The UCLA Bruins have had a bizarre season, to say the least. Their season will conclude on Saturday, December 31 in San Francisco, as the Bruins will play the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The game will be played at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, on New Year's Eve at 12:30 p.m. PST and will be televised on ESPN.
This Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl will have an interesting twist, as both teams fired their coaches at the end of the regular season. UCLA will be coached on an interim basis by offensive coordinator Mike Johnson, in place of the departed Rick Neuheisel. Illinois will be coached on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, replacing the fired Ron Zook. Illinois began their season 6-0 but finished the year with six straight losses.
One on hand, the Bruins were 5-1 at home this season and had the best conference record among eligible teams in the Pac-12 South Division, representing the division in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. On the other hand, the Bruins did lose five different games in which they gave up 45 or more points, and allowed a school record 419 points on the season, an average of over 32 per game.
UCLA is also under .500 at 6-7, and had to petition the NCAA for a special waiver of bowl eligibility, which was granted. "We will be able to give our 18 seniors one more chance to represent their university and end their collegiate careers on a high note," said UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero in a statement on Wednesday. "We'd like to thank the NCAA for considering the unique situation in which we find ourselves this year and rewarding us with this opportunity."
The Bruins' offense is led by a three-pronged rushing attack, featuring tailbacks Johnathan Franklin (947 yards, 6.0 yards per carry) and Derrick Coleman (726 yards, 5.1 ypc), as well as quarterback Kevin Prince (455 yards, 4.1 ypc). Wide receiver Nelson Rosario gives UCLA a legitimate deep threat, and at 1,106 yards receiving this year he is one of just seven Bruins to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
The Bruins' last bowl appearance came two years ago, as they beat the Temple Owls 30-21 in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington D.C. on December 29, 2009.
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