Bruins escape Pullman, stay steady at No. 17

UCLA held off a two-win team to stay on top of the Pac-12 South, but Saturday night’s 44-36 victory (game story here) was one of the ugliest games the Bruins had played all season. The team — which held on to the No. 17 spot in the AP poll — generally stuck to the line of “We’re just enjoying this win for the next 24 hours.” Few players looked particularly overjoyed while saying it.

Some thoughts: Continue reading

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Franklin, Locke named award semifinalists

Not much surprise here considering the seasons they’ve both had, but seniors Johnathan Franklin and Jeff Locke have been listed among the nation’s top 10 at their respective positions.

Franklin is a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. The other Pac-12 representatives are Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, tying the Big Ten with three players on the list. If any member of the trio takes the trophy, it would give the conference its third winner in four years. Alabama’s Trent Richardson won last year after LaMichael James (Oregon) and Toby Gerhart (Stanford). Continue reading

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Why isn’t the career rushing record a bigger deal?

Many fans have wondered why UCLA hasn’t made a bigger deal out of Johnathan Franklin getting set to break the career rushing record. Franklin isn’t the type to draw attention to himself, but being 21 yards away Gaston Green’s 25-year-old mark is as good a cause as any for some lead-up hype before Saturday’s game against Arizona.

This week, someone from the UCLA sports information department told me it’s because of an unofficial policy that began at the start of the school year. On releases like Word from Westwood, the school doesn’t mention the names of specific student-athletes, electing to focus on teams instead. There are plans for recognition of Franklin’s milestone during the game against Arizona on Saturday, but I was told it will still be something relatively low-key.

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Extras from Johnathan Franklin feature

One anecdote I left out of my Johnathan Franklin story (posted earlier) concerns his grandfather, who died at age 62 right before Franklin began playing football. (He doesn’t know exactly what his grandpa died of, just that he was rushed to the hospital.) When Franklin started his first season of Pop Warner, his coach — by complete coincidence — tossed him a jersey with the No. 62. Franklin still has it stored away somewhere.

Also, if anyone is interested in watching his stint on the BET reality show “Baldwin Hills,” it streams free if you have an Amazon Prime account. Franklin announces himself in the first episode by announcing that he has two prospective girls, which is amusing. He’s heavily featured in season 2 (his lone season), and his grandmother gives him his grandfather’s watch in a pre-prom family gathering 11 minutes into episode 7.

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: FINAL 45-43

Big statement game by UCLA, finishing off a back-and-forth shootout with a methodical, game-winning drive capped by Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 33-yard field goal.

What was far from a perfect beginning — a coin-toss mishap that gave ASU possession to start both halves, a muffed punt return by Steven Manfro — turned into a signature moment for Brett Hundley at the end of the game. Continue reading

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Halftime update

Story of two games so far. First an odd coin toss screw-up by Jeff Locke that gave ASU the ball to start both halves; he said he wanted to kickoff rather than defer, giving the Sun Devils the option after halftime. Arizona State took advantage of a muffed punt by Steven Manfro after the UCLA defense forced a three-and-out. The Sun Devils scored two plays later on a 7-yard pass to Kevin Ozier, then gashed the Bruins on a methodical run game to go up 14-0 early.

UCLA responded with an impressive drive of its own, built mostly on the efforts of tailback Johnathan Franklin. Brett Hundley connected with Devin Fuller in the end zone for the receiver’s first catch. UCLA then took advantage with a brilliant punt, heavy pass pressure, and a bad pass by Taylor Kelly. Snatched it for a TD return to go up 21-17. Continue reading

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Three for Three with Johnathan Franklin

On the competition at running back:
“As far as the competition, as far as the tempo of practice, as far as being a family, this is no BS. We’re all in this to push each other and make each other better. We’re a lot better overall. A lot better.”

On where the running game is, despite marked improvement:
“We have a long, long, long, long way to go. We’re really young – we all still have a lot to learn about football and getting better. I have a long way to go, on my game. We’re not satisfied yet.”

On why the running game has been so important:
“It’s really important – we’re taking pressure off the quarterback, making us a better team. But man, last year is last year. Last year’s game won’t win us this game.”

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