UCLA soccer shifts the main target to beating Cal, bowling

Late summer season warmth glistened on the unreal turf, a full season forward of him, plus a handful of reporters.

Kazmeir Allen was in that driving vary sauna and set the agenda for the UCLA season.

“Rose Bowl or bust,” the large receiver mentioned.

He wasn’t a participant who rogued a roster conditioned to by no means look forward, to focus solely on that day, on what it will take to have Saturday. That very same week, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson admitted that he thought of taking the Bruins again to the Rose Bowl on a regular basis. Guard Jon Gaines II, often as guarded together with his feedback as anybody in school soccer, hinted at even increased expectations.

“Win each recreation,” Gaines mentioned.

The Bruins have come a good distance since these dream days.

Very down.

Two straight losses, together with a tearjerker of a setback in opposition to USC, left UCLA considering far much less interesting prospects. Having dropped to No. 18th within the School Soccer Playoff standings, the Bruins (8-3 general, 5-3 Pac-12) will face their last common season recreation in opposition to California (4-7, 2-6) Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium making an attempt to keep away from to enter the Jimmy Kimmel Bowl rivalry.

The heavy white bandage on Thompson-Robinson’s pitching hand in apply this week offered the proper metaphor for a battered staff seeking to ship themselves a heal card.

“Tremendous powerful, clearly,” Thompson-Robinson mentioned of coming from a 48-45 loss to USC through which he soaked up a number of vicious hits and had 4 turnovers. “We’re simply making an attempt to go to Cal and have one final hurrah collectively.”

At the very least the staff that’s between UCLA and full merger mode tries to get his full consideration. Name it the Grudge Bowl.

Cal is why the College of California Regents are contemplating blocking UCLA’s deliberate transfer to the Massive Ten Convention in 2024, these authorities officers involved the Golden Bears can be left behind in a shortened Pac-12 whereas the Bruins log hundreds of extra journey miles as a part of an prolonged coast-to-coast convention. A choice is anticipated subsequent month.

The dual colleges have battled for the title of prime public college within the nation — the Bruins prime the latest rankings from US Information & World Report — however the soccer parallels aren’t so good.

As Cal heads for a 3rd straight shedding season underneath head coach Justin Wilcox, the gradual and regular climb of the Bruins underneath Chip Kelly continues. If UCLA can beat the Golden Bears and win a middle-tier bowl recreation, they’d have 10 wins for the primary time since 2014, tying the varsity’s single-season document.

California linebacker Jackson Sirmon celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown.

California linebacker Jackson Sirmon (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring a landing on a Stanford fumble restoration in the course of the second half in Berkeley on Saturday.

(Godofredo A. Vasquez / Related Press)

To begin with, in fact, for the coach who refuses to look forward.

“You’ll be able to’t get to 10 if you aren’t getting to 9,” Kelly mentioned, “so now we have to get to 9 first and that is this Friday.”

Two extra wins would additionally propel Kelly, who went 26-28 in 5 seasons with the Bruins, to .500, right into a place unimaginable when he agreed to his preliminary five-year, $23.3 million deal in November 2017 whereas touting “relationships , friendships and championships.

The constructing of an elite offense led by Thompson-Robinson and a succession of proficient operating backs adopted, however the Bruins weren’t as profitable on the defensive finish of the ball. After 4 disappointing seasons, Kelly changed defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro with Invoice McGovern.

UCLA’s protection confirmed early promise this season earlier than returning to acquainted struggles as soon as the competitors stiffened. McGovern has missed the final 4 video games for unspecified causes and can probably come out once more on Friday with what Kelly indicated was a well being problem primarily based on latest feedback about McGovern “feeling higher.”

McGovern, who turns 61 on New 12 months’s and has one season left on his two-year, $1.8 million contract, returned to coaching this week as a customer, drawing smiles from gamers.

“It was a bit embarrassing not having him out right here, simply being on the sidelines, listening to his voice,” mentioned defender Alex Johnson, “so it was actually good to see him right here.”

A shortened week might assist the Bruins put the distress of consecutive losses behind them as a result of they haven’t any alternative however to maneuver ahead quick. Their itinerary included a Thanksgiving lunch on the staff’s Bay Space lodge, all grateful that the season did not finish in a devastating loss to the Trojans.

“We simply discuss ‘End,'” linebacker Kain Medrano mentioned of the Bruins’ motivation. “That is an enormous motto for us, simply end, whether or not it is ending the day, ending the sport, ending the week. We’re solely on the finish of the season.”

It is going to be a demanding enterprise, provided that the season can not take them the place they wished to go.