UCLA soccer shifts focus to beating Cal, enjoying bowl recreation

The late-summer warmth glimmered off the unreal turf, an entire season in entrance of him, along with a small group of reporters.

Kazmeir Allen stood on that sauna of a follow area and set the agenda for UCLA’s season.

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

It wasn’t a participant going rogue on a roster conditioned by no means to look forward, to focus solely on that day, on what it might take to have a extremely good Saturday. That very same week, quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson acknowledged fascinated about main the Bruins again to the Rose Bowl every single day. Guard Jon Gaines II, normally as guarded along with his feedback as anybody in faculty soccer, alluded to even higher expectations.

“Win every game,” Gaines mentioned.

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

A good distance down.

Two consecutive losses, together with a tearjerker of a setback towards USC, have left UCLA considering far much less attractive potentialities. Having dropped to No. 18 within the School Soccer Playoff rankings, the Bruins (8-3 general, 5-3 Pac-12) will enter their last regular-season recreation towards California (4-7, 2-6) on Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium making an attempt to keep away from falling into competition for the Jimmy Kimmel Bowl.

The heavy white bandage on Thompson-Robinson’s throwing hand in follow this week supplied the right metaphor for a battered workforce in search of to ship itself a get-well card.

“Super difficult, obviously,” Thompson-Robinson mentioned of shifting on from the 48-45 loss to USC by which he absorbed a number of vicious hits and had 4 turnovers. “We’re just trying to go into Cal and have one last hurrah together.”

A minimum of the workforce standing between UCLA and full meltdown mode figures to get its full consideration. Call it the Grudge Bowl.

Cal is the rationale the College of California regents are contemplating blocking UCLA’s supposed transfer to the Massive Ten Convention in 2024, these governing authorities nervous concerning the Golden Bears being left behind in a diminished Pac-12 whereas the Bruins log hundreds of further journey miles as a part of an expanded coast-to-coast convention. A call is anticipated subsequent month.

The sister colleges have jockeyed for the designation of being the nation’s prime public college — the Bruins popping out on prime in the latest U.S. Information & World Report rankings — however the soccer parallels aren’t practically as good.

Whereas Cal is headed for a 3rd consecutive shedding season beneath coach Justin Wilcox, the Bruins’ gradual, regular climb beneath Chip Kelly continues. If UCLA can beat the Golden Bears and win a mid-tier bowl recreation, it might notch 10 victories for the primary time since 2014 whereas tying the college’s single-season document.

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

(Godofredo A. Vásquez / Related Press)

First issues first, after all, for the coach who refuses to look forward.

“You can’t get to 10 unless you get to nine,” Kelly mentioned, “so we’ve got to get to nine first and that’s this Friday.”

Two extra wins additionally would nudge Kelly, who has gone 26-28 in 5 seasons with the Bruins, again to .500, an unimaginable place when he agreed to his preliminary five-year, $23.3-million contract in November 2017 whereas touting “relationships, friendships and championships.”

The development of an elite offense led by Thompson-Robinson and a succession of proficient working backs adopted, however the Bruins haven’t had practically as a lot success on the defensive facet 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 reverting to acquainted struggles as soon as the competitors stiffened. McGovern has missed the final 4 video games for unspecified causes and sure can be out once more Friday with what Kelly intimated was a well being challenge based mostly on current feedback about McGovern “feeling better.”

McGovern, who will flip 61 on New 12 months’s Eve and has one season left on his two-year, $1.8-million contract, was again at follow this week as a customer, eliciting smiles from gamers.

“It’s kind of been a little awkward not having him out here, just even being on the sidelines, hearing his voice,” defensive again Alex Johnson mentioned, “so it was really cool to see him out here.”

A shortened week may assist the Bruins put the distress of back-to-back defeats behind them as a result of they don’t have any alternative however to maneuver on rapidly. Their itinerary known as for a Thanksgiving meal on the workforce lodge within the Bay Space, everybody grateful that the season didn’t finish with a devastating defeat to the Trojans.

“We just talk about, ‘Finish,’ ” linebacker Kain Medrano mentioned of the Bruins’ motivation. “That is a big motto for us, to just finish, whether it’s finish the day, finish the game, finish the week. So it’s just finish the season.”

Will probably be a difficult endeavor, given the season not can take them the place they wished to go.