Win over Beavers excites Bruins
CORVALLIS - UCLA came to Corvallis with a knife to its throat. Facing a struggling Oregon State team, the Bruins desperately needed a win to start off Pac-12 play right, put themselves in a position to make a run at bowl eligibility and perhaps even save coach Rick Neuheisel's job.
It was a close shave, but the Bruins got it done, coming away with a 27-19 victory inside a sweltering hot Reser Stadium.
'We're 2-1 but more importantly we're 1-0 in the conference,' Neuheisel said. 'We haven't been 1-0 in the conference in a long time. It's exciting. To go on the road and win, especially as the game's fortunes changed and not give into that, hopefully as we look back (the game) will be a signature moment.'
Perhaps the most important part of the victory is that it will give the Bruins confidence going into next week's road game against Stanford.
'You can't downplay how important it is to taste victory,' Neuheisel said. 'Kids bust their tales and give everything they've got, and I've said over and over again that we don't have any quit on this team and I truly believe that. But, if you keep pounding away and there's no recognizable result from that then it becomes harder.'
UCLA's offensive strategy Saturday was not complicated: line up in the pistol formation, run the ball down the Beavers' throats, run the ball again, keep running the ball, and just to keep things interesting throw an occasional pass.
'Our game plan every week is going to be to pound it,' Neuheisel said. 'That's the identity we've chosen by going to this brand of offense.'
The Bruins finished with 211 yards on the ground. They got a big game out of Derrick Coleman, who carried 20 times for 100 yards.
'I had a job to do, and they need me, and I'm going to go out there and do what they wanted me to do,' Coleman said.
Coleman has had to overcome challenges in his life. At age 4, it was discovered that he is almost deaf. The senior running back wears hearing aids in both ears and relies heavily on lip reading to answer questions from reporters.
Coleman said that the Bruins' success on the ground came courtesy of the offensive line, which dominated Oregon State in the trenches.
'It really started with our offensive line,' Coleman said. 'Our offensive line got our running backs past the first line of defense and the second line of defense, that was our job.'
The Bruins picking up a good chunk of yards on first downs was critical to their success all night.
'It was important,' Coleman said. 'You don't want to end up second- and-10 or second-and-more than 10. You always want to be second and six-or-less. That was good to get four or five yards on first down, because that keeps the field moving.'
With UCLA's ground game keeping Oregon State on its heels, Bruins quarterback Richard Brehaut was able to expose the Beavers' soft secondary.
Brehaut put UCLA up 7-3 with 1:36 remaining in the first quarter, when he connected with Taylor Embree, who leapt up and pulled down a pass in double coverage for a 22-yard TD.
'The ball kind of came off my hand a little bit weird,' Brehaut said. 'I didn't throw it how I wanted to. It didn't slip, but it came off a little funky. So when I threw it, I knew it was going to be on Taylor to make a play. I have all the faith in the world in him, and he did just that.'
Brehaut finished the afternoon 7 of 11 passing for 146 yards and one TD. Though he did not throw often, when he did drop back to pass he usually had all the time he needed.
'I was getting protection, and my guys were getting clean releases off of the ball and were running good routes,' Brehaut said.
The Bruins' biggest mistake of the game did not come on the field, rather it came on a miscommunication from Neuheisel at the end of the first half. With UCLA up 21-3, the Bruins were forced to punt on their own 37-yard line with 32 seconds remaining.
Neuheisel wanted punter Jeff Locke to kick the ball out of bounds. The UCLA coach did not get that message communicated, though.
Locke outkicked his coverage, and Jordan Poyer returned the punt 85 yards to cut the UCLA lead to 21-10 going into halftime.
'I'm disappointed in myself for allowing a chance for that great punt return by Oregon State,' Neuheisel said. 'We should've been kicking the ball out of bounds, and that's on me. I take responsibility for that.'
Neuheisel was bailed out by the Bruins' stingy defense, though. UCLA shut down the Oregon State ground game, holding the Beavers to 88 yards. And while OSU did pass for 287 yards, the offense became too one-dimensional.
'Defensively, we were grinding and fighting,' said defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. 'We were playing physical and fast, just knocking them off the ball and stopping the run big-time.'
For Odighizuwa, a David Douglas grad, this year's trip back to his home state was far more enjoyable than last year, when he and the Bruins received a 60-13 beat-down at the hands of Oregon.
'It was great,' Odighizuwa said, of playing in Oregon this time around. 'Just knowing that my family was out there watching me, it was encouraging. It was a good experience.'
The Bruins allowed Oregon State to put them under the gun when Jordan Bishop caught a 45-yard touchdown to make the score 21-19 as the third quarter ended.
But UCLA running back Anthony Barr punched the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:15 remaining, and the Bruins had their second victory of the season.
'For us to come up here and get the big win, especially in the fashion we did in terms of coming back, showing resilience and not letting them take over the control of the game, it was huge for us,' Brehaut said.
The win over Oregon State could easily be called ugly. But Neuheisel pointed out that it would be just a matter of opinion.
'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' Neuheisel said. 'While it may not have been pretty to a casual observer, to a guy who's watching these guys fight and learn how to grow, especially on the road, it was a great turn-the-page moment.'