dubbed "The Filthy Five" by Neuheisel opens up holes the way it did Saturday and Franklin and Coleman continue to come through with the burst they did, then passing the ball will become just a novelty.
The Bruins ran for an amazing 264 yards against a defense that entered the game holding opponents to a measly 44 yards per game. Franklin led the way with 118 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
It turns out the Bruins had the audacity to plan to the run ball against the nation's stingiest run defense from the day the game plan was put in last Tuesday.
"We already knew," Franklin said. "We had the mindset that we could move these guys. We had the mindset that we were going to win. Everything we did was no surprise."
But still it was a shocker to most in attendance. The whole complexion of the game turned on the opening drive of the third quarter, when the Bruins drove 80 yards on eight plays with all the yards but the opening six-yard pass coming on the ground. UCLA ran seven straight times as it marched down the field, with Franklin sparking the drive with a 35-yard run and then capping it with a 11-yard touchdown that made it 20-3 early in the second half.
Suddenly, a hushed sound followed by boos dominated the Longhorns' home.
"For us to go and have that kind of drive, that was a huge thing for our defense because our defense carried the day in the first half," said Neuheisel, who is in his third season leading the Bruins. "To go the distance and punch one in, you can't say there was a bigger drive since I've been at UCLA. You just can't. It was a great drive."
As great as it was for the Bruins, it even more damning for the Longhorns (3-1), who came in with aspirations of competing for the BCS national title again this year. Following Saturday's humbling loss, Texas' goals turn to the still-attainable Big 12 championship. But the sting of this loss isn't quite how they would want to go into next week's Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma.
Many of the Longhorns fans began filing out of the stadium at the end of the third quarter after Prince raced 38 yards untouched for the touchdown that put UCLA ahead 27-6 going into the fourth quarter.
This was the worst home loss of the Mack Brown era, Texas' first loss at home since falling to Kansas State in 2007, and its lowest scoring loss at home since being stunned by Texas A&M 12-7 in 2006.
"This one is embarrassing to me," said Brown, who is now 0-2 against the Bruins since arriving at Texas the year after the 66-3 debacle. "As a head coach, I'm responsible for everybody in this program -- from the trainers to the managers to the walk-ons to the kids to the coaches, everybody.
"It's not fair to the Texas fans. It was not fair to the players. I've got to do a better job."
The feeling couldn't have been more opposite in the UCLA locker room, where players who downplayed any connection to the win 13 years ago in Austin openly talked about wanting this win to do for it what it did for the 1997 team and beyond.
"Who knows? Who knows?" Prince said when asked what impact a win like Saturday's could have on the program for years to come. "As for present day, this is huge for us, a top-10 team. Obviously the last time we did this as a program, it started a big thing. We are kind of hoping for the same results."