Decade's Best Football Moments

With the decade now over, BRO gets nostalgic and takes a look at the top moments in Bruin football from a topsy-turvy decade in Westwood...

As Bruin fans look past on the past decade, they see one of the most mediocre time frames of Bruin football.  No conference titles, no New Years Day bowls, no Top 10 finishes, three different coaches, a 1-9 record against USC and a 67-57 record (including 3-5 in bowls).

Still, there were some memorable moments from 2000-2009, we just had to dig deep, much like on the all-decade team.  And with a new decade upon us, Bruin fans can hope the next ten years are more of a return to the success pre-millennium.  And unlike the Bowl Moments, we wont even include the lowlights of the decade.

Top Moments of the Decade

#11- Junior Hushes the Autzen Stadium Crowd.  The 2004 season was a year of many "just misses", the fourth quarter meltdown against Arizona State, the second half meltdown against Cal, Olson's pick in the final minute against USC and the Las Vegas Bowl debacle.  But in Eugene, with bowl eligibility on the line, UCLA came up with the play they needed to secure a bowl berth and quiet one of the loudest stadiums in the country.  The Bruins had a 24-10 lead in the third, but Oregon cut it to 24-20, and the Autzen crowd was rockin' and rollin' when the Ducks had the Bruins pinned on their own 17 on a 3rd-and-9 and momentum on Oregon's side.  The Bruin fans on the opposite side of the stadium (which this writer was planted in), couldn't hear the person next to them, the Oregon crowd reaching a feverish pitch.  But Drew Olson hit Junior Taylor with a slant on 3rd down that Taylor, showing the speed he'd be robbed of with his knee injury, taking it 83-yards to the house, and you could hear a feather drop in Autzen.  Oregon could cut it to five, but UCLA would score again and hold on defense for the win, but it was Junior Taylor's mad dash to the end zone that turned the game around and gave UCLA's its only win in Eugene during the decade, a 34-26 decision.

#10- Goal Line Stand.  UCLA's defense had been the favorite target for Jonathan Crompton in Neyland Stadium in the second game of the 2009 season.  But the defense, so strong for the game, started to give up yards down the stretch and the Vols were driving for the go-ahead score, down 19-13.  Tennessee had a 1st-and-Goal at the Bruins seven.  Brian Price had a tackle for loss, then Tennessee picked up five yards for a 3rd and goal from the three.  Bryce Brown rushed for a yard, setting up the 4th-and-goal from the two.  Monterrio Hardesty took the handoff, but a huge Bruin push, with Jess Ward, David Carter, Kyle Bosworth and Reggie Carter all in the fray on, stopped Hardesty cold and Tennessee turned it over on downs.  UCLA would end up taking a safety but would then force a turnover on downs to seal the win, 19-15, in Knoxville, the Bruins most significant road win since 2001 in Tuscaloosa.

#9- Corvallis Domination.  After the embarrassing loss to the Beavers in Corvallis in 1999 and then the falling-apart at home to Oregon State in the Rose Bowl the next year (an Oregon State team that would finish 11-1 and win the Fiesta Bowl), UCLA took to Corvallis to exact some revenge in 2001.  The Beavers were picked by many as the top team in the country, but had suffered an early-season loss to Fresno State.  Still, many folks wanted to see if UCLA could stop Ken Simonton and Jonathan Smith, which they'd been unable to do in the past.  Consider it done.  The Bruins bruised, battered and beat the Beavers in Reser Stadium, the lone Oregon State score coming in garbage time by freshman Steven Jackson.  Simonton rushed for 26 yards, Smith passed for only 104 yards and no play signaled the Bruins shellacking more than Jason Stephens absolute crush of George Gillett in the third quarter, forcing a fumble.  Cory Paus hit Brian Poli-Dixon the next play for a 31-0 lead en route to a 38-7 win.

#8- ATV's Pick-Six.   UCLA's 2007 season may have been the most disappointing season of the entire decade, considering the expectations for the team, and some of the abysmal losses they endured that season.  The Bruins welcomed Cal, who was ranked in the top 10, and had it not been for a last-second meltdown by Kevin Riley the week before, they would have come in ranked #1 in the nation. UCLA had two weeks to lick its wounds from the low point of the season (yes, lower than the Utah debacle), a loss to Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl.  Cal, meanwhile, had a lot of offensive firepower- Justin Forsett, freshman Jahvid Best and all-everything player DeSean Jackson, who'd been a thorn in UCLA's side his entire career at Berkeley.  Jackson had nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns already in the game, and after UCLA had taken the lead, 23-21 on a Kai Forbath field goal with 3:08 left, it wasn't a question about who Nate Longshore was going to try and find to get Cal into field goal range.  The Bears had gotten inside UCLA's 35 with just over 1:30 left in the game, when Longshore looked to Jackson.  But Alterraun Verner read the play, heck, he said afterwards he EXPECTED the play, and stepped in front of the Longshore pass and took it 76 yards the other way, to seal the win and give the Rose Bowl a reason to rock.

