2009 EagleBank Bowl - UCLA vs. Temple
UCLA DT Brian Price & Temple RB Bernard Pierce
UCLA DT Brian Price & Temple RB Bernard Pierce
Posted Dec 21, 2009

The CFN 2009 EagleBank Bowl Preview - UCLA vs. Temple

2009 EagleBank Bowl

UCLA (6-6) vs. Temple (9-3)

Washington DC, Dec. 29, 4:30 pm,, ESPN

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Team Pages and 2009 Season

- 2008 CFN EagleBank Bowl Preview 
National Rankings
88th Total Offense 89th
39th Total Defense 37th
99th Scoring Offense 35th
31st Scoring Defense 33rd
98th Rushing Offense 23rd
60th Run Defense 20th
52nd Passing Offense 112th
30th Passing Defense 74th
31st Turnover Margin 31st
Position Ratings
relative to each other
C 5 highest
1 lowest
3 Quarterbacks 1.5
3.5 RBs 4.5
3 Receivers 2
2.5 O Line 3
3 D Line 2.5
3 Linebackers 3
3 Secondary 3
4.5 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 4
EagleBank Bowl History
2008 Wake Forest 29, Navy 19
Temple and UCLA in D.C. in December? What time is tip-off?

The Owls and the Bruins are meeting for the first time in a game that looks better suited for a preseason holiday invitational on the hardwood. UCLA was the last team to qualify for the bowl bonanza, needing an Army loss to Navy last Saturday to avoid back-to-back bowl-less postseasons for the first time in almost two decades. However, is the glass half-full or half-empty in Westwood?

In Rick Neuheisel's second season at his alma mater, the Bruins have made modest strides, but they've hardly narrowed the gap on the rest of the league. More competitive than a year ago, when they won only four games? Sure. Yet, this remains a .500 program that defeated only one team that's still playing—Tennessee—and has lights years to go on offense. While Neuheisel has the vessel pointed in the right direction, no matter what happens at RFK Stadium Tuesday evening, this modest progression won't be acceptable for too much longer. By Year 3, fans are going to demand more wins and better than an eighth place finish in the Pac-10.

After quickly raising expectations with a 3-0 start, UCLA was unable to sustain, losing the next five games before the schedule softened. Although the defense is loaded with NFL-caliber players, the offense remains a serious work-in-progress. There's a lack of playmakers and the line hasn't blocked consistently in years. The Bruins did break the seal on Kevin Prince, the redshirt freshman quarterback many hope will be the second-coming of Cade McNown. Yeah, he showed flashes, especially later in the season, but a broken jaw and a feeble running game stunted his development. Now he's trying to bounce back from a shoulder injury suffered in the USC game. It's been that kind of a year for the UCLA offense, which might be forced to use true freshman Richard Brehaut under center if Prince isn't at full-strength.

The real storyline in this game revolves around Temple, one of the biggest surprises of the 2009 season. This year's Buffalo out of the MAC, the Owls came out of nowhere to win nine games and qualify for the postseason for the first time in 30 years. This from a program that hadn't even produced a winning record since 1990, was booted from the Big East five years ago, and was on the brink of extinction. Barely surviving in Philadelphia, a decided pro football town, Temple has suddenly displayed a pulse under fourth-year prodigy Al Golden.

In a relatively short period of time, Golden has done the unthinkable, steadily improving a football team that was about to be fitted for a toe tag. Obviously, he's not attracting top-flight recruits, but his kids are physical in an old-school type of way, excelling at the point of attack, running the ball with authority, and sporting a nasty brand of defense. By the MAC measuring stick, this is a talented overall football team that rebounded from early losses to Villanova and Penn State to reel off nine consecutive wins. Only a season-ending loss to Ohio kept the Owls from winning the East Division and squaring off with Central Michigan for the league championship in Detroit. Ironically, Golden interviewed for the UCLA opening two years ago, shortly before Neuheisel got the nod.

Players to Watch: Few freshmen meant more to the fate of his program than RB Bernard Pierce did to Temple. In one of the best individual seasons by an Owl in school history, he rushed for 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns despite getting just 13 carries in the first two games and one in the final two. A shoulder injury kept him on the shelf at the end of the regular season, but he is expected back for this game. Regardless of his availability, he'll get plenty of help from fellow rookie Matt Brown, who more than picked up the slack when Pierce went down. Bernie and the Bug, as they're known, will again be the focus of an offense that has four All-MAC linemen and excels in run blocking.

Although it was way back in Week 2, when Temple faced a grown-up D in Penn State, it only managed two field goals and 251 total yards. UCLA could present a similar challenge to the Owls. The Bruins have six All-Pac-10 players on this side of the ball, including at least one first teamer at each level of the defense. With DT Brian Price up front, LB Reggie Carter in the middle, and CB Alterraun Verner and FS Rahim Moore in the secondary, it could be a frustrating evening for erratic Temple quarterbacks Vaughn Charlton and Chester Stewart. Not to be overlooked on that UCLA defense is LB Akeem Ayers on the strongside. A 6-4, 252-pound playmaker, he's collected 66 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, three picks, and four forced fumbles.

