Sometimes, serviceable is all you need. UCLA was not spectacular Saturday afternoon, but the Bruins were good enough to get the much needed 31-14 win over Oregon in front of 55,711 people at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA Win Over Oregon
Both teams were held under their per-game average in yards and points. And Josh Rosen, who came into the game as the number three quarterback in the country, was not lighting up the scoreboard. He was, however, mistake free. In a game like this, that was all that was required. And in a game that matched few of the previews and projections, it was the UCLA defense, statistically one of the worst in the country, that secured the win for the Bruins.
Oregon came into the game with the #13 rushing offense in the country, averaging 244 yards per game. UCLA came in with the worst ranked rushing defense in the country. The Bruins were giving up 303 yards per game on the ground. The Ducks got their 246 yards on the ground. What they did not get was the big, break away run in a crucial moment of the game. Royce Freeman, rushed for 160 yards on 29 carries. He became Oregon’s all-time leading yards rusher. But he did so on a bad ankle and lacked the quick cut ability that has made him dangerous in the past. Because of injuries, Oregon had to go to back-up quarterback Braxton Burmeister. The best he could manage was 74 passing and two rushing touchdowns.
The UCLA defense got gashed by quick sprints to the corners by the Arizona offense the week before. Saturday, they were able to contain Freeman and Burmeister to the inside. The longest run of the day for Oregon was a 25-yard fourth quarter run by Freeman when UCLA already had a commanding three score lead.
Just Enough Offense
UCLA opened up an early first quarter lead driving 45 yards on 11 plays, culminating with a four-yard touchdown run by Soso Jamabo. The lead got to 14-0 when Rosen hit Christian Pabico with a 31-yard touchdown pass near the end of the first quarter.
Burmeister had touchdown runs of four and seven yards in the second quarter to send the teams in the half tied at 14.
UCLA added a field goal halfway in the third to go up 17-14 and then added the highlight touchdown of the day on what was an otherwise low-key day in Southern California. The Bruins drove 87 yards in only seven plays and 1:39 thanks to a Rosen to Pabaico 49-yard completion.
The capper though came with running back Bolu Olorunfunmi ran for 22 yards and tried to hurdle safety Mattrell McGraw at the goal line. It’s one thing to try it when the defender is diving at you. It is a whole other thing to try it when the defender is standing nearly completely upright. Olorunfunmi nearly cleared him. His shoes caught the shoulder pads and he flipped into the end zone for the score. It put UCLA 24-14 and put the game away.
A Rosen to Danny Andrews one-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter was enough for the 31-17 final, despite several minutes of the scoreboard operator posting the score as 31-20. Even at home, the Bruins have a tough time catching a break.
Rosen finished the game 21 of 36 passing for 266 yards and two touchdowns. While the numbers were not “Rosen-esque,” the real key for the UCLA offense was zero; as in zero interceptions, and zero fumbles. Rosen was only sacked twice, compared to the five times the week before. The running game produced 142 yards on 37 carries. Averaging under four yards per carry is still going to keep UCLA below the top 100 running teams in the country. Saturday it was less about the high-flying stats of the first four weeks of the season. This was about being efficient and getting a much-needed win for the morale of the program and beleaguered coaching staff.
It did not look like a work of art for UCLA, but the Bruins moved to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in conference. With back-to-back road games at Washington and Utah, they will hang it on the wall and admire it like a Van Gogh.