#7- Michigan Hot.  For those brave souls who stayed for the entire 2000 UCLA-Michigan game, you are very familiar with the phrase "Michigan Hot."  In fact, many use it in normal conversation amongst each other (well, it was hot, but it wasn't Michigan hot).  Quite possibly the most miserable game, weather-wise, ever endured at the Rose Bowl, was also a pretty entertaining game.  Ryan McCann was still quarterbacking UCLA with Cory Paus still out from an injury suffered against Alabama.  The #3-ranked Wolverines and Bruins exchanged blows for much of the game, but Michigan held a 20-10 lead in the 3rd quarter before McCann hit Brian Poli-Dixon to cut it to 20-17.  UCLA was driving for the potential go-ahead score when Ed Ieremia-Stansbury fumbled it.  He would redeem himself later, though, scoring on a two-yard pass from McCann to take a 23-20 lead. Michigan's final chance to win was snuffed out when Jason Stephens picked off John Navarre inside the ten yard line with just over a minute left.  UCLA fans celebrated the big win.   The concession stands celebrated the bigger win, after selling out of all liquids in the second half.  Everyone else celebrated air conditioning in their cars. 

#6- DeShaun Welcomes the Tide.  Next week, thousands upon thousands of Alabama fans will come back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000.  Forgive them if they're still cringing from what happened to them in their last visit to Pasadena.  The opener of the 2000 season saw the #3-ranked Crimson Tide visiting the Rose Bowl to take on a UCLA team trying to get the bitter taste of a nightmare 1999 season out of their mouth.  It looked like Alabama's trip to the Rose Bowl would be worth remembering, again, when Cory Paus was sidelined on the opening snap then Freddie Milons took the ensuing punt return back for a score.  But UCLA had a Freddie of their own, Freddie Mitchell, who would be a big factor, throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Brian Poli-Dixon (shades of the 1998 Texas game that announced his arrival) and catching a 46-yard touchdown pass from Ryan McCann.  But even he would take a backseat to the dominant performance of DeShaun Foster, who ran for 187 yards on 42 carries, the most memorable run on a touchdown where he steamrolled Alabama's touted linebacker, Saleem Rasheed, as the Bruins trounced the Tide, 35-24, and sent 25,000 Crimson-wearing fans back to Alabama.  To their credit, the Alabama fans were extremely gracious the next year when UCLA visited Tuscaloosa.

#5- The Comeback at The Farm.  UCLA's 2005 season saw the Bruins living on the edge all year long, rallying against Cal, Washington and Washington State in the fourth quarter to win. At 7-0, it seemed their dream season would come to a halt at the hands of Stanford.  UCLA couldn't get anything going all day against the Cardinal, and trailed 24-3 with just over eight minutes left in the game.  Then Drew Olson got to work, driving the Bruins down in just over a minute, Maurice Jones-Drew scoring from six yards out to make it 24-10.  After forcing a punt, Olson went back to work and he hit Joe Cowan for a 31-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 24-17 with 4:43 left.  Still, Stanford had to just kill some clock and would escape with the win. But the much-maligned Bruin defense held strong and forced another Stanford punt and Olson again moved the Bruins down the field.  Jones-Drew scored again and Justin Medlock's PAT tied it at 24 with 46 seconds left.  Then Justin Hickman took over, sacking Trent Edwards to end regulation then sacking Edwards again in overtime to force Stanford to kick a field goal, which they would make for a 27-24 lead.  On UCLA's possession, Jones-Drew ran for two yards, but made his biggest play of the game on second down, picking up a blitz just long enough to allow Olson to chuck down field to Brandon Breazell, who grabbed the 23-yarder to end the game and set off a wild celebration across the field.

#4- Maurice Masters Montlake.  It was all Maurice Drew, all day against the Huskies.  Yet, if it weren't for Drew's performance, it would have been all about the early 24-7 deficit and the stop at the goalline on the final play that allowed the Bruins to escape with a 37-31 win over Washington in 2004.  But Drew made it all about him, rushing for a school record 322 yards and five touchdowns, several of them long runs where he was simply untouched. Drew ran for scores of 47 yards, 62 yards, 58 yards, 15 yards and 37 yards in one of the most remarkable performances by a Bruin ever.

