UCLA Kicks Itself Into Bowl Season

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November, 24, 2017. JJ Molson of the UCLA Bruins celebrates his field goal with Rick Wade #90 and Keisean Lucier-South #11 to take a 30-27 lead over the California Golden Bears during the fourth quarter at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

On the leg of J.J. Molson, UCLA beat Cal 30-27 Friday night at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins, at 6-6, are now bowl eligible, and the win came with representatives from the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana looking on.

UCLA Kicks Itself Into Bowl Season

They are not guaranteed a bowl, as there will more bowl eligible teams than there are bowl slots. However, with a marquee name, the Bruins are likely to get a bid. It could be Shreveport on December 27th, but there is also a projection that has them playing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on December 26th.

It Wasn’t Pretty, But…….

The win also came at a price with more Bruins dropping with injuries. The extent of many of the injuries is still to be determined. Most noticeably, the condition of Josh Rosen’s head. Near the end of the second quarter, UCLA’s Kolton Miller got blown off the line by Cal’s Alex Funches. Rosen was slammed to the ground and his head clearly hit the turf hard. He played the final two snaps of the half. He did not play in the second half, and was on the sidelines in street clothes by midway through the third quarter. Rosen is going through the concussion protocol, but it is unclear at this point if he has a concussion. After the game, interim head coach Jedd Fisch said he pulled Rosen for “precautionary reasons.”

Running back Bolu Olurunfunmi missed all but one play of the second half after a recurrence of the lower leg injury that took him out for major minutes of the USC game the previous week. Running back Soso Jambo missed most of the second half. He was on the sidelines in street clothes with his shoulder in an ice wrap, after being on the receiving end of a targeting hit late in the second quarter.

Enough Healthy Bodies

Fortunately, the Bruins had a healthy Devon Modster, Brandon Stevens and Jordan Lasley in the second half.

After a relatively lackluster first half, UCLA had a 17-9 lead. Cal only managed the three field goals, (and one miss). Rosen had a 14-yard touchdown pass to Theo Howard at the end of the first quarter. He also had a 17-yard scoring pass to Lasley with five minutes left in the half. There were other scoring opportunities but even with Fisch running the show, the offense seemed to lack a consistent rhythm.

UCLA Kicks Itself Into Bowl Season
November 24, 2017. UCLA reserve quarterback led the Bruins victory over Cal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. (photo courtesy Getty Images).

Seeing Modster start the second half was a mild surprise. No one knew the extent of Rosen’s injury. And, it was only two weeks ago that Modster was injured with a dislocated thumb on this throwing hand. He wasn’t lighting up the field, but did go 14 of 18 for 191 yards and kept the Bruins moving at least between the 20’s and kept the defense off the field. UCLA had been getting beat in time of possession in the first half and a repeat of a tired defense that cost the Bruins against USC was a reasonable possibility.

Modster did engineer a drive that included a 37-yard pass to Lasley, and 22 yards worth of completions to Eldridge Massington. It was capped off by a 1-yard Stephens touchdown run to put UCLA up 24-17. The Bruins would get a 26-yard field goal by Molson to go up 27-17. Cal responded with a 20-yard field goal halfway through the fourth quarter. A Ross Bowers to Jordan Veasey six-yard touchdown pass tied the game at 27 with only 2:22 to go in the game.

Modster drove the Bruins 55 yards in 10 plays and burned all but four seconds off the game clock. Molson kicked his third field goal of the night with relative ease. The Bruins celebrated a 6-6 finish to the regular season. For good measure, they also celebrated Jedd Fisch being 1-0 as head coach, and what many players saw as a fitting tribute to fired coach Jim Mora on Senior Night.

Lasley On A Tear

Lasley, for his part, had 12 catches for 227 yards and one touchdown. He now has 593 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the last three games since returning from a three-game internal suspension. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

What is left now is to enjoy the victory and wait. Heal the injuries and wait another week to find out what bowl they will play in. UCLA has confirmed that even with the hiring of Chip Kelly, Jedd Fisch and the current staff will be invited to stay on board through the bowl game in late December. Fisch was clearly happy with the outcome, no matter how they got there. “It was so much fun to see those guys playing so hard to get to a bowl,” Fisch said. “Getting to six wins is huge. Ask all those teams that got five, four and three wins.”

 

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