Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: UCLA
By Kevin Gemmell
Record: 6-7, 5-4 Pac-12
Did any other team in the country have a more bizarre season than the Bruins? Quarterback switches/injuries, head-scratching wins -- and losses -- and a lame duck coach in a conference championship game. Things certainly got weird in Westwood.
Wide receiver Nelson Rosario has all of the tools to be one of the elite wide receivers in the conference -- or country for that matter. In a run-first pistol system, he still caught 61 balls for 1,106 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Joseph Fauria was perhaps the most consistent offensive player with 34 catches and six scores.
Whoever takes over as coach for the departed Rick Neuheisel isn't coming in with empty cupboards. The Bruins have enough talent on both sides of the ball to still be a force in the division. But bringing all of that talent together into a consistent, cohesive unit, is the biggest task for the next head coach. There clearly was enough talent to beat Arizona State, and enough inconsistency to lose to Arizona.
Co-offensive MVPs: Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman share the honors for their tandem work at the running back position. Both had three games where they went for more than 100 yards. Franklin did a little more of the heavy lifting, rushing for 947 yards and 6.0 yards per carry. Coleman sealed the deal with 11 rushing touchdowns and 726 yards. Together they helped UCLA to the nation's 30th best rushing offense, averaging 190.6 yards per game.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Patrick Larimore came up big with 81 tackles this season -- including 50 solo stops. He saved his best statistical games for the toughest opponents, coming up with eight solo stops against Stanford, seven against Texas and seven against Arizona State.
Turning point: A missed field goal by Arizona State gave the Bruins a shocking 29-28 win over the No. 19 Sun Devils, securing UCLA a very fragile grasp of the Pac-12 South that eventually allowed them access into the conference title game. Even though they lost two of their next three, it allowed them to extend their season -- and Neuheisel's UCLA career, by one more game.
Up next: Thanks to an NCAA waiver, the Bruins are bound for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Dec. 31 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where they'll face another team with a recently fired head coach, Illinois. Oh, the irony.