UCLA suffers last-minute loss against Oregon State
By Sara Salam
Nov. 1, 2009 11:26 p.m.
CORVALLIS, Ore. “”mdash; As Kevin Prince connected with Taylor Embree in the south end zone to knot the score at 19, celebration ensued along the UCLA sideline. The Bruins’ fourth elusive win hung within reach, and the team was excited at the possibility.
But in the final two minutes, in spite of efforts by the UCLA defense to suppress the run, the Bruins could not silence the Beavers’ threat to score.
Oregon State’s James Rodgers scored the winning touchdown on a fly sweep with 44 seconds remaining, leaving the Bruins little chance to recover.
When the Bruins got the ball back, they managed to garner three first-downs before being halted by an expired clock at the 15-yard line. A fiery Beaver defense ultimately sentenced the Bruins to yet another somber walk to the locker room.
In a down-to-the-wire finish, UCLA (3-5, 0-5 Pac-10) suffered its fifth consecutive loss to Oregon State (5-3, 3-2) Saturday at Reser Stadium, 26-19. The 0-5 conference record for the Bruins signifies their worst-ever start in Pac-10 play.
“Every loss hurts, but this one kind of sits there,” senior linebacker Reggie Carter said. “(The offense) worked really hard, and for us to give it up in the last seconds really hurts.”
The Rodgers brothers had the Bruins’ number all afternoon, combining for 428 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against the UCLA defense, effectively dodging their multiple wrap-and-squeeze attempts.
While James Rodgers earned acclaim for his go-ahead rushing touchdown, younger brother Jacquizz Rodgers accrued some impressive numbers of his own ““ and in unconventional fashion at that.
The lone OSU touchdown of the first half came out of the “Wild Beaver” formation headed by the sophomore tailback. Jacquizz Rodgers received the snap out of the shotgun at the UCLA 14-yard line and connected with Brady Camp in the far right corner of the end zone. It was Jacquizz Rodgers’ first career pass in his two-year career.
He also had a 31-yard pass reception in the third quarter, the longest of his career.
After the game, coach Rick Neuheisel discussed the Bruins’ areas of concern that were manifest against the Beavers ““ issues of tackling and third-down conversions, to name a few. But he did manage to garner some evidence to support the “glimpses” of the future he alluded to after the San Diego State win on Sept. 5.
“We’re not in the business of moral victories, but there were some positive signs,” Neuheisel said.
For one, the Prince that showed up behind center demonstrated an impressive patience in the pocket and sparked with confidence in his throws. He also moved the ball courtesy of his own two feet on a few plays.
“A big focus for me in practice this week was to stay calm, sit in the pocket, take what I do on the practice field and apply it to game situations,” the redshirt freshman quarterback said.
Prince went 22-for-34, accumulating 323 yards and two touchdowns, including a number of long pass completions, something Prince has been working to improve since the season’s inception.
Prince delivered long balls to Nelson Rosario in each of the Bruins’ scoring drives in the fourth quarter. The first, a 58-yard lob for a score, set career records for both thrower and receiver in length of pass and reception, respectively. This was the Bruins’ first touchdown of the game, which, accompanied by a successful two-point conversion, set the score at 19-11 with 8:39 remaining in the game.
After OSU went three-and-out, Rosario caught another pass for 45 yards, bringing UCLA to OSU’s 14-yard line. After a sack, a 3-yard run and an incomplete pass, Prince and Embree linked up for a 7-yard touchdown. A second two-point conversion tied the game at 19.
Despite the late-game chemistry between Prince and his receivers, the Bruins showed they still have a lot of work to do in improving play execution and minimizing errors.
The Bruin quarterbacks had three fumbles in the first half ““ two by Prince and one by Richard Brehaut during the single three-and-out series he played in the second quarter. Freshman running back Johnathan Franklin also had a fumble. None, however, resulted in a turnover.
Prince will be the first to say that mistakes still characterize his quarterback performance, but he believes he has made progress.
“I think I’m growing,” Prince said. “I’m still making mistakes all the time. It’s a matter of fixing them and not making as many.”
Franklin said that the team can take away from this game the “same lessons as usual,” building upon successes and minimizing flaws ““ the Bruins possess the capacity to create opportunities and connect when necessary.
“I think we showed a lot of people that in the future we’re going to be great,” Franklin said.
Even so, UCLA needs to perform at a more competitive level if the team wants to exceed a .500 season.
The Bruins need to win three of their last four games to be considered for a bowl, which requires a 6-6 record at least. UCLA will host Washington this Saturday in its Homecoming game as the Bruins enter the last third of the 2009 season.