#3- DeShaun Destroys the Huskies.  Standing at 4-0 after a bye week and their win over Oregon State, the Bruins returned to the Rose Bowl for their first conference home game and hosted the defending Pac-10 champions, Washington, and their head coach, Rick Neuheisel.  This matchup featured a pair of Top 10 teams, but it was the Bruins who looked the most worthy, simply dominating the Huskies.  And the star of the day was DeShaun Foster, who at that point, was one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy, the game against the Huskies the one catapulting him into the mix.  Foster ran for 301 yards, none more impressive than his scintillating 92-yard run in the fourth quarter, where he pulled a Bo Jackson and kept running into the tunnel, though he'd quickly come back out.  It was one of his four touchdowns on the day. 

#2- MoJo Beats the Bears.  Maurice Jones-Drew played with a heavy heart during the 2005 season, with his grandfather, Maurice Jones, passing away during the Rice game. That entire season, and especially from that point forward, MoJo played with a purpose, like a man possessed, and etched his name among the greats to ever wear a Bruin uniform.  As good as his game was against Washington the year before, his performance against Cal was the most memorable of them all.  Three times, UCLA would trail by double-digits, in the first quarter, second quarter and in the fourth-quarter, but MoJo wouldn't let the Bruins lose.   He scored two first-half touchdowns, including one with 21 seconds left in the half to make it only a 27-21 deficit at the break.  Then came the second half.  MoJo had an 81-yard punt return to give the Bruins a short-lived 28-27 lead.  But Cal would score 13 straight to make it 40-28.  After Drew Olson scored on a 1-yard run to make it 40-35, Cal, who had been running the ball at will behind Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, inexplicably tried to throw and UCLA was able to force a punt.  Olson would hit Marcus Everett on a huge 38-yard pass to keep the Bruins breathing and UCLA would get down to the Cal 28.  Olson would throw a little swing pass to MoJo, who did the rest, outrunning the Cal defense and jumping over the pylon to give the Bruins a 41-40 lead on his fourth touchdown of the day.  UCLA would fail on the 2-point conversion, and Cal had a chance to drive, but Joe Ayoob was picked off by Trey Brown, who took it back to the seven.  After a couple of Chris Markey runs, MoJo would carry in a 2-yard score on 4th-and-goal with no time left for his fifth touchdown of the game, and his second five-touchdown performance of his career. 

#1- The McPick.  Like there was any debate about the best moment of the decade.  Everyone knows the details of 13-9, where they were, where they claim they were, how they never doubted it would happen, etc.  But after the last minute drive in South Bend earlier in the year, every single Bruin fan in the world, everyone who suffers from Battered Bruin Syndrome (BBS), was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  So used to the worst always happening to the Bruins, when Pat Cowan was crushed by Rey Maulauga with just over six minutes left, Bruin fans feared the worst.  Then came the stomping showdown at midfield, the offsetting penalties, and BBS was really kicking in.  Even when Bruce Davis sacked John David Booty on first down, Bruin fans still expected something bad to happen.  And it almost did.  Booty converted on a fourth down and two third downs, and suddenly USC had the ball at the Bruin 24.  Booty found Chris McFoy for six yards to make it 2nd-and-4 at the 18.  Booty went for the end zone and just missed connecting on a touchdown.  Then came 3rd-and-4 and the biggest play of the decade, in fact, one of the biggest plays in UCLA history.  Eric McNeal came to UCLA as one of the top six safeties in the country- a player who's size and skill was supposed to make him another in a long line of outstanding Bruin safeties.  But for the majority of the five years he played for the Bruins, he could never find his place.  From now until eternity, McNeal has a place permanently set in Bruin lore.  Back to the action, Booty took a quick drop and tried to find Steve Smith, but McNeal deflected the pass, and spun around to pick it off.  Within minutes of the game ending, the play was coined The McPick.  Of course, it wasn't entirely over.  Much like in South Bend, UCLA couldn't get a first down and had to punt.  Fortunately this time, there was only four seconds on the clock.  And even more importantly, Aaron Perez had the punt of his life, a 63-yard boomer that was downed at the 12.  Booty's hail mary was knocked away (but dont think that the onset of BBS didn't make most Bruin fans think that SC would somehow find a way to complete the hail mary).  And just like that, Eric McNeal became a Bruin legend.

 


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