Alabama was ranked 25th in the nation, despite last year's 3-8 record, while UCLA, which destroyed the Tide, 35-24, in Pasadena to start last season, was ranked 15th in the nation in pre-season polls.
Next Saturday Alabama, which now has a six-game losing streak dating back to last year, goes to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores, who were upset in their season-opener Thursday night by Middle Tennessee State. Kickoff for that game will be at 11:30 a.m. CDT with regional television coverage by Jefferson-Pilot.
Franchione said he knew that Alabama's team started down in its loss to UCLA last year, but said there was no reason for that to happen this year because "there were too many positives."
Alabama took a 10-0 lead against UCLA, then fell behind by 10 points at 20-10 before Andrew Zow, entering the game late when Tyler Watts was sidelined with leg cramps, hit Freddie Milons on a 71-yard touchdown pass to pull the Tide to within three points. However, Alabama's kickoff team was unable to gather in an on-sides kick that was bobbled by UCLA and the Bruins were able to run off all but 21 seconds and leave Bama 90 yards from the goal.
In addition to missing out on the on-sides kick, Alabama's punt coverage team was unsuccessful in gathering in any of the three fumbles UCLA had on punt returns.
Two series in the shadow of the goalline in the fourth quarter damaged any chances for Alabama victory. The first was early in the final period with the Tide trailing 20-10 and facing fourth and one at the UCLA two-yard line. Bama went for it, but came up short. A little later the Tide punted the visiting Bruins down at the one-yard line, but Bama was unable to hold and UCLA ran off much of the clock and gave Bama poor field position with just over three minutes remaining.
Watts gave Alabama an early 7-0 lead when he beat a UCLA blitz and found Antonio Carter all alone in the Bruins' secondary. Watts quarterbacked almost the entire way, going out with an injury in the final moments, but returning to the game for the final series. Franchione had elected to keep his starting quarterback secret as to whether it would be Watts or senior Zow.
Bama made it 10-0 early in the second quarter when Neal Thomas connected on his only field goal try of the night, hitting a 40-yard effort.
UCLA got a touchdown before halftime and then scored a touchdown and a pair of field goals in the third quarter to take the lead for good. Both UCLA field goals came after Alabama turnovers, a botched reverse that resulted in a lost fumble and a tipped pass that was intercepted by the Bruins.
One area likely to get plenty of attention in upcoming practices is penalties. Alabama shot itself in the foot on numerous occasions with untimely infractions. The Tide was penalized 15 times for 93 yards. UCLA did not suffer a penalty.
Alabama had the better of things statistically. Bama had 17 first downs to 13 for UCLA. Alabama ran 46 times for 159 yards, UCLA 38 times for 168 yards. Bama completed 15 of 25 passes for 299 yards, while UCLA hit only 8 of 22 pass attempts for 123 yards. The Tide had 458 yards of offense, Bama controlled the ball for 33:31, the Bruins for 26:29. UCLA 291. However, Bama's penalties and two turnovers (UCLA had none) offset much of the good offensively.
Tailback Ahmaad Galloway led the Tide rushing attack with 21 carries for 76 yards, but Watts, operating an option offense much of the night, had 18 rushes for 69 yards. Watts completed 12 of 22 passes with one interception and one touchdown for 204 yards, while Zow was good on all three of his throws for 95 yards. Carter had six receptions for 104 yards and Milons four for 124 yards. Lane Bearden averaged 39.1 yards on seven punts. Milons had three kickoff returns for 107 yards and four punt returns for 11 yards.