Pasadena, CA – And the Bruins had to lose on blown coverage.
UCLA mustered a back and forth comeback of the ages. Fresno State gave up a nine point lead on two fumbles that led to back-to-back UCLA touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs answer back with Washington transfer Jake Haener using up five minutes of the clock that ended up with a 20 yard touchdown connection to Erik Brooks. UCLA had to rely on Dorian Thompson Robison and covering 75 yards in under two minutes, his favorite target and Kyle Phillips was open on the left side of the field swinging the lead right back to the Bruins. That left 54 seconds for Fresno State. That left 54 seconds for Haener, who already was over 350 yards passing and seemingly couldn’t miss anyone, needing to cover 75 yards to pull off a miraculous comeback.
Haener found three different receivers and let his men run down the sidelines controlling the clock. It only took 30 seconds for the Bulldogs to reach the Bruins 23 yard line. After an incompletion, Haener rolls over to the right and saw Bruins corner Mo Olsing III collapse in man coverage. That left Jalen Cropper wide open five yards from the goal line. With the connection, Cropper turns around and found five yards of wide open space, sending the Fresno State faithful to a frenzy.
If anyone were to look at this game as a potential upset, it was far from it. Fresno State came into the Rose Bowl with a 2018 feeling finishing that year 11-2. Haener is entering his second year and in each game he has learned so much to play as a veteran quarterback. In his first three games, Haener has managed eight total touchdowns and led the NCAA in passing yards, being also the only man under center to throw over 1000 yards entering Saturday. Fresno State’s two wins were nothing short of being dominant, shutting out Connecticut and putting away FCS Cal Poly away very early. In their loss to Oregon, Fresno state held a fourth quarter lead before giving up 10 unanswered points and walking away from Auzten Stadium empty handed. Saturday night they had that chance at redemption against another Pac-12 school, and in every way possible Haener and company had to make that happen.
While this is a hard game for the Bruins to swallow, it is very hard to see this as a letdown. The question will now lie on what they have learned getting ready for Pac-12 play next week against Stanford. Playing against a man like Haener who has proven his worth trying to earn solid paychecks next year could be the best thing to happen for UCLA. Currently the Bruins only have two opponents who are ranked in the top 25 the rest of the season, with Arizona State losing to BYU late Saturday night. These three games are a far different outcome compared to what the Bruins finished with under the first three years under Chip Kelly. If the Bruins can take this game as a learning experience, the Bruins can make the Pac-12 South potentially a one team race.