He would smile later, probably over a plate of ambrosia, but he always held his playing face while the game was in progress. Besides, he didn’t want to miss a second.
On Saturday night, UCLA honored their all-time winner, who left us on July 4th. It proclaimed a national powerhouse. It turned out to be harder physically, just as fast, deeper, more commanding. He seemed to remember that it was once the school that won eight consecutive bowl games.
It beat LSU at the stately Southeastern Conference with a score of 38-27. Nothing is guaranteed in a liquid Pac-12, but the days of owning your private series of lazy UCLA days at the Rose Bowl could be over.
« It’s kind of emotional, » said linebacker Bo Calvert, his throat tightening a little. “There were tough times. We just pulled it off. Games in the Rose Bowl should be played in front of such crowds (68,213). »
Most of all, UCLA’s victory demonstrated what can happen when age and betrayal are compared to youth and skill, especially when the treacherous old are also skilled. Only eight players in UCLA’s top 44 have been in the program for less than three years, and absolutely no one has a four-year-old scar quarterback who survived and Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who averaged 28.3 yards per degree on Saturday .
« Our maturity shows in many ways, » said coach Chip Kelly. “When we have meetings, everyone is seated eight minutes earlier. They love football, they like to get better, they love it. We don’t have a game this week, but it’s an improvement week. It’s not like we’re going to Cabo. And it’s the kind of thing that our guys get excited about.
« I think there were some people who were surprised by this. I think none of our boys was. »
This is an impressive attempt to show that the way for the Pac-12 to fill the football gap is to welcome non-Pac-12 transfers. One of them is Zach Charbonnet of Oaks Christian, who passed away from Michigan. He completed four tiger tackle attempts on a 17-yard run and threw in a 44-yarder in the second half, one of five UCLA games that beat 30 yards.
Charbonnet and Brittain Brown, a Duke transfer, stomped 213 yards through the Tigers on 28 attempts. Overall, the Bruins overtook LSU 215-48 and raged at 7.4 yards per game.
Her offensive line gave Dorian Thompson-Robinson time to hit Chad Cota on a crossing pattern touchdown and similarly hit Greg Dulcich for another score. Their line of defense suppressed the lavish LSU game and hard-to-hit quarterback Max Johnson.
« Our boys are really smart, » said Kelly. « The things we do in defense may seem complicated to the other team, but it’s pretty easy for us. »
And when LSU pulled out to score the game’s first score, Thompson found roommate Dulcich, taking advantage of the overreacting LSU linebackers and standing as open as a 6-foot-4,250-pound Tight end ever will be. It became a 75-yard touchdown.
« Coach Sage (Derek Sage, the tight end coach) always says that catching the ball is a first down or a touchdown, » said Dulcich. “I try to think of it as a touchdown first, then a first down. We all ricochet off tackles … can’t attack Zach, can’t attack Brittain, can’t attack Kyle (Phillips who got the bottom line). It’s hard to stop. »
The added purpose of this game was to elevate the Rose Bowl itself through the eyes of others. For us it’s a consolation prize for teams that don’t play for championships; you lose your way into the bowl game, it sounds twisted. But LSU, a thoroughbred member of the college football king who played their first game in 1893, had never played in Pasadena before. It meant something.
Remember when Vince Young and Texas derailed the best team in human history in the 2005 Rose Bowl? That was a title game in the old Bowl Championship Series, but the Longhorns were there the year before when they outlasted Michigan, 38-37, in one of the best January 1st games of all time. They went home and promised to return. You’ve heard the same amazement from TCU, Oklahoma, Miami, and other intruders who finally got a chance to play in a place they used to watch from their fireplaces.
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Even LSU fans who made concrete plans had to deal with Hurricane Ida, for weeks and maybe even months. The purple people drove desperately to Jackson, miss. and Mobile, Alabama, because the New Orleans airport was powerless. Some made it, some didn’t. The storm hit Larose, La., Orgeron’s hometown, and his mother was forced to take shelter in Beaumont, Texas.
To say that a soccer team can lift a community out of disaster is a dubious premise because the game ends long before the damage goes away. But the LSU is the unifying force of a state that is at the mercy of its climate, especially when the hurricane and football season overlap. So this trip and this game were uniquely therapeutic.
Then the game started and we learned that the Rose Bowl might have a team that would suit its mountains.
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