UCLA Bruins Exciting Start To Season Come’s Crashing Down In Painful Loss To Fresno State

UCLA Bruins Lose To The Fresno State Bulldogs At The Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network
UCLA Bruins Lose To The Fresno State Bulldogs At The Rose Bowl. Photo Credit: Ryan Dyrud | LAFB Network

The UCLA Bruins were not only the talk of LA after their dominant win over LSU, they were the talk of the College Football World. Expectations for the remaining portion of the season grew exponentially large.

Could this team win the PAC 12? Could UCLA actually compete for a College Football Playoff? Well, unfortunately for them, they ran into a very good Fresno State squad at the Rose Bowl in a late-night contest at the Rose Bowl.

So what happened, and why did it happen?

When the clock read triple zeros, the scoreboard read 40-37 in favor of Fresno State. Deflating. A sigh of disgust resonated throughout the Rose Bowl. “Same old Bruins” was the term that was said repeatedly. But is it? The same old Bruins, that is.

I would argue a resounding no. Was this a loss gut-wrenching? Yes. Should UCLA, being UCLA and a PAC-12 team, beat Fresno State? Sure. Will this go down as another embarrassing loss in the Chip Kelly era? No.

Fresno State came into this game 2-1. In their two wins, they scored a combined 108 points. Their one loss? A 31-24 nail-biter at the hands of the 4th ranked Oregon Ducks. Fresno State is good. In fact, they are really good. Anyone that has been paying attention knows that their offense hums.

Jake Haener, a former 3-star recruit out of Danville, CA has been ballin this year, and he put his talent on display at the Rose Bowl finishing with 455 yards and 2 touchdowns.

UCLA was unable to get pressure on him, and there were a few factors as to why. Fresno runs a spread offensive scheme, which just like it sounds, spreads your defense out. It forces you to decide if you want to gamble and send an extra blitzer, which leaves A LOT of open space in the field, or only rush three or four and force the quarterback to be accurate. UCLA chose the latter, and Haener beat them, plain and simple.

When UCLA did send an extra blitzer, Haener got the ball out quick, utilizing his leaking backs and mid-range out routes.

UCLA just didn’t have an answer. In the third quarter, the Bruins were able to defend with some success, but then the offense struggled. It was one of those games where when one facet was working, the other wasn’t, and vice versa.

The defining moment came at the end of the game. Down 33-30, UCLA got the ball back with 2:55 remaining in the game. With extreme poise and some ice in his veins, Dorian Thomspon-Robinson drove the Bruins down the field and capped it off with a touchdown pass to Kyle Phillips.

UCLA 37. Fresno State 33. 54 seconds remaining. Ball game, right? Not so fast my friend.

What Haener did next will go down in the Fresno State annuls. With an injured hip and a limp every step, he drove the Bulldogs down, evading pressure and navigating the pocket, and sealed a Mountain West victory over the Mighty Bruins with 14 seconds remaining in the game.

So where does UCLA go from here. The mood in the press box was deflated, to say the least, but also a bit too melancholy, almost as if the season was over and Chip Kelly‘s genius from just two weeks ago was now just a wrinkle in time. A wisp of memory, already backlogged, as pain was restored to the frontal lobe.

But fear not Bruins fans. As tough as this loss feels, and as heartbreaking as it is to climb all the way to a 13th overall National Ranking, not all is lost. We saw some good things out there. The offense made adjustments throughout the game and showed out when they needed to most. Kyle Phillips played like the wide receiver that we all know he is capable of being. DTR, aside from another horrendous fumble, played relatively solid, and like the rest of the offense, played his best when it mattered most. The defense struggled, obviously. But I’m not sure they will face an offense as potent as the Fresno State one that we just witnessed, in PAC-12 play.

Oregon plays a similar style to UCLA and wants to run the ball, so that will turn more into trench warfare. USC demonstrated today what their offense can be if it is humming, but we need to see it multiple times this season before calling them an offensive powerhouse. And that is pretty much it in the conference.

So the defense can rebound, and they will get the opportunity to do so against Stanford. A team that put up 45 points against USC just a week ago, but an offense that doesn’t have the same firepower as the offense we just witnessed.

As of now, UCLA is 0-0. The hype after 2 games was real. This team was not a “fluke.” They lost a tough game to a good team. Now time to pick up the pieces and go 1-0 in PAC 12 play.