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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Football

Cougars treated to embarrassing loss by UCLA at Rose Bowl


Johnathan Franklin (23) and the UCLA offense proved to be too much for the Cougars. Franklin finished the game with 158 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. | Courtesy of Maya Sugarman/The Daily Bruin

The Cougars fell 31-13 in Saturday’s contest against Pacific-10 opponent UCLA in front of a crowd of over 54,000 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

“We’re disappointed in how we played,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We played in spurts, and that’s not good enough, particularly when you are on the road. I thought UCLA played very well. They are a talented football team. They were trying to find themselves. I hoped that it wouldn’t happen this week, and it did.”

UCLA’s defense delivered crippling blows to the Cougar offense, including two interceptions that left quarterback Case Keenum injured for the remainder of the season with an ACL tear. Keenum sustained the injury when he attempted a tackle after throwing an interception intended for Michael Hayes. Keenum completed 10 of 18 attempts for 83 yards and two picks before leaving the game.

UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel said that the win was what his team needed after difficult losses to Kansas St. and Stanford.

“What happens when you suffer a demoralizing loss like we did to Stanford, you have to remember that you’re in a foxhole with a bunch of guys you can count on,” Neuheisel said. “The only way to get out is for everybody to get a shovel and start digging. We would have the right to be free and play with everything instead of being nervous. You stack your days and know that you’ve got everything done to prepare, you’re much more able to go play.

“You have to tackle this team. They’ve got so much speed and space. You have to get there and you have to get guys down. Once we went down there and scored a touchdown, the crowd got into it. The defense fed off of that, and the game changed at that point. Now we have to learn how to keep it there and not let it fall off.”

The Cougar offense was held in check by UCLA. On 30 rushing attempts, UH averaged 3.6 yards. UCLA linebackers Akeen Ayers and Rahim Moore had two interceptions that took the air out of the Cougar’s offensive drives.

“We were primarily in a nickel configuration, which put more speed on the field,” Neuheisel said. “While we were going to mix pressures and coverages, the one thing you saw was that we played fast. Rahim (Moore) and Akeem (Ayers) made some big plays that changed things.”

Replacing Keenum, backup quarterback Cotton Turner threw for only 39 yards — before he too had a season-ending injury to his shoulder.

After losing the first two games of the season, the Bruins were not favored to win Saturday’s match-up, but their intensity was seen on both sides of the ball.

UCLA’s quarterback Kevin Prince threw for 99 yards, completing nine of 17. Running back Johnathan Franklin rushed for 266 yards and three touchdowns against the UH defense.

The Cougars are now 2-3 all-time against UCLA. Coming away empty-handed at the Rose Bowl is not what the Cougars had in mind, but turnovers and untimely penalties cost the Cougars.

“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot offensively,” receiver James Cleveland said. “It’s very disheartening. That’s not what we came out here for.”

“We just have to overcome ourselves. You have to look at the bright side. We just have to look forward to next week. We have to leave this game in California. Any team can beat anybody.”


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