UCLA barely escaped Colorado on Saturday, needing a Brett Hundley keeper in double overtime to finish out the 40-37 win. It was just the latest closer-than-expected performance in a season that has seen the Bruins struggle to close out against lesser teams.
Asked what needs to change, head coach Jim Mora said: “You mean winning? Well, we’re 6-2. So I hope nothing changes. I hope we keep winning. ‘Cause winning is the objective in competitive sports and we won. We will go back and evaluate everything, but boy — I hope nothing changes in terms of the result because I like winning.”
Boulder, Colo. — This one was ugly. And this season, UCLA has been no stranger to ugly.
A year that once began with title-contention hopes has instead been mired in sloppy play and mind-numbing mistakes. The No. 25 Bruins escaped Colorado with a 40-37 in double overtime at Colorado, but it looked like their worst showing yet.
After the two teams traded field goals to start overtime, Brett Hundley ended the game with an eight-yard run into the end zone — keeping UCLA from what would have been a disastrous collapse.
Buffs quarterback Sefo Liufau had led a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives to pull Colorado to within three points, and Will Oliver tied the game on a 35-yard field with 36 seconds left. On the last drive of regulation, the Bruins committed back-to-back false start and holding penalties.
With two more ranked opponents left on the schedule, UCLA entered Folsom Field needing something – anything – that offered a glimpse of hope that this team could gel down the stretch. Against a squad that entered the weekend as arguably the Pac-12′s worst team, the Bruins never found the solution. Continue reading →
UCLA hasn’t put together a complete game since a blowout win at Arizona State last month. Today’s 11 a.m. PT kickoff at Colorado — arguably the worst team in the Pac-12 — gives the Bruins their best chance to do so again before a their schedule heats up.
A few things to watch for in today’s matchup:
UCLA offense vs. Colorado defense: Brett Hundley is going to leave UCLA as one of its best quarterbacks ever. This has been clear for so long now that little he’s done this season has raised any eyebrows.
He only needs two more touchdown passes to tie the school’s all-time record of 68, set by Cade McNown from 1995-98. He is 2,371 yards behind McNown’s all-time record for passing yards (10,708), though he’s on pace to finish about 200 yards short. He has eclipsed 300 passing yards eight times in his career, doing it three times this season; three more will tie McNown’s mark too.
“Our expectations of him are maybe a little unrealistic,” head coach Jim Mora said this week. “Those are numbers we should be celebrating.”
My story today from Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day focused on UCLA guard Norman Powell, but also touched on head coach Steve Alford’s reactions to an offseason that included a campus flood and the loss of not only three NBA draftees, but also two prospective newcomers.
Some more notes from the event:
» Whether or not big man Tony Parker can stay out of foul trouble will affect how successful UCLA will be on defense this season. Alford said he hopes to play the junior around 25 minutes per game this season, up from the 17.2 he averaged last year.
Parker was one of the most foul-prone players in the Pac-12, committing an average of 6.77 every 40 minutes. Earlier this week, he gave himself a D- for his sophomore campaign, citing those foul troubles. He added that he’s in better shape now, and is also learning how to adjust to officials more.
» Based on what Alford has said in recent weeks — as well as the realities of the backcourt depth chart — sophomore Noah Allen appears primed for a significant uptick in playing time. The former three-star recruit only played in 11 games last season, averaging 1.0 point in 3.5 minutes per outing. Continue reading →
UCLA’s matchup with Colorado on Saturday couldn’t be better timed as far as Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre is concerned. It falls on the same weekend as San Jose State’s game at Navy, creating a confluence of the four teams with strong ties to Houston Texans second-year offensive lineman David Quessenberry.
Quessenberry, who was diagnosed with lymphoma over the summer, will be honored when all four teams wear stickers with his initials on their helmets, including Quessenberry’s two younger brothers.
UCLA starting right guard Scott Quessenberry and Navy defensive end Paul Quessenberry are just two of the people involved in the pair of games that have relationships with the 24-year-old David. MacIntyre, in his second season at Colorado, was the head coach at San Jose State when David Quessenberry arrived as a walk-on tight end before transforming into a 2013 sixth-round draft pick.
After losing four starters from last year’s Sweet 16 squad, UCLA men’s basketball was picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12.
A preseason media poll slotted the Bruins behind Arizona, Utah and Colorado — but did give them one first-place vote. All 31 other first-place votes went to the Wildcats, widely considered a national title contender.
Kevin O'Neill on the media member who voted UCLA No. 1 in Pac-12's media poll: "He was drunk that day." #ArizonaWildcats
Colorado is still searching for its second conference win under head coach Mike MacIntyre, while UCLA is still searching for its first complete performance since a blowout win at Arizona State last month. The Buffs and the Bruins don’t have the most storied history, although quarterback Sefo Liufau did try to fight linebacker Anthony Barr after taking a late hit last year. Kyle Ringo from the Boulder Daily Camera answered five questions about the Buffaloes.
1. What were the biggest challenges facing Mike MacIntyre when he first took the Colorado job? Has this season been a bit of a step back after his four-win debut?
The biggest challenge is one shared by all programs that have struggled through multiple losing seasons — it’s tough to recruit to that. He’s approaching the two-year anniversary of his hiring and still struggling to get serious interest from many top-flight recruits. The four-and five-star players want to play for a winner. Most generally don’t want to be a part of building a program into a winner. That made addressing another problem more difficult. He needed to increase the speed and athleticism of his team, which he has done, but there remains work to do there. MacIntyre also took over a program that badly needed some major facilities upgrades. Those are underway now with $181 million project in and around Folsom Field. Finally, I’d say another significant problem he faced, maybe the most significant when it comes to actually making headway, was getting players in the program to develop a culture of caring about each other and playing for each other on Saturdays. He inherited a fractured team with factions and friction.
The biggest moment of Marcus Rios’ football career happened last Saturday, when his late interception clinched UCLA’s 36-34 win at Cal. His ongoing battle back from a rare fungal infection is even more impressive. Here’s columnist Vinny Bonsignore’s story on the redshirt sophomore, who had his latest surgery less than a month ago.
“It had been a long, long time since I saw him smile on a football field,” said Rios’ father, Richard. “So to see him smile like that Saturday, it just really put into perspective everything he’s been through. It’s been an incredible ordeal.”
Rios was also featured on Wednesday night’s episode of Pac-12 Networks’ “The Drive,” teased in the video above.