WESTWOOD—For the UCLA football team the 2009 season has come to an end, but unlike the last few seasons, this one will end with a silver lining that will be much more tangible.
After a see-saw season, which had the Bruins streaking at one point and then tanking at some, the UCLA football team got the golden opportunity to end their season on a winning note by playing in the Eagle Bank Bowl in Washington D.C. Now you may be thinking big freaking deal, it’s just another second rate bowl game, but be that as it may it was no less important to both UCLA or their opponent, the Temple Owls.
The Owls had not been to a bowl game in 30 years, when they played in the Garden State Bowl in 1979 and UCLA was looking for its first bowl win since 2005. UCLA seemed to be at a disadvantage because of the perception of California boys not being able to handle the frigid temperatures of the East Coast, but the Bruins were not going to allow a little cold weather to stop them. During Pre-game, All-American defensive tackle Brian Price and linebacker Reggie Carter warmed up without their shirts on, letting everybody know the cold weather meant little to nothing to them, but in the first half it seemed like the weather would be a huge factor in the game.
All week the Bruins had prepared for the freezing temperature, but they were not prepared to play on a frozen field, and the play of the defense and offense showed that in the first half. Defenders were slipping off tackles, out of their stances, and in coverage. Temple took advantage of the Bruins inexperience and began to attack them through the air. Vaughn Charlton, who was named the starter before the game, went 12-16 in the first half with 153 yards and a touchdown. It seemed like the Bruin defense had no answer for the Owls through the air and on the ground, and the UCLA offense wasn’t giving them much help. After Kevin Prince through an early touchdown to Nelson Rosario to tie the game at seven a piece, the Bruins offense was anemic. The rest of their possessions were full of punts and a lone interception, which set up another Temple touchdown. Fortunately, the Bruins were able to get a field goal from Kai Forbath at the end of the half to put UCLA down 11 at the half with a score of 21-11.
In the second half, the Bruins knew they needed to come out and make a statement on offense. After stalling on their opening drive of the half, the Bruins got the ball back and drove down the field and notched a dramatic touchdown from Terrance Austin, who took a flat route on 4th and 1, 37 yards to the house.
The touchdown was the spark the defense needed to get back to the way they have been playing all season. After allowing the Owls to do whatever they wanted to do on offense in the first half, the defense limited Charlton to one pass completion and picked him off twice. One came from the nation’s interception leader Rahim Moore and the other came from rising star Akeem Ayers, the Bruins outside linebacker. Ayers was lined up as a defensive end and slipped getting out of his stance, as he regained his footing he looked up and saw the ball and took it with him as he cruised into the endzone. That touchdown put the Bruins up 28-21 to give them their first lead of the game with a little over six minutes to play.
After a snap went out of the endzone for a safety, the Bruins took a 30-21 lead and ended up with the win. UCLA scored 20 straight points in the second half and didn’t give up any to the Owls. Temple was only able to muster 41 yards the entire second half as the Bruin defense started to step up their game.
For the first time in a few years, the Bruins were able to send their seniors out the right way and players like the Bosworth twins, Alterraun Verner, Kevin Craft, Chane Moline and Trevor Theriot will be able to look back on their last year playing college football and have something to smile about.