PASADENA, CA-Black Friday turned out to be Sunrise Saturday for the UCLA Bruins football team. Playing its final regular season of the 2017 season, the only concern on the football field was for the players to play at their peak in hopes of beating Cal and keeping the possibility of a bowl berth alive.
Just one week after losing head coach Jim Mora Jr., the Bruins sort of played the Bears with listless fervor, even though they eventually tugged away at it long enough to record a 30-27 win at the Rose Bowl.
Saturday brought even better news for UCLA when it was announced that former Oregon mastermind Chip Kelly had formally agreed and signed a five-year, $23 million contract to be the Bruins’ next head coach. Kelly, who last coached in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, went 46-7 as the Ducks head coach, guiding Oregon to National Championship Game appearance against Cam Newton and eventual champs Auburn.
“It is an absolute honor to join the Bruin Family, and I am grateful to Chancellor Block and to Dan Guerrero for this incredible opportunity,” said Kelly in a statement released on the UCLA Athletics website. “UCLA is a world-class institution with a distinguished history in athletics, and we will do our part to uphold its tradition of excellence.”
Obviously, with Kelly running things, there’s going to be a lot more pep in the Bruins’ steps the next couple of seasons. The fast-paced, rhythmic play of a Chip Kelly team, which became the Ducks trademark, has officially brought a new and exciting chapter to Westwood. That excitement was there when Mora first came to town. Years later, it became a worn out welcome mat.
This should have been a banner year for the Bruins. Quarterback Josh Rosen came into the year touted as a strong Heisman Trophy candidate. With linebacker Kenny Young returning as a mainstay on the defense, the Bruins were expected to make some noise on that side of the ball.
It looked even more promising for then coach Mora’s team when UCLA handed Texas A & M a 45-44 defeat at the Rose Bowl to open the season. Unfortunately, for the Bruins, it all became to unravel from there and the season turned into a blurred nightmare. Rosen missed a couple of games because of a variety of injuries.
Road defeats eventually became a deep thorn in UCLA’s mark on the season. The Bruins, for whatever reason, couldn’t get it right while on the road, dropping all their contests while traveling. Then came a third straight meltdown defeat to city rival USC.
It was the end for Mora, who was dismissed. But for all the negatives that may have seemed to have marred UCLA’s once promising season, the Bruins got more than a couple of things right. For one, UCLA started and ended the 2017 college football season with a win. But they almost blew that scenario so that they could stay bowl eligible.
Just like their opening schedule victory against Texas A & M, UCLA would do it the hard way, and would need just about every second on the clock to work in their favor. With Rosen out of the game for the second half against Cal, UCLA managed to keep its hopes for a postseason berth alive with their home victory. Like they’ve done all season, the Bruins didn’t make it easy on themselves.
With time chipping away in the fourth quarter, it looked like Cal was done as UCLA propped itself up to a 27-17 lead. Thanks to the solid relief quarterbacking duties of backup Devon Modster, UCLA managed to put up 13 points in the second half to add to the point total the Bruins accumulated under Rosen (13 of 18, 2TD), who took a hard shot just as the second quarter was ending.
Modster, a redshirt freshman, finished the game completing 14 of 18 passes for 191 yards. His biggest moment came when he led UCLA down the field for a game-winning field goal after Cal had scored 10 unanswered points to tie the game at 27-27. JJ Molson’s 37-yard field goal wrapped up the Bruins’ season capper. Now the Chip Kelly era is on the clock.
“I am thrilled to welcome Chip Kelly to Westwood,” said UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero in a statement that appears on the UCLA Athletics website. “His success speaks for itself, but more than that, I firmly believe that his passion for the game and his innovative approach to coaching student-athletes make him the perfect fit for our program.”