Bruins Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory, Lose to Fresno State, 40-37
There may be an Amber Alert out for the defense UCLA played against LSU because it wasn't at the Rose Bowl tonight.
There is no sugar-coating this loss. The B.ruins entered tonight’s game as the #13 team in the country. But, as the game played out, it was abundantly clear that Fresno State was the better team tonight.
Bulldog quarterback Jake Haener made mincemeat out of the Bruin defense, amassing 455 yards in the air against a defense which seemingly had no desire to play for most of the night.
Fresno State drew first blood when the Bulldogs drove 55 yards on 10 plays on their second drive of the game. Ronnie Rivers’ 1-yard touchdown gave Fresno State a 6-0 lead. An attempted two-point try was no good.
The Bruins took the lead on the next drive, due in large part to a 38-yard pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kam Brown. With just under four minutes to go, Zach Charbonnet scored from six yards out to give UCLA a 7-6 edge.
The second quarter belonged to the Bulldogs who scored on three of their four second quarter drives. A pair of Fresno State touchdowns sandwiched a UCLA field goal as the Bulldogs went ahead by a score of 20-10.
The third Fresno State drive of the quarter ended when Kenny Churchwell intercepted a pass from Haener, but Thompson-Robinson reverted to his previous self and fumbled the ball bringing it back to throw without being hit and Fresno State recovered on the Bruin 20-yard line. The Bulldogs managed to get the ball down to the UCLA 4 before their drive stalled and they settled for a field goal to take a 23-10 lead into the locker room at the end of the first half.
But Bruin fans held out hope that their team’s halftime adjustments would result in a better second half — and, in many ways, it was better.
UCLA got the ball to start the second half and promptly drove 75 yards to cut the Fresno State lead to six points on a 39-yard touchdown pass from DTR to Kam Brown. Meanwhile, they managed to hold the Bulldogs to just a field goal in the third quarter and, after three, UCLA trailed 26-17.
With 13:12 to go in the game, the Bulldogs began a drive which took them from their own 24 down to the UCLA 9-yard line. But, then, Carl Jones, Jr. forced a fumble by Haener and Myles Jackson recovered the fumble back at the UCLA 43. This play was a 14-point turnaround, because it seemed certain that the Bulldogs were going to score another touchdown and UCLA moved the ball 57 yards including a 42-yard touchdown pass from DTR to Kyle Philips. UCLA had cut the lead to just two points, 26-24.
On the first play following the kickoff, Haener threw a pass to Josh Kelly , but Kelly fumbled and it was recovered by Devin Kirkwood for the Bruins. That play led to another Bruin touchdown. This time, it was a 3-yard run by Charbonnet and UCLA had their first lead since the first quarter, 30-26. With a four-point lead, Chip Kelly opted to go for two, but the conversion failed.
After finally looking like the Bruin defense we saw in weeks one and two, the 2019 defense returned and gave up a 75-yard touchdown drive that put the Bulldogs back up, 33-30.
That left the Bruins with just under three minutes to move the ball downfield to tie the game. They did one better. On the drive, Thompson-Robinson completed passes of 18, 5, 13, and 9 yards while also running for 4 more. Following a critical one-yard run on third down which got the Bruins a new set of downs, DTR threw an incomplete pass to Kazmeier Allen which drew a pass interference call to move the Bruins to the Fresno State 15. Of course, Thompson-Robinson went to his most reliable receiver, Kyle Philips, for a 15-yard touchdown strike which left 54 seconds to go in the game.
At this point, Haener had already thrown for 380 yards and all the Bruins needed to do was stop him and the Bulldogs from getting a first down. They couldn’t do it. With 54 seconds left on the clock, Haener led his team on a 31-second drive which saw them move the ball 75 yards on six plays to re-take the lead, 40-37.
UCLA got the ball back with 14 seconds left, which gave them enough time to throw move the ball 14 yards before DTR threw a Hail Mary as time ran out.
But, make no mistake, it wasn’t DTR or the offense that lost this game for the Bruins. It was the return of the 2019 Jerry Azzinaro soft-as-heck defense that got torched for 455 passing yards and 569 yards total that lost this game. You just can’t give up that many yards and expect to win.
Martin Jarmond should show Azzinaro the door on Monday like Mike Bonn did with Clay Helton last week.