UCLA is 8-8 in bowl games the last 25 years, with eight seasons ending without a bowl game. Tuesday's game against Temple in the EagleBank Bowl will either put them above .500 or below it for the past 25 seasons.
For the Bruins, the 80's were the pinnacle of bowl games, with seven straight wins in the decade, including three Rose Bowl wins. But they haven't won a January game in Pasadena since the 1986 Rose Bowl against Iowa, and only have two wins in January bowls at all, the 1989 and 1998 Cotton Bowls.
Included in the past 25 years are some of the worst bowl losses and performances in UCLA history (the Silicon Valley Football "Classic", the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, the 1995 Aloha Bowl...you get the point) but there are a few highlights, believe it or not (we just had to stretch it to 25 years to find them).
Today, BRO looks at the 6th-10th best UCLA bowl moments in the last 25 years, as well as the 6th-10th worst bowl moments in that same span. Some will include whole games, others will include a particular play.
On Monday, we'll unveil the top five bowl moments, and the five lowlights from the 25 year lookback.
Top Bowl Moments: #6-#10
#10- The 1987 Aloha Bowl. The Aloha Bowl was a disappointing destination for the Bruins, though Hawaii rarely is for anyone. Still, the Bruins had their eyes on the Rose Bowl and were coasting through a 7-0 Pac-10 season when they lost to USC in the season finale. So the Bruins were sent to Honolulu to take on a Florida team that boasted quarterback Kerwin Bell and freshman running back Emmitt Smith, who'd carve out a decent future in the game. UCLA was minus Gaston Green, the star of the previous year's bowl win in the Freedom Bowl, and seemed to be suffering some bowl game hangover, trailing 10-3 before a Brian Brown touchdown before the half tied it up. Troy Aikman then hit Danny Thompson for a touchdown pass in the third quarter to make it 17-10 and an Alfredo Velasco field goal made it 20-10. Florida would cut it to 20-16 before missing a PAT, which would be costly. The Gators drove from their own 13 to the UCLA 20 in the final seconds, but a Bell pass into the end zone was incomplete with no time left and UCLA escaped.
#9- Coach K's Perfect Record. The Las Vegas Bowl could also be known as the "Interim Coach Bowl" as UCLA has been their twice with an interim coach, most recently in 2007 when DeWayne Walker stepped in for the recently fired Karl Dorrell and in 2002 when "Coach K", Ed Kezerian, manned the fort for the disposed Bob Toledo. While Walker and Co., lost a heartbreaker, Coach K, with two freshmen quarterbacks, won one of only two bowl games for the Bruins this decade. UCLA took an early 3-0 lead, but New Mexico took the lead when Drew Olson's pass was returned for a TD. The most notable fact of the game was New Mexico's Katie Hnida attempted the extra point, the first woman to play in a I-A game, though she missed. Nate Fiske tied it at 6-6 with his second field goal before the Bruins ran away with it in the second half. Craig Bragg, on his way to MVP honors, returned a punt 74-yards in the early part of the third quarter and then Jarrad Page picked off a pass of his own, returning it 29 yards for a score. Tyler Ebell would tack on to the lead with a 1-yard run and despite a late score by the Lobos, UCLA won 27-13, giving Coach K a perfect 1-0 record as UCLA's head coach and the lone unbeaten coach in Bruin history.
#8- Chris Markey & Kahlil Bell Fill In. The 2005 Sun Bowl would be the final game for Maurice Jones-Drew in a UCLA uniform, but a shoulder injury kept him from carrying the offensive load. In stepped sophomore running back Chris Markey and freshman running back Kahlil Bell, who helped the Bruins rally from an early 22-0 lead, with both going over the century mark. Markey ran for 166 yards on 24 carries while Bell ran for 139 on 19 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Markey and Bell were named the Co-Most Valuable Players, the first time in the Sun Bowl's history that Co-MVPs were named.
#7- The Defense Rises. Like a year before when they were sent to the Aloha Bowl, UCLA didn't particularly want to be in Dallas for the 1989 Cotton Bowl. They were ranked #1 during the season before a loss to Washington State and then a loss to USC in the finale knocked them out of the Rose Bowl, again. So the Bruins made the trip to the Cotton Bowl, in what would be the first of many appearances for Troy Aikman in Big D. The Cowboys knew they had the #1-pick in the draft, so much of the attention that week was paid to Aikman, the sure-fire #1-pick. UCLA took on Southwest Conference champions Arkansas, and despite the big name on offense, it was the Bruins defense that left its mark, holding the Razorbacks to three points, 42 yards in total offense and only four first downs. Aikman, though, would be named the Offensive MVP of the game.
