Here’s the game preview that ran online and in today’s paper. Probably won’t run a live chat here today; deadline will be tight with the 7:30 start to what should be a pass-happy game. Or I could put one here as a space for you to chat with each other, but with minimal contribution from the press box.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
On the pregame hype:
“It’s just talk. Talking isn’t gonna win you a game, talking isn’t gonna score a touchdown, talking isn’t going to make any plays. We blocked all those newspaper articles out, we blocked everything their coaches said out.”
On settling for field goals at key moments:
“Every time we get in the red zone, we want to put points on the board. I wish we would’ve come out with touchdowns, but they’re points. Those field goals helped us win this game.”
On the Neyland Stadium crowd:
“When I first walked out for pregame warmups, there was hardly anybody there. That’s how I expected it the whole game to be then. I was like, ‘OK this is nothing, all that was overrated.’ But when we came out, man, it was ridiculous. I’ve never seen a stadium like this.”
Johnathan Franklin has seen this before.
“I am taking the handoff right. I am veering back left. There is a hole. I am running through the hole. There is no one near me. Nothing ahead but the end zone. I have just scored.”
The scene has replayed in his mind.
The setting never changes: Franklin always dreams of his first carry, at the Rose Bowl, his first touchdown.
“Man, it’s something I have visualized, something I have dreamed of since the first time I got here,” Franklin said. “First carry, to get into the end zone, you can’t ask for anything better.”
Franklin was quick to credit a rebuilt offensive line, which features four first-year UCLA players in the six-man rotation.
“We have linemen this year who really love the game of football, rather than linemen who just are out there to be out there,” Franklin said. “We have linemen who are hungry. We have linemen who are aggressive. I’m very pleased with the line.”
The line was very please with him as well.
The cornerstone of a good offense is a good running game, and the cornerstone of a good running game is the ability to get into the end zone, and UCLA knows that.
That’s why the linemen wanted to pound the ball in. That’s why Bruin running backs take it to the house on every practice carry. That’s why they practice their celebrations after every big practice play.
“You’re always training your muscles, conditioning them,” Franklin said. “You put in the mindset that you’re going to keep going, regardless. You never stop your feet. You visualize getting into the end zone every play. You know you’re not going to break a home run every day. But you keep running, oh yeah.”