In the first half of the game against USC, redshirt junior running back Damien Thigpen went down with a torn ACL, effectively lost for the rest of the season.
For the rest of that game, UCLA was without two of its most explosive offensive players ““ Thigpen and redshirt freshman running back Steven Manfro, who was also sidelined with an injury.
But against Stanford, Manfro was back in action, though it was Thigpen’s presence that was sorely missed.
Despite not having two of the team’s offensive weapons in full effect, redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley insists that play-calling was not hampered.
“We didn’t have our whole offense out there but I believe in the people backing them ““ when one person goes down the other person has to be ready and that’s how I think of it,” Hundley said.
“We can’t just say, “˜Oh, he’s down, we’re sort of screwed.’ We have to believe that that person can get it done and we have to keep rolling.”
Thigpen had been the team’s kickoff returner. True freshman wide receiver Kenny Walker filled in for him against Stanford.
Walker fumbled the ball while attempting to return a kickoff from the endzone, which Stanford subsequently recovered and returned for a touchdown.
Not only was Thigpen missed on special teams, but in the backfield as well. The carries he would typically get went to redshirt sophomore running back Jordon James, who amassed a mere eight yards on four carries. Manfro also only saw action in UCLA’s final plays of the game against Stanford, still coming off an injury of his own.
For the second week in a row, junior outside linebacker Anthony Barr laid a vicious hit that would result in a player having to receive help to leave the field and not return.
Last week, Barr took down USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley ““ who was unable to play against Notre Dame in the Trojans’ next game. This time, the victim was redshirt senior punter Daniel Zychlinski.
Midway through the second quarter, Barr broke through the Stanford line while Zychlinski had difficulty handling the snap. He then tackled Zychlinski, forcing a fumble which junior defensive end Cassius Marsh recovered on Stanford’s 22-yard line.
Backup junior punter Ben Rhyne took the field on fourth down for the Cardinal in the third quarter while Zychlinski was on the sidelines with his arm in a sling.
But Barr’s game has been expanded recently to not only rushing the quarterback or the punter, but dropping back in coverage as well. He did so at the beginning of the game against USC and did the same against Stanford ““ even committing an offense usually reserved for defensive backs, when he incurred a pass interference penalty.
When asked what happened on the play, Barr responded coyly, “I didn’t really see it.”
The Pac-12 conference announced its awards and honors on Monday with several Bruins making the list.
Three players from UCLA received first team honors ““ all three from different facets of the game.
Sophomore offensive lineman Xavier Su’a-Filo, Barr and senior punter Jeff Locke were named to the Pac-12 first team.
Three redshirt seniors ““ running back Johnathan Franklin, offensive lineman Jeff Baca and defensive end Datone Jones – were named to the second team.
Eight Bruins were given an honorable mention: redshirt senior safety Andrew Abbott, redshirt freshman center Jake Brendel, redshirt junior wide receiver Shaq Evans, redshirt senior receiver Joseph Fauria, Hundley, redshirt sophomore linebacker Eric Kendricks, Marsh and Thigpen.
That gives UCLA eight underclassmen receiving all-conference honors who could return next season, including Barr, who received high praise from his coach.
“I wouldn’t say he’s almost an All-American caliber player, I would say that he is an All-American caliber player,” coach Jim Mora said.
“I think he’s the most impactful defensive player in the Pac-12 and from the limited exposure that I’ve had with the other players in the nation, he’s as impactful as anybody I’ve seen.”