#6- Freddie Burns Fletcher. UCLA hasn't had many players like Freddie Mitchell in its history. Few guys have had the swagger, the moxie, and the willingness to say whatever is on their minds, like Mitchell. Still burning because he didn't win the Biletnikoff Award, Mitchell took to the papers and told anyone who'd listen, that he'd take it out on Jamar Fletcher in the 2000 Sun Bowl. And he did. While Fletcher got the win over the Bruins, again (he was a real thorn in the side of Bob Toledo- as his pick in the 1999 Rose Bowl would attest), it was Mitchell's owning of him that left the Bruins with some small semblance of happiness. Fletcher got under the Bruins' skin from the get go, scuffling with Bryan Fletcher, Ricky Manning and even Fikse (yes, the kicker), before the game. Freddie got his big break when he burnt Fletcher on a 64-yard touchdown reception from Cory Paus, the first touchdown Fletcher had given up in man in his career. And Freddie let him know about it for, oh, about 50 yards, turning around and taunting him the majority of the run, waving at Fletcher as he took it into the end zone. Later in the game, Freddie would wallop Fletcher on the side of the head, continuing his mind tricks on Fletcher, who despite the win, left the game defeated in his personal matchup (though he did get a pick in front of, who else, Brian Poli-Dixon). Freddie would set Sun Bowl records in receiving yards (180) and tie it with nine receptions and earn MVP honors. While Freddie has had his issues in the NFL and since he professional career ended, he was one of the few Bruins who made you stop everything every time he touched the ball. Or spoke into a microphone.
The Lowlights: #6-#10
#10- The First Quarter of the 2005 Sun Bowl. Drew Olson was the picture of precision for most of the 2005 season. He had only thrown three picks in 11 regular season games. But Olson threw three of them in a 2:06 span in the first quarter, which allowed Northwestern to jump out to a 22-0 lead in the opening frame. Olson had two of them returned for a touchdown, one from 30 yards out and one from 35 yards and his other interception led to a Wildcats score. While Olson would settle down and throw three touchdown passes, this game was a real head-scratcher for him after a stellar senior year.
#9- The 1991 Sun Bowl. Yes, the Bruins won to increase their bowl winning streak to eight straight wins in a bowl, but this might have been the most boring bowl game in Bruin history. The defenses surely came to play. Which is good because the offenses certainly didn't. The final game for Tommy Maddox was a dud but Louis Perez was the "star" for the Bruins, kicking a pair of field goals, which were the deciding factors. Arnold Ale made it two games in a row that he was the defensive hero after his game-clinching sack against USC to end the year, with an interception against Illinois and the Bowl MVP honors in helping the Bruins to the 6-3 win.
#8- The 1995 Aloha Bowl. Terry Donahue probably didn't expect his final game on the UCLA sidelines to end up like this, but it did, a 51-30 shellacking at the hands of Kansas. UCLA pretty much treated their stunning 24-20 win over Rose Bowl bound USC as their bowl game, and with the news of Donahue's retirement in their mind, they treated the visit to Honolulu as a vacation, not as a business trip. It showed in the outcome. One of the few who actually gutted it out this game was running back Karim Abdul-Jabar, who also was in his final game, and freshman quarterback Cade McNown, who despite a bad stat line, still was competing in the fourth quarter. Abdul-Jabar ran for over 150 yards, scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion and McNown threw three touchdown passes, including two to fellow freshman Brad Melsby, but an early 23-0 deficit, that turned into 37-7, was far too great to overcome.
#7- The 2006 Emerald Bowl. Again, UCLA was suffering from a post-USC win hangover, the Bruins still floating after their 13-9 win over the Trojans knocked USC out of the BCS National Championship Game. Still, UCLA came out looking pretty good in the first half of the game, with Pat Cowan hitting Brandon Breazell for a 78-yard score and then finding Junior Taylor in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score and a 17-0 lead. The Bruins could have really made a statement with another touchdown in the second quarter, from the two. However, Karl Dorrell called for a field goal, for a 20-10 lead, and then Florida State made a field goal just before the half for a 20-13 halftime score. Florida State would then score on a field goal and a blocked punt returned for a score, coming off what should have been a first down for the Bruins, but instead, was nullified by a penalty that forced a punt. UCLA would score again on a Chane Moline run, to make it 27-23, but Florida State would score the next 21 points. Greg Carr scored on fourth down to take the lead, Lorenzo Booker followed with a three-yard run and then a Cowan pass was returned 86 yards and the final 44-27 score.
#6- The Fake Field Goal. Ever the risk-taker, it was a poor decision by Bob Toledo that allowed Wisconsin to rally to win the 2000 Sun Bowl. Holding on to a 20-14 lead, Toledo called for a field goal by Chris Griffith, a make giving the Bruins a 23-14 lead, and more importantly, a two-score lead. What it was, though, was a fake field goal, and Griffith was stopped well-short of the first down. Wisconsin ended up driving 70 yards and Michael Bennett scored to take a 21-20 lead, and Scott McEwan's pass for Poli-Dixon was intercepted by Fletcher, and Wisconsin beat the Bruins for the second time in three years in a bowl game, and the third time since 1993.