UCLA was just a field goal away from extending the Pac-12 Championship game to overtime, and possibly heading home to play in the Rose Bowl.
But after coming painstakingly close to playing in “The Granddaddy of Them All,” UCLA will instead face Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. The game, which will be held at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on Dec. 27, pits the Pac-12′s third place team against the Big 12′s fifth place team.
The matchup is not what the Bruins hoped for, but the team has warmed to the idea of playing in the Holiday Bowl.
“I was interested to see what mood the seniors would be in coming off that tough loss and the disappointment of not going to the Rose Bowl,” coach Jim Mora said. “They were excited to get to play one more time and play in the Holiday Bowl.”
This game will be the first meeting between these two teams, leaving even coach Mora relatively unfamiliar with the Bruins’ opponents. When asked what he knew about Baylor after the matchup was announced, Mora could only recall a couple gridiron legends that went there.
“I know that RG3 (Robert Griffin III) went there, because my son told me that,” he said. “That was my son’s favorite player in college football last year and that’s why he wears a Washington Redskins jersey around. I know Mike Singletary went there, too.”
But if there’s one thing Mora and the Bruins should be cognizant of, it’s the Bears’ offense.
Baylor ranks No. 1 in total offense, averaging a staggering 578.8 yards per game as well as No. 5 in scoring offense, averaging 44.1 points per game.
In their last bowl game, this offensive prowess allowed the Bears to make history.
Baylor put down Washington 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl last year as both teams combined for 123 points ““ the highest-scoring regulation bowl game in college football history.
But as that score shows, the Bears don’t just put up basketball-like numbers.
They also allow them.
Baylor ranks No. 123 in total defense, allowing 513.9 yards per game and No. 117 in scoring defense allowing 38.2 points per game.
Sophomore offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo isn’t quick to put down the Baylor defense, however, saying it is just as good any other UCLA has faced this season.
“I’ve watched a little bit of film against Baylor and I’m excited to play them,” Su’a-Filo said. “Their defense, they hustle to the ball ““ they’re hustlers like any defense that pursues the ball.”
Baylor proved capable of providing stalwart defense after holding Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and then-No. 1 Kansas State to 24 points on its way to a three-game win streak to end the season.
Junior outside linebacker Anthony Barr said that though the team was originally disappointed about missing out on the Rose Bowl, they are anticipating the matchup against the Bears.
“The first couple days, I think the loss was tough,” Barr said. “But we came back as a team, and kind of regrouped and talked about the season and the accomplishments we’ve had, and put that behind and look forward to this game.”
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