Texas’ venerable team mascot Bevo, a 1,300-pound Longhorn steer, could have plodded onto the Rose Bowl grass and fertilized the field for the UCLA football team, and it would not have stunk more than the Bruins did on Saturday afternoon.
It would have been a nice steaming present for UCLA, Bevo doing the dirty work, a return for all of the gifts the Bruins gave the Longhorns.
Spotting Texas 21 first-quarter points – with three touchdowns following three Kevin Prince interceptions – UCLA fell to the No. 23-rated Longhorns, 49-20, in front of 54,583.
It wasn’t just on Prince’s right shoulder Saturday; the Bruins’ ineptitude spanned the team.
UCLA committed four total turnovers, had numerous dropped passes and could not tackle a Girl Scout troop, much less the Longhorns. Worse, when the Bruins seemed to find a spark, they imploded, committing six penalties for 50 yards, including an illegal substitution penalty on 3rd-and-1 coming out of a timeout.
Maybe even 12 men on the field wouldn’t have helped UCLA, which fell behind 28-10 at the half.
“When you’re playing efficiently and playing well, those things don’t show up as often,” head coach Rick Neuheisel said. “I’m disappointed in the line of scrimmage penalties; those are absolutely ridiculous. … We have to do the little things right. It’s a little-thing business.”
Texas was able to physically dominate the Bruins in a way similar to UCLA’s manhandling of the Longhorns in a 34-12 win in Austin last season, when Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman helped lead a rushing attack that totaled more than 260 yards.
This time around, it was Texas doing the wrangling, holding UCLA’s running back duo to 105 yards while gaining 284 yards rushing itself, 110 from freshman Malcolm Brown.
“We could do a better job of tackling in practice,” defensive tackle Cassius Marsh said. “I don’t think people know the difference between thudding up and tapping them. That’s something we should emphasize this week. We need to practice tackling in order to execute in the game.”
Prince certainly helped the Longhorn effort before giving way to junior Richard Brehaut.
The Crespi High product was intercepted by Carrington Byndom on his first pass of the game on a 2nd-and-2 coming off a punt on Texas’ first drive. Three plays later, Case McCoy found third-string tight end D.J. Grant wide open for a 45-yard touchdown.
After getting the ball back at the Texas 19-yard line following a muffed Longhorn punt return later in the first quarter, Prince was again intercepted on 3rd-and-7, the ball batted in the air and into Adrian Phillips’ hands. Eleven plays later, Texas running back Fozzy Whitaker took it in from eight yards out for a 14-0 lead.
Then, more heartache for Prince, as Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro intercepted a pass on 3rd-and-11 at the Texas 43-yard line as the first quarter expired.
“What hurts the most is those three interceptions really hurt the team,” Prince said. “You take those three interceptions out, and it could be a completely different game. That’s what bothers me the most. Not the quarterback race. It’s the effect I had on the ballgame.”
Brehaut relieved Prince after the third pick and led UCLA to four scoring drives despite little help from his receivers, the second time he has come in as relief this season. Much like the teams’ 38-34 season-opening loss to Houston, Brehaut had better success moving the ball but could not pull out a win.
“When you got guys lining up in the neutral zone and dropping passes, that’s stuff we can control,” Brehaut said. “If we’re going to be the team we can be, that’s got to be fixed. This is the third week in a row I’m saying this.”
If it sounds like a broken record, it’s because it is, as UCLA has stumbled out of the gate with three uninspired performances. Surprising, considering Neuheisel’s precarious spot on the hot seat coming off of a second 4-8 season in three years.
Heading into Pac-12 play with a road date at Oregon State next Saturday, the Bruins know it is not about everybody getting on the same page, but even reading the same book.
“Everybody wants to try and blame someone,” wide receiver Randall Carroll said. “That’s why we get the slumped shoulders. Somehow we always find something to try to spark us. Today we couldn’t stop them. The spark was gone.”
Question is, can the Bruins get it back?