UCLA’s homecoming game against Arizona offers many juicy storylines itself. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley will face his home state team. The Wildcats come in with one of the top offenses in the country, but a quarterback who might have suffered a concussion last week. Many of the Arizona players hail from the state of California. Oh, and the nationally televised beatdown the Wildcats gave the Bruins last year was likely the final straw of the Rick Neuheisel era. With all of those things and more in the back of these two teams’ minds, we thought it was a good idea to go back and look at the last five times the conference rivals met on the gridiron. The results are not encouraging for UCLA fans.
The Bruins got the ball back with three minutes on the clock and down seven points, but could not get the score tied with quarterback Osaar Rasshan trying to lead a rally. Rasshan replaced injured and struggling quarterback Patrick Cowan on offense and UCLA did rally from an early deficit to score the game’s final 13 points but it was not enough. Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski gave the defense fits, finishing with six catches for 94 yards and one touchdown, a 27-yarder that gave Arizona its 34-14 lead early in the third quarter. The Wildcats’ quarterback Willie Tuitama torched the Bruin defense, throwing for 341 yards and three touchdowns. UCLA coach Karl Dorrell was fired at the end of the season and replaced by Rick Neuheisel.
In Rick Neuheisel’s Pac-10 debut as UCLA coach, the former walk-on quarterback found coaching his alma mater anything but a walk in the park. The Bruins struggled mightily on offense with quarterback Kevin Craft throwing 31 passes for a dismal 81 yards. UCLA’s only touchdown came courtesy of a 1-yard fumble return for touchdown by linebacker Korey Bosworth. It was current New England Patriots superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski who hurt the Bruins with a pair of touchdown receptions in the romp.
The Wildcats handed the 2009 Bruins their fourth-straight loss to open the conference schedule, overcoming five turnovers in the win in Tucson. UCLA would go on to lose its next conference game to start Pac-10 play with a 0-5 record before rebounding late in the year to make it to and win a bowl game, the EagleBank Bowl. Safeties Tony Dye and Rahim Moore came up big for the Bruins, with Dye returning a fumble for touchdown and Moore picking off two passes. However, UCLA simply didn’t have enough in the tank on offense as coach Rick Neuheisel tried three different quarterbacks ““ Kevin Craft, Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut ““ in the game to no avail.
The first game following season-ending surgery for then-redshirt sophomore starting quarterback Kevin Prince did not go well for the Bruins. Although then-sophomore quarterback Richard Brehaut played well with 228 yards passing and two touchdowns, UCLA could not contain the Arizona offense which was without its starter, Nick Foles, as well. The Wildcats were led by then-junior quarterback Matt Scott who finished with 390 total yards (319 passing) of offense. Scott set a then-career high in passing yards and the Wildcats escaped with the win at the Rose Bowl. The game should also carry significance to current key contributors on UCLA’s offense, then-sophomore running back Damien Thigpen and then-redshirt sophomore receiver Jerry Johnson. Both suffered season-ending injuries in the loss.
The memory of this one probably still burns bright in the minds of many UCLA fans. This game resembled a meltdown in every way imaginable. Arizona came into the game with a new interim coach, loser of five straight games, with its only win against a non-Football Bowl Subdivision school, and seemingly little to play for. However, the Wildcats scored a touchdown on all six first-half drives, amassing a 42-point lead by halftime. Even worse, the Bruins engaged the Wildcats in a brawl just before halftime that resulted in ejections and suspensions. Better yet, the Thursday night game was televised on ESPN for everyone to see. This game pretty much precipitated Neuheisel’s firing. It was clear by both the brawl and the humiliating score that the coach had lost control of his team. Neuheisel wouldn’t survive the end of the season, fired after the team’s 50-0 loss to the Trojans a few weeks later.