The UCLA Bruins ended their 2011 season with a whimper, falling 20-14 to the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon. The Bruins became the first 6-8 team in college football history.
UCLA could muster only 220 yards of offense and 11 first downs, but thanks to their defense held a lead late in the third quarter. Illinois managed just 327 yards of offense and 17 first downs, but put the game away for good with a 60-yard touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to A.J. Jenkins with seven minutes remaining in the game.
The Bruins were able to pull to within 20-14 with 29 seconds remaining thanks to a 54-yard touchdown catch by Nelson Rosario, but UCLA was unable to recover the onside kick. Scheelhaase passed for 139 yards and ran for 110 more for Illinois, who snapped a six-game losing streak. Illinois has won bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
The Bruins led 7-3 after an ugly first half, and the third quarter provided more of the same offensively. Both teams' best scoring opportunities of the third quarter came in the form of relatively short field goal attempts. Tyler Gonzalez missed a 35-yarder for UCLA, and Derek Dimke returned the favor with a miss from 37 yards with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter.
On the Bruins' ensuing possession, UCLA was able to move the ball thanks to a couple of runs by Derrick Coleman, but the drive ended abruptly. Kevin Prince threw an interception that was returned 39 yards by Terry Hawthorne for a touchdown and the first lead of the game for Illinois, in the final minute of the third quarter.
Prince, who was under duress for most of the game, had a miserable day, completing just 13 of 28 passes for 201 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He was sacked five times.
Thus ends the Mike Johnson era at UCLA. The offensive coordinator turned interim coach will not be a part of Jim Mora's staff, who take over the Bruins' football program following this game. The Pac-12 is just 1-4 so far this college football bowl season, with two games remaining. On Monday, the Oregon Ducks battle the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl and the Stanford Cardinal take on the Oklahoma St. Cowboys.
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