Temple will have problems moving chains, but then again, so will UCLA. The Bruins are ninth in the Pac-10 in rushing and scoring, and the uncertainty regarding Prince's health only makes matters worse. Although RB Johnathan Franklin and WR Nelson Rosario provided a little spark in the second half of the year, no one on this unit is going to frighten an Owl defense that's physical, generates a lot of pressure, and boasts three linemen named to the All-MAC first team. Andre Neblett, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Adrian Robinson are going to be a handful for a UCLA front wall that hasn't been particularly stellar in run or pass blocking.

Temple will win if ... Pierce is able to recapture his pre-injury form. When the true freshman was rolling in October and early November, the Owls were borderline unstoppable. During the nine-game winning streak, he went over 100 yards six times and over 200 yards in back-to-back weekends. A tough, north-south runner, he showed the ability to steal the heart from opposing defenses, especially as the game wore on. It's not as if UCLA is that excited about this cross-country trip as it is, so Pierce will have an opportunity to really put it on the brink. With him pounding away at the inside of the Bruin defense and Brown getting outside the tackles, it might even open up a play or two downfield on play-action. Temple will have much more motivation and a considerable edge in fan support, so the last thing UCLA can afford to do is allow it to remain in contention in the second half.

UCLA will win if ... someone steps up and makes a few big plays on offense. While no one is banking on fireworks versus the scrappy Temple defense, the Bruins must prevent a 60-minute scrum that could go either way in the final quarter. They need Prince or Brehaut to take advantage of an average Owl secondary, getting Rosario, Taylor Embree, and Terrence Austin in man situations. They'll also need more production from Franklin and a running attack that's averaging just 116 yards a game and 3.5 yards a carry. Most of all, UCLA has to control the line of scrimmage in order to give the playmakers a legitimate chance to, well, make plays. Xavier Su'a-Filo is a budding star at left tackle, but he needs more help from his linemates in order to keep Temple from consistently occupying the backfield.

What will happen: UCLA ought to be very careful heading into this game. If it doesn't come to play, Temple will use it as another launching pad for the future. The Bruins will enjoy an edge in size, speed, and overall depth. That's pretty obvious. The Owls, however, will be treating this game like their national championship, are accustomed to foul weather, and will be driving to RFK Stadium. In other words, UCLA better pack its game face on the long flight into D.C. A lot will depend on the health and endurance of Pierce, who hasn't played a full game in well over a month. If he's able to get 30 or 35 good looks at the Bruin D, this is going to be a jump ball in the fourth quarter. More likely, however, Temple will have problems navigating such a gifted defense with a one-dimensional offense. UCLA will stack the box to stop Pierce and Brown, forcing the quarterbacks to perform beyond their abilities. They won't. The Bruins will get just enough on offense to finish the season above .500, but it's not going to be crisp. They'll lean heavily on P Jeff Locke and PK Kai Forbath, who'll have pivotal roles in the final outcome.

CFN Prediction: UCLA 27 … Temple 16 ... Line: UCLA -7

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Best Owl Bowl Moment: Throughout the long history of Temple football, there have been just a pair of bowl appearances, losing the inaugural Sugar Bowl to Tulane in 1935 and defeating Cal, 28-17, in the 1979 Garden State Bowl. RB Kevin Duckett was one of the catalysts of a team that finished 10-2 and generated some brief excitement around Philadelphia.

Best Bruin Bowl Moment: UCLA was almost unbeatable in the 1980s, winning seven of eight bowl games, including three Rose Bowls. However, the 1960s were home to its most unforgettable postseason victory. Before 1964, the Bruins had played in five Rose Bowls, losing each one. The 1965 squad mercifully ended that futility in a thriller with No. 1 Michigan State that ended when three Bruin defenders stopped a game-tying two-point conversion with under a minute left in the game.

Temple Bowl History (1-1)
1979 Garden State Temple 28, Cal 17
1934 NSugar Tulane 20, Temple 14
UCLA Bowl History (13-15-1)
2007 Las Vegas BYU 17, UCLA 16
2006 Emerald Florida St 44, UCLA 27
2005 Sun UCLA 50, Northwestern 38
2004 Las Vegas Wyoming 24, UCLA 21
2003 Silicon Valley Fresno State 17, UCLA 9
2002 Las Vegas UCLA 27, New Mexico 13
2000 Sun Wisconsin 21, UCLA 20
1998 Rose Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31
1997 Cotton UCLA 29, Texas A&M 23
1995 Aloha Kansas 51, UCLA 30
1993 Rose Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
1991 John Hancock UCLA 6, Illinois 3
1988 Cotton UCLA 17, Arkansas 3
1987 Aloha UCLA 20, Florida 16
1986 Freedom UCLA 31, BYU 10
1985 Rose UCLA 45, Iowa 28
1984 Fiesta UCLA 39, Miami (Fla.) 37
1983 Rose UCLA 45, Illinois 9
1982 Rose UCLA 24, Michigan 14
1981 Bluebonnet Michigan 33, UCLA 14
1978 Fiesta UCLA 10, Arkansas 10
1976 Liberty Alabama 36, UCLA 6
1975 Rose UCLA 23, Ohio State 10
1965 Rose UCLA 14, Michigan State 12
1961 Rose Minnesota 21, UCLA 3
1955 Rose Michigan State 17, UCLA 14
1953 Rose Michigan State 28, UCLA 20
1945 Rose Illinois 45, UCLA 14
1942 Rose Georgia 9, UCLA 0