It was Senior Day at the Rose Bowl, the final home game for several Bruins, including Trey Brown and Bruce Davis, who marked their final game in Pasadena as being captains along with their fathers, both Bruin legends, Theotis Brown and Bruce Davis Sr.
"That was just awesome to have my dad next to me, walking out there," said Davis.
Awesome would be a good word to describe both teams defenses. Not a good word for the offenses.
UCLA and Oregon games at the Rose Bowl used to mean offense, and plenty of it.
There was Oregon's goal-line stop of Karim Abdul-Jabar to hold on for a 38-31 win in 1995. The unforgettable 41-38 win for the Bruins in 1998, the first time ESPN GameDay did a game out West, when UCLA used a Chris Sailer field goal in overtime to beat the Ducks. A year later, UCLA made their own defensive stand, stopping Keenan Howry at the 2-yard line to escape with a 34-29 win. In 2001 and 2002, Chris Griffith missed field goals both years to let the Ducks win by a point each time.
Yesterday's game, the offenses took a day off.
With their Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon on the sideline, out for the season with a torn ACL, the Ducks offense was led by Brady Leaf, coming off a miserable performance against Arizona. UCLA, meanwhile, with starter Pat Cowan out because of effects from a lung injury and concussion, went with Osaar Rasshan for the second straight game as a starter. Neither Leaf or Rasshan would finish what they started, Leaf going out in the first quarter with an injury, Rasshan being benched in favor of Ben Olson to start the second half, after going 0-for-7 in the first half.
The first series on each side should have told the story: Oregon went 3-and-out, gaining four yards, UCLA went 3-and-out and gained only one. Six plays, five yards. Then the "fireworks" started. Oregon drove 12 yards on six plays, but the sixth play, Leaf was swarmed by the Bruin defense, fumbled and defensive tackle-turned fullback-turned defensive lineman Kenneth Lombard pounced on it at the Oregon 32. With the Bruins in prime position to score, Rasshan was sacked twice, sending in Kai Forbath to attempt a 54-yard field goal, which he nailed.
Forbath's 54-yard kick was the third longest field goal in UCLA history, and the longest by a Bruin at the Rose Bowl ever.
Then came two more three-and-outs, one by each team. Oregon would later mount their best drive of the day, a 41-yard march, but was forced to punt. Meanwhile, the struggling Rasshan couldn't move the Bruins offense either.
When the second half started, UCLA got it going in style. As soon as the ball was kicked, special teams "hall of famer" Matt Slater fell to the ground as Chris Markey fielded the kick in the end zone and brought it out. Markey then threw a beautiful pass to Slater, who took it the distance for what looked like, to a few of the cover men anyway, not the 70,000+ in attendance, like he had scored. Except Markey's pass, was, oh, 6-7 yards in front of Slater. Not bad if Markey was playing quarterback, bad when it's off a kickoff. At that point, it may have been the best throw seen by either team all day.
Olson started the second half at quarterback and hit Ryan Graves for a couple of passes and Craig Sheppard had two nice runs. UCLA was faced with a fourth-and-one and with no hesitation, they went for it. Travis Martin, though, couldn't get a handle on the Olson pass. So on one series, you had Graves, Sheppard and Martin all involved in plays. If anyone anticipated the Bruins being in a tight game in November, and those three players being involved on a crucial series, raise your hand and accept your award.
The teams traded punts the next four series before Dennis Keyes came up with a pick at the Oregon 17. That led to Forbath's third field goal of the day. Two more punts by the offenses put Oregon in position to drive, and all they did was have another pass intercepted, this one by Trey Brown. Two plays later, Olson gave it back with an interception of his own in the end zone.
After yet another punt by Oregon, the Bruins had their best drive of the day, a four play, 31-yard drive that ended with Sheppard's 20-yard touchdown run for the 16-0 lead.
The Bruins offense struggled all day as did Oregon's. Several of the Bruins in the locker room said that they knew what Oregon felt like with injuries decimating the offense, but weren't about to be sympathetic.
Defensively, the Bruins were as sharp as they have been all year. They gave up only 148 yards in offense, 105 through the air on 11-of-39 passing and picked off three passes. The Ducks gained 119 yards but lost 76 yards. UCLA held Jonathan Stewart gained only 33 yards. The Bruins had 17 tackles for loss and five sacks.
In his final regular season game at the Rose Bowl, Christian Taylor had 13 tackles, four for loss and a sack, Reggie Carter had six tackles, three for loss and a sack, and Bret Lockett and Tom Blake each had six tackles. Kevin Brown and Brian Price both had two tackles for loss, Price recording a sack.
The final home game had 72,434 in attendance, marking every home game with 70,000 or more. UCLA averaged 76,379 fans in six home games this season, breaking the school record of 73,709 set in 1998.
With the win, the Bruins get to the 6-win mark and make themselves bowl eligible. A win over USC next week, and an Arizona win over Arizona State would put them in the Rose Bowl. A win over USC and a loss by Arizona, could send them to the Holiday Bowl, as they'd finish in second place and have the tiebreaker over USC, though the Holiday Bowl could choose who they want. A loss next week, and the Bruins would need an Arizona State win to ensure getting one of the six bowl berths the Pac-10 has alotted. There is a slim chance the Pac-10 could get two teams in the BCS, USC and Arizona State, but if ASU made the BCS, that would mean a win over Arizona and ensure the Bruins would do no worse than the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.
The Sun Bowl will probably select Oregon, should UCLA lose next week, and the Emerald Bowl would likely take nearby Cal. Oregon State would most likely go to Las Vegas, to play BYU, since the Cougars and Bruins already played this year and play again next year and it would be the Bruins third trip to Las Vegas in six years. So bottom line, the Bruins could be anywhere from Pasadena to Fort Worth to staying home in Westwood.