EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 02 : Head coach Rick Neuheisel of the UCLA Bruins warms up his team before the Pac-12 Championship game between the UCLA Bruins and the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on December 2, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
It's hard to say how much of that was on Oregon. The Bruins did get a fluke pick-six that literally landed in the paws of Patrick Larimore, and Lord knows who was covering Nelson Rosario on his first touchdown. UCLA kind of fell into a football game with Oregon because Oregon was willing to let play on UCLA's level for much of the game. It was that kind of night. And they still were overwhelmed by Duck power.
In many ways, it was emblematic of the Rick Neuheisel era for the Bruins. It was a good fight at the wrong time.
UCLA would get stomped by Kansas State and Stanford to start one season, only to roll over Texas the next week. UCLA would be wiped off their football field by Arizona, only to knock off Cal with ease and nudge over the supposed Pac-12 South champs. UCLA would do a lot of the right things after they did so many wrong things, like a husband trying to atone for his extramarital affairs by taking his wife to the opera every week. You can't let those transgressions slide and expect to stay employed.
The Bruins were a national embarrassment going into this game, so clearly if they (a) didn't get shut out and (b) didn't lose by 50, things would instantly look better than last week. If wasn't singlehandedly determined to make the people at home believe the spread was really at stake rather than the game (and UCLA covered! Good for them.), it'd be hard to believe an 18 point loss was cause for celebration for the fans at home. It really wasn't, but it felt like it was.
As for Rick, it was nice to see him leave with a team that rallied behind him and gave him everything they had. It wasn't enough (let's be realistic, UCLA would've had to put up 50 for it to be enough), but the Bruins really did seem to make people think this team had a chance to win this one. It was brief and fleeting, but it was better than many contests you've seen UCLA partake in. Guys stepped up and made plays on offense, and the defense occasionally came up with the decent stop. No one's getting trophies for it, but it is encouraging that the Bruins looked like they were all breathing on this field tonight.
Now they part. And we hope the Bruins can make a hire that doesn't want their alumni want to burn Morgan Center to the ground.