The Bruins coming out of their tunnel before a game at the Rose Bowl. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES (UCLA) BRUINS FOOTBALL
2015 Record: 8-5 Overall, 5-4 in the Pac-12 Conference (Third place in the Pac-12 South)
High Point: Beat Arizona in Tucson, 56-30, on September 26th, improving to 4-0 on the season after losing star linebacker Myles Jack to injury the week before vs BYU and after ESPN’s College Game Day was in Tucson predicting an Arizona win.
Low Points: Lost to USC 40-21 on November 28th, snapping a three game win streak in the Crosstown Rivalry and losing the Pac-12 South title in the process.
Lost to Washington State on a last-second pass after taking the lead with little time left at the Rose Bowl on November 14th.
Lost to a 5-7 Nebraska team in the Foster Farms Bowl on December 5th.
Team Leaders (* = returning in 2016):
* Josh Rosen, QB – 60% completions, 3,668 yards, 23 touchdowns, 11 INTs, 283.4 all-purpose ypg
Paul Perkins, RB – 237 carries, 1,343 yards, 5.7 ypc, 103.3 ypg, 14 TDs
Jordan Payton, WR – 78 catches, 1,105 yards, 5 TDs
Thomas Duarte, WR – 53 catches, 872 yards, 10 TDs
Kenny Clark, DL – 75 tackles, 11 TFLs, 6 sacks
* Jaleel Wadood, CB – 72 tackles, 4 TFLs, 2 INTs
* Kenny Young, LB – 69 tackles, 5 TFLs
Aaron Wallace, LB – 85 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 7 sacks
Ka’imi Fairbairn, K – 20 field goals out of 24 attempts with a long of 60 yards vs California on October 22, a Pac-12 record (Lou Groza Award winner for the nation’s best kicker)
If someone asked me to describe the season that UCLA’s football team had in 2015, I couldn’t describe it in one word.
I would have to use three words to sum up these Bruins:
LACK OF DEPTH
Which ultimately led to the season being…
UCLA’s Thomas Duarte making a great catch during the Foster Farms Bowl. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com
In fact, the last month of the season, which saw the Bruins lose three of their last four games, reminded me of the dark days earlier in this century when they would start off winning and rising in the polls, only to have teams figure out their weaknesses by the last few contests and relegate UCLA to also-ran status in the form of a lower-tier bowl game – which they would often lose.
I dare any Bruin fan to say I’m wrong in this description, particularly since the unraveling really started a few days after the BYU game, when Myles Jack tore his ACL during practice and subsequently announced that his days in Westwood were over in declaring for the NFL draft.
The Bruins proceeded to a mediocre 5-5 record after that, opposing offensive coordinators taking advantage of the lack of depth in the front seven and running the ball down UCLA’s throat, averaging nearly 200 yards on the ground per game.
It is what I would have certainly done if I were coaching against the Bruins.
I’ll be honest – the end of the season left me with a feeling of gladness that it was all over.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, there was one thing about UCLA football that was a clear highlight, which provided joy in this Bruin alum…
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen during his debut against Virginia, who would go on to have perhaps one of the greatest freshmen seasons in college football history. Photo courtesy of uclabruins.com
He was less than a year removed from St. John Bosco High School, wearing number 3 and playing more like an upperclassman than the true freshman that he was as he served notice that he would be a force, throwing three touchdown passes in his collegiate debut.
Josh Rosen exceeded expectations behind center, earning Freshman All-American honors and the Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year Award.
After accounting for over 3,600 yards in the air, those accolades were a foregone conclusion.
Paul Perkins had another great season, rushing for over 1,300 yards and finishing third in that category after leading the Pac-12 the year before.
But in my view it was Rosen who was the team MVP and is headed for a career in Westwood that may be the greatest of any Bruin quarterback.
There’s only one thing he needs in 2016 and beyond:
Quality and depth in the offensive line, as UCLA returns only two guys from a line that actually did a good job in protecting Rosen this past year, giving up only 14 sacks.
Coach Jim Mora, who to the happiness of the Bruin fan base silenced all rumors that he may be heading to the NFL, has another desperate need:
More quality and depth in the defensive line and linebacking corps, which was found to be lacking and the biggest factor in the Bruins’ late season demise.
To put it bluntly, UCLA needs guys up front on both sides of the ball who can contribute and help the team win NOW, not red shirt prospects who need a year to be ready.
That’s why February 3rd – National Signing Day – will be the most crucial day that this program has had in a long time as they need their share of at least four-star players (if not five-star players) to fax their letters of intent to Westwood and pick up the true blue and gold UCLA cap during their televised announcements on ESPN.
If that happens, I – and I’m sure the rest of Bruin Nation – would feel so much better about things.
And 2016 will have an excellent chance to be more successful and enjoyable than 2015.
Because the future of UCLA football – at least for the next few years – may well depend on where a bunch of 17 and 18-year olds choose to take their talents in roughly a month.
Bruin players celebrating during a win against BYU. Photo courtesy of espn.go.com
THIS WAS PART TWO OF A TWO-PART SERIES WRAPPING UP THE SEASONS OF SOCAL’S TWO COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROGRAMS. I HOPE IT WAS ENJOYED!
BE SURE TO WATCH FOR SOCAL SPORTS ANNALS’ COVERAGE OF NATIONAL SIGNING DAY NEXT MONTH, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE NEW FRESHMEN WHO WILL BE WEARING UCLA AND USC UNIFORMS IN THE FALL.