UCLA's Taylor Embree caught a touchdown pass to give the Bruins an early 7-0 lead, but Illinois came back to win the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl 20-14. (AP Photo)
There was other Pac-12 football news besides Utah's 30-27 overtime win over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl today, as UCLA lost the Kraft FIght Hunger Bowl 20-14 to Illinois, and Washington decided to lose their defensive coaching staff, 2 days after their 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Valero Alamo Bowl statistically established their 2011 defense as the worst in Husky history.
UCLA took a 7-0 lead over Illinois 5 minutes into the second quarter on Kevin Prince's 16 yard touchdown toss to Taylor Embree, and had a 7-3 halftime lead after Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase suffered a 15 yard sack after driving to the Bruin 3 yard line that forced the Illini to settle for a field goal. The first half in San Francisco produced 184 net combined yards by both teams.
The Bruin lead held up until just before the end of the third quarter, when Prince served up a pick-6 interception Terry Hawthorne took back 39 yards for a 10-7 Illini lead.
Illinois added a field goal early in the fourth quarter, and scored what would turn out to be the game winning points on a 10 yard pass from Scheelhaase to A.J. Jenkins that Jenkins proceeded to run 50 more yards through the UCLA secondary with. The 20 consecutive points pushed the score to 20-7 with 5:36 left in the game.
Prince connected with Nelson Rosario for a 38 yard touchdown with 29 seconds left, but the Illinois sealed the win by recovering the on-side kickoff that the Bruins wouldn't have been able to keep had they recovered it, after using an illegal formation on the kickoff.
Prince only completed 14 of 29 passes, a disastrous 48%, but still out-passed Scheelhaase, throwing for 202 yards, and 2 scores for the Bruins (plus the one for the Illini), while the multiple threat Illinois quarterback completed 18 of 30 passes, 60%, but for only 139 yards, and 1 touchdown, against 1 interception.
The problem was Scheelhaase also ran 22 times for a game high 110 yards, the biggest part of the 180 yards Illinois ran for. Which, after Prince's sacks were subtracted, was 10 times what UCLA netted on the ground. This with the Illini playing without their suspended leading rusher Jason Ford.
Derrick Coleman ran for just 40 yards, on 8 carries, to lead the Bruins. Jonathan Franklin added just 29 yards on 9 carries, and after losses were subtracted, UCLA netted only 18 yards on the ground.
The anemic UCLA offense managed to run only 59 plays, while Illinois was running off 75, which gave them a 7 minute time of possession advantage.
The Kraft Bowl was also the interim coach bowl, as Illinois and UCLA both fired their coaches, Ron Zook and Rick Neuheisel, at the end of the regular season, and had interim coaches Vic Koenning (Illinois) and Mike Johnson (UCLA) who won't be around once new coaches Tim Beckman and Jim Mora are running things.
Illinois also had the disruption of the assistant coaches having threatened to boycott the game over a contract issue, which made the staff overhaul all the more acrimonious.
Coupled with a lopsided 85-69 basketball loss at Cal, things are probably pretty touchy in Bruin Nation as the year comes to a crashing end in Westwood.
Illinois, after starting the season 6-0, and finishing the regular season with 6 straight losses, wound up 7-6 for the season.
UCLA finished the regular season with a 6-6 mark as well, but had to petition the NCAA in order to participate in a bowl with a losing record after losing 49-31 to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Bruins have now lost 3 in a row, and 4of their last 5, and wound up 6-8.
The Bruins' loss in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl left the Pac-12 with a 1-4 record in bowls. #5 Oregon and #4 Stanford will play Monday, with the Ducks, the only conference team favored to win their game, taking on the #10 Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, and after that, the Cardinal taking on the #3 Oklahoma St. Cowboys in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ.
Washington Cleans House Defensively
Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian announced that Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt, Linebackers Coach Mike Cox, and Safeties Coach Jeff Mills will not be returning for the 2012 season, despite all of them having a year remaining on their contracts.
Earlier, Cornerback Coach Demetrice Martin left to become the Defensive Backs Coach for UCLA, and new Bruin coach Jim Mora.
Washington yielded 482 rushing yards to Baylor, and 777 total yards, in the record setting loss to the Bears.
How Did Scott Not See This Coming?
UCLA wound up playing a bowl game across the bay from where they were playing a basketball game at the same time. And the bowl game overlapped the day's other Pac-12 bowl game.
This after Washington's basketball game Thursday night was in direct conflict with the Huskies' appearance in the Alamo Bowl.
Competing TV networks (Fox and ESPN are not known for being friendly competitors) had a hand in driving this mess, dictating when they would cover events, but the conference shares some of the culpability for setting the schedule up the way they did, instead of deviating from the Thursday-Saturday standard this week.
The Thursday-Saturday schedule makes a lot of sense while school is in session, because minimizing lost class time, for teams as well as student fans, and others, really is important. But class is not in session this week, and won't be next week.
This week was an audience dividing debacle that could and should have been avoided.
Bruins Nation is erroneously blaming their Athletic Director for their plight, even though tv, the conference, and the home (Cal) athletic departments all have sway over a visiting team, but their reason for wanting to blame someone is valid this time.
As media savvy as Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is, and as good a job as he has done generally as far as television exposure goes, its surprising this was allowed to happen. Going forward with the Pac-12 Network, lets hope there will be a lesson learned from this weekend, and it won't be repeated.