UCLA Runs Over Texas, 34-12

September 26, 2010

History repeated itself Saturday afternoon, as a struggling UCLA Bruins squad saddled with two early season defeats managed to turn their season around and manhandle the seventh-ranked Texas Longhorns 34-12 in Austin.

The win was reminiscent of the "Rout 66" game played between the two schools in 1997, in which a reeling 0-2 UCLA squad marched into Texas and crushed the favored Longhorns 66-3, kickstarting a 20-game winning streak for the Bruins and ushering in the Mack Brown era in Texas.

Similar to that '97 edition, the 2010 Bruins entered Austin with two season-opening losses, an 0-1 conference record, and loads of self-doubt, only to then promptly steamroll the Longhorn defense with 264 rushing yards on 56 carries.

UCLA's rushing attack was so physically dominant and overpowering that the Bruins attempted only 9 passes the entire game, one of which was thrown by wideout Nelson Rosario on a trick play. In the second half, the Bruins called 22 consecutive running plays, essentially daring Texas to stop them mano-a-mano.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns were their own worst enemy, committing 5 turnovers overall.

Texas got on the board first, converting a fumble by UCLA tailback Johnathan Franklin into a 31-yard Justin Tucker field goal to take a 3-0 first-quarter lead.

However, UCLA caught a fortunate break a few minutes later, when Texas punt returner Curtis Brown fumbled a punt inside Texas' 5-yard line. UCLA would convert that turnover into a 7-3 lead shortly thereafter, as quarterback Kevin Prince found Ricky Marvray in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown pass.

The Bruins would never trail again.

After a 39-yard Kai Forbath field goal put UCLA up 10-3, the Bruins recovered another Texas fumble with 4:48 left in the first half. That turnover led to one more Forbath field goal, giving UCLA a 13-3 lead going into halftime.

UCLA would receive the second half kick and proceed to make a statement, rushing the ball down the Longhorns' throats on a 80-yard march capped off by a Franklin 11-yard touchdown run for a 20-3 lead. The Bruins would earn 74 of those 80 yards on the ground, with 35 coming on an impressive scamper by Franklin.

Franklin would lead all rushers with 116 yards on 19 carries.

The dagger would arrive only a few minutes later, when quarterback Kevin Prince ran 38 yards on a keeper to put the Bruins up 27-6 with :46 left in the third quarter.

Texas -- turnover-prone and struggling to generate any consistent offense -- would never seriously threaten again.

Player of the Game: UCLA Linebacker Akeem Ayers

Speedy, ultra-athletic linebacker Akeem Ayers was simply the best player on the field Saturday, recording 6 tackles, forcing 2 turnovers, and giving the Longhorns line fits all day. His devastating pass rushes off the edge led to a sack and a forced fumble, prompting Texas to double him throughout much of the second half.

Ayers would also display his versatility in the first half by dropping into zone coverage, reading the eyes of Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, and then breaking on the ball for an interception.

Redemption for Neuheisel & Chow

A few weeks ago, on the Los Angeles-based sports talk radio show "Mason & Ireland," hosts Steve Mason and John Ireland proposed that Coach Rick Neuheisel's job could be on the line at the end of the year if UCLA opened the season at 0-4.

On its face, nothing was wrong with such speculation, as those questions are commonly asked when any team struggles to meet expectations.

Ireland and Mason did not choose to stop there, however, as both proceeded to criticize the implementation of the new "pistol" offense by claiming that it: 1) indicated desperation on the part of the coaching staff, and 2) was a fruitless attempt by UCLA to install a "run and shoot" offense.

The first point was incorrect because it was a bit extreme and a little sensational.

The second point was incorrect because it revealed an embarrassing cluelessness on the part of the media to understand the X's and O's of this offense. And if these two pundits are this ignorant when it comes to offensive schemes, how on earth can they then question the knowledge of the staff?

In truth, Neuheisel and Chow's implementation of the "pistol" was an intelligent, open-minded move borne out of desperate circumstances.

For the past two seasons, UCLA's rushing attack was among the worst in the nation, so the coaches looked at Nevada's innovative and successful schemes and tried to simulate something that works. For that willingness to learn and keep their egos in check, they should be given credit. Moreover, the "pistol" has worked, as UCLA's rushing stats have drastically improved.

As for the X's and O's of the offense, the "pistol" clearly is not a pass-oriented, "run and shoot" scheme as Mason and Ireland suggested. It is not some Mouse Davis derivative from the 90's with 4 flankers split wide and no tight end on the field. Nor does it resemble the spread, with the quarterback standing at typical shotgun depth, and a back to his right or left.

Instead, it simply modifies a standard I-formation, with the fullback removed and the quarterback no longer under the center, but a few yards back. With this run-oriented scheme, there is nothing that prevents the offense from utilizing larger personnel, such as an "F" back or multi-tight end sets. To label it as some pass-happy gimmick offense is to simply fail to understand Football 101 X's and O's.

What We Learned From This Game

1. First, Stanford is pretty good. The Bruins whipped Houston and Texas, lost a close one to Kansas State, but got crushed at home by Stanford and Heisman candidate Andrew Luck. Thus far, the Stanford defense has been the only team to have shut down UCLA's "pistol" offense.

2. UCLA's passing offense is woeful, but their run game and defense are good enough that it might not matter against some teams.

3. The Pac 10 and the SEC are light years beyond the other BCS conferences, and right now one could make the case that the Pac 10 is the better of the two, top to bottom. Considering that this UCLA team was picked to finish eighth in the conference, there is undoubtedly some quality depth in the Pac 10.

4. Texas is a young team, particularly at some of the skill positions, and therefore, the Longhorns will need some time to develop before they can match their media hype. Unfortunately for them, the Oklahoma Sooners are coming up soon on the schedule.

The Numbers

1. UCLA improved to 2-2 on the year. Texas fell to 3-1.

2. UCLA dominated the time of possession, 35:29 to 24:31.

3. UCLA averaged a hefty 4.6 yards per carry against a Texas team that had led the country in rushing defense.

4. Texas threw for 264 yards. UCLA passed for only 27 yards.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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