NCF Nation: EagleBank 2009 bowls

Instant analysis: UCLA 30, Temple 21

December, 29, 2009
UCLA, awful in the first half, scored 23 consecutive points to beat a game Temple squad 30-21 on a chilly night in Washington D.C.

Pac-10 improved to 2-2 during the bowl season.

How the game was won: Not to discount an inspired effort from Temple, but the Bruins, who were down 21-7 before tacking on a field goal just before halftime, won because they turned up their intensity in the second half on both sides of the ball. Also, from the Owls perspective, the UCLA cause got a boost when Temple lost leading rusher Bernard Pierce to injury in the second quarter.

[+] EnlargeKevin Prince
AP Photo/Nick WassUCLA quarterback Kevin Prince led his team back from a 21-7 deficit.
Turning point: After UCLA closed the gap to 21-17 to open the third quarter, Temple drove to the Bruins 10-yard line. On third-and-2, Matt Brown appeared to dive for the first down. But the spot, which was upheld upon review, marked him inches short. On fourth down, the Owls tried to run up the middle and the Bruins stopped Brown cold. From that point on, little went right for Temple, while UCLA took control.

Stat of the game: 41 and zero. That's how many yards and points Temple had in the second half after they gained 241 yards and scored 21 in the first half.

Player of the game: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince didn't have a great game. He missed open receivers a number of times and tossed an interception. But he was much better while leading the second-half comeback, completing 9 of 15 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown after the break. He also ran for a key first down in the fourth quarter while the Bruins were trying to run out the clock -- the bad news being he appeared to re-injured the shoulder he hurt in the season-finale vs. USC.

Unsung hero of the game: Despite tough conditions, UCLA kicker Kai Forbath connected on field goals of 40 and 42 yards. He's now made 37 in a row from inside 50 yards.

What it means: After going 4-8 in Rick Neuheisel's first year, the Bruins improved to 7-6 and won a bowl game in year two. While it wasn't a distinguished performance, a bowl win is a bowl win, and it sends the Bruins into the offseason on a positive note, which is encouraging for a team expected to take another step forward in 2010

EagleBank Bowl preview

December, 28, 2009
Breaking down the EagleBank Bowl between UCLA (6-6) and Temple (9-3).

WHO TO WATCH: UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince has been inconsistent this year and is coming back from a shoulder injury that he suffered against USC. If he is healthy and on-target, the Bruins should be able to attack an Owls secondary that isn't terribly skilled. And the passing threat should open up the Bruins' typically anemic running game a bit against a tough Owls run defense. In other words, Prince is the linchpin here. If he play well, UCLA should be able to score. But the Bruins won't be able to just line up and run right at Temple, which boasts a solid front-seven, particularly with a banged up offensive line.

WHAT TO WATCH: The Bruins' run defense has been hot and cold this year, ranking seventh in the Pac-10 while giving up 144 yards on the ground per game. Temple is a run-first team with a good pair of true freshmen running backs in Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown. The good news for UCLA is middle linebacker Reggie Carter, who has been slowed by a sprained knee much of the year, is healthy again. And it's unlikely that the Owls have faced many front-sevens with as much power and athleticism as UCLA, particularly junior tackle Brian Price, a potential first-round NFL draft choice if he opts (as expected) to enter the NFL draft. If Temple struggles to run, it could be in trouble because it ranks 112th in the nation in passing and the Bruins' ball-hawking secondary is among the best in the country.

WHY WATCH: It's a last chance to see -- probably -- three of the Pac-10's best defensive players in Price, Carter and cornerback Alterraun Verner. Also, the Pac-10 is looking to even its bowl record after an 0-2 start to the postseason. Further, if Price and the offense show some sparks, it bodes well for the Bruins continuing their deliberate climb in the conference pecking order in 2010, Season 3 under Rick Neuheisel.

PREDICTION: UCLA has better players, but Temple, playing in its first bowl game in 30 years, will compete as though its collective hair is on fire. So the big issue is will the Bruins match the Owls' passion? Or at least approach it? And might chilly temperatures in Washington, D.C., get the best of the Bruins, who are accustomed to the warmth of Southern California? If UCLA is focused, it should win. The guess here is that the Owls will scrap and claw into the third quarter, but the Bruins will gradually take control and win 24-17.
Temple didn’t know who it was going to play in the EagleBank Bowl until a week after the other bowl matchups were announced, but the team was just happy to be playing in a bowl considering it was their first postseason trip since 1979.

After losing the first two games of the season, Temple rattled off nine consecutive wins to put it a win away from playing in the Mid-American Conference title game. Although the Owls lost to Ohio in the final game of the season, their turnaround was still one of the best in the country.

WHO TO WATCH: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple

Pierce, the Owls' freshman phenom, led the team with 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns. Although he missed the final two games with a left shoulder injury, he is expected to be ready for the bowl game. Pierce has been the Owls' offense almost all season and with fresh legs, the Owls will rely on him to carry them to their first bowl win since 1979.

WHAT TO WATCH: UCLA’s quarterback situation

The Owls have had to prepare for two quarterbacks with UCLA starter Kevin Prince questionable as he continues to recover from an AC joint sprain. Senior Kevin Craft would likely start if Prince is unable to go. Temple's defense has been stingy this season, allowing 21.67 points per game. Since the Owls are better against the run than the pass, they’d rather see Craft, who’s thrown three interceptions and just two touchdowns.

WHY WATCH: Temple’s turnaround

Even if you’re not a fan of either of these teams, this is a historical game for a Temple team that has had more winless seasons than bowl appearances in the past three decades. Coach Al Golden has orchestrated a miraculous turnaround during his time with this program and winning a bowl game would just cap what already has been a tremendous season.

PREDICTION: I’m going to go out on a limb here and give the nod to Temple. Its running game is fantastic and its defense is underappreciated. The Owls should be able to have success against either Prince or Craft and make the Bruins one-dimensional. Plus, the crowd is going to be in Temple’s favor with the bowl right down the road from the school. Temple 24, UCLA 17.