Bruins Show Respectability

UCLA showed heart in losing to Oregon, one of the best teams in the country, and even though it was a strange game it put a good foot forward for the Bruins...

UCLA losing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game to Oregon, 49-31, went just about as you might have expected.

Oregon ran for an amazing 352 yards.

UCLA was able to move the ball decently, gaining 160 yards on the ground itself.

The Ducks' offense zipped down the field, with many of their possessions taking less than 2 minutes.

Kevin Prince, even though he exhibited some of his weaknesses, was a warrior.

Derrick Coleman, in his second-to-last game as a Bruin, was a complete stud.

In Rick Neuheisel's last game as UCLA's coach, he had his team playing with intensity, and it was quite poignant as he left the field for the last time.

But even though it was predictable in many ways, it was also a strange game.

UCLA's defense gave up a whopping 571 yards, but your impression coming away from it was that they didn't play that badly. Perhaps it's another symptom of Batter Bruin Syndrome, one in which you tend to overlook really bad moments and only see the good ones, but it seemed like UCLA's defense had more positive defensive plays than negative ones. It's just that those negative ones were whoppers.

Just about any Oregon game feels strange. Its sped-up, hyper-offensive style creates a strange rhythm to the game. Heck, the TV telecast is trying to get in all the between-plays info but can't. All the turnovers contributed to the quick-change feel, too. Throw in all the energy from it being the Pac-12 Championship Game and the whole endeavor came off a bit like everyone – the players, coaches, fans and TV announcers – had all collectively popped some Benzedrine. Oregon's style dictates a different feeling to the game – almost like it's a sci-fi movie and it's portraying a vision of college football in the future (especially with the unis) -- and there have been very few teams that are good and talented enough to not be dictated by it. LSU actually, was a team that dictated its own rhythm against Oregon, but LSU is the best team in the country.

It's always strange when a coach coaches his last game. But it also happened on a day when reports were filtering out that the negotiations with Boise State's Chris Petersen had gone south. Bruin fans had a bit of a feeling of rejection from Petersen – and it was the second time he had rejected Bruinland. So, on one hand you have a guy, Petersen, who has made it pretty clear he doesn't want to be in Westwood. On the other hand, you were watching another guy, Neuheisel, who desperately wants to be there, that it's the place he should be and that his entire life he wanted to be. So, you had a predictable game but a strange one, which made for a very unusual experience – for just about everyone involved, especially Bruin fans.

It was, at the least, not an embarrassment. The points UCLA scored tied for the third-most points anyone had hung on Oregon this season (behind USC and LSU, and tied with Arizona, which is pretty good offensive company). It showed a national audience that there is clearly some talent at UCLA. Nelson Rosario and Derrick Coleman looked like pros against Oregon defenders (and it probably improved their NFL draft stock). On one punt, with Randall Carroll as the gunner, he out-ran the Duck that struggled to keep up with his speed and plowed returner LaMichael James. If you didn't know any better, and didn't know UCLA's personnel, you would have been completely perplexed that the Bruin was much faster than the Duck. In fact, the announcers sounded a bit perplexed by it. When Patrick Larimore caught the tipped pass for the interception and made an athletic run into the endzone the announcers, again, seemed surprised. When Prince on a keeper head-faked one would-be tackler and then blew by another they, again, had a little bit of surprise in their voices. UCLA lost by 18, much less than the 32-point Vegas line.

Maybe, again, it's another symptom of Battered Bruin Syndrome, to point out a takeaway from the game was that UCLA wasn't embarrassed. But this is where we are, Bruin fans.

But it did seem, at least from this BBS-afflicted person, that for a team that was bad enough to fire its coach, it was a good showing to a national audience. It showed that the Bruins didn't fold and competed, even when they were 32-point underdogs and, really, backed into the championship game. It showed that there is talent in the program, that it just needs some coaching (especially on the defensive side).

Most importantly, it kind of sent a message that, even though UCLA is okay, and has a decent amount of talent, "okay" and "decent" aren't good enough.

Hopefully that was also the takeaway any prospective head coaches – who want to be at UCLA – took away from it, too.

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