UCLA Can’t Kick it Against Utah

A UCLA ballcarrier is brought down by several Utah defenders. Photo Credit: Jevone Moore/Full Image 360/News4usonline.com
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UCLA placekicker Ka’imi Fairbairn misses on a game-winning field goal against Utah on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

PASADENA-In the college football world a loss can be very costly. In the case of the UCLA Bruins and Heisman trophy hopeful Brett Hundley, an unlikely defeat can be a devastating blow to any national championship aspiration they may include. Well, the Hundley and the Bruins by now know what that feels like after surrendering a 30-28 loss to the visiting Utah Utes.

Hundley and the Bruins, with Oregon coming into town, now sit and wait the falling out in the aftermath of the ugly loss. But in preparing for the explosive Ducks this week, the Bruins really don’t have time to think and blink. But there are five things that stood out in this unexciting defeat in which the Bruins had two chances to win the game with field goals. Let’s take a look at what happened to UCLA getting dismantled by the Utes:

Let’s begin with protection problems: Utah’s defensive front brought the rain, some thunder and a little bit of tropical storm in sacking Hundley 10 times in the game.  The game took its identity on the Bruins’ first possession with a 3 and out series that ended with a sack of Hundley. Right then and there, the tone was set that Utah was going to bringing the pain to Hundley on this night.

The kicking game was also a mess. UCLA placekicker Ka’imi Fairbairn lined up twice for what could have been a game-winning field goal against Utah. Get it right down the middle of the goalpost and all would be well in Westwood right about now. However, that isn’t the case today. As it is, all is not well in Bruinland.  Fairbairn missed 50 and 55-yard field attempts at the end of the game. Those missed opportunities effectively ended the Bruins undefeated streak this season, and may have cost the Bruins in their quest to win the national title.

2014 NCAA Football
Photo Courtesy of Jevone Moore for Full Image 360/News4usonline.com

Energy may have something to do with those blown chances. Sure, UCLA was right there at the end of the game with a chance to pull out the win, but was a contest that was dominated by the Utes with their physicality having a toll on the Bruins. The energy exuded by UCLA was MIA since the beginning of the game. The Bruins played good in spurts, showing off their talent in spurts.

But for the most part, Utah outplayed the Bruins. The Bruins played with apathy against Utah all night. It could be that UCLA knew Oregon was going to come knocking on their doors come this week, if that is a possible excuse. Whatever it was, the defeat put the Bruins on the clock.

The Heisman hype didn’t come to fruition for the Bruins on this night. Hundley’s numbers against Utah were merely pedestrian. Hundley only put up 269 yards through air and two touchdowns. That line won’t get it done if you’re considered to be one of the frontrunners to win the trophy representing the best college football player in the nation. Now here comes Oregon, which is faster, stronger and probably just as ticked off as the Bruins after suffering its own mind-blowing defeat to Arizona.

If stopping Utah backup quarterback Kendal Thompson turned out be more difficult than planned, what will the Bruins do with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota? The Bruins have a do-everything quarterback in Hundley, so it should not have been hard to slow down or stop another Hundley clone in Thompson. Thompson, who transferred to Utah after wasting away at Oklahoma, could not be contained by UCLA’s defense.

Instead of Hundley being the difference-maker, Thompson stole the spotlight from UCLA’s signal-caller-at least on this night as she showed his own athletic skills.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1076 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.