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November 10, 2013

No. 16 UCLA hi-Jack-s Arizona's homecoming

On a night UCLA star Anthony Barr failed to get into the stat sheet, it was another linebacker who made the difference for the Bruins.

Only, Myles Jack did it as an emergency running back, too, on Saturday night.

It was that kind of game working against Arizona, which squandered a pair of trips inside the red zone and lost, 31-26, to the 16th-ranked Bruins in front of a homecoming crowd of 51,531 at Arizona Stadium.

Jack, who came into the game as UCLA's fourth-leading tackler, played both ways and came up with big play after big play to power the Bruins (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12 Conference). The true freshman ran for 120 yards on just six carries - the last of which went 66 yards for the difference-making touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

"I just followed my blockers and everything worked out," Jack said of his coming-out party.

The 6-1, 225-pounder also made eight stops on defense - including one for a loss - to go with a fumble recovery and a pair of broken up passes.

Barr, who came into the game with 13 tackles for a loss and six sacks, failed to register a tackle.

With the Wildcats trailing by five on their own 12-yard-line and 2:33 remaining, quarterback B.J. Denker ran for three yards, threw incomplete twice - once on a pass deflected by Jack - and fired the game-clinching interception into the arms of Ishmael Adams with 1:57 to play.

"Didn't get the first, first down," Denker said of the final drive. "That's what we talk about, that's how we get in our rhythm. Threw three bad passes and we lost the football game.

"Obviously, it was too much for me to handle."

The win was UCLA's first in Tucson since 2003, snapping a four-game skid. The Bruins also remained tied in the South division with second-place USC and a game behind leader Arizona State.

With the loss, Arizona (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) dropped to fourth in the South standings, but it was not for a lack of opportunities.

The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs in the first, and Ka'Deem Carey fumbled at the goal line and the offense settled for a 27-yard Jake Smith field goal in the third. UA was 4 of 6 scoring inside the 20.

"Played poorly and had a chance at the end. That just makes you even sicker," UA head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "When we watch the film, we're not going to be very happy.

"One opportunity. You lose by a touchdown, right? So how many plays are you going to watch tonight or tomorrow and say, 'Geez, that one play would've made the difference.'"

The team also wasted a career night from true freshman receiver Nate Phillips, who recorded game highs of eight catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns. His previous high of four came in each of the previous three games.

The 5-7 target's final catch of the game was a 14-yard strike from Denker with 8:02 to play and gave UA the opportunity to steal the victory.

But it was just too much Jack, whose scoring run on the previous drive provided enough of a cushion. As a high school star in Bellevue, Wash., the four-star recruit also played running back and was even recruited by Arizona.

Jack was thrust into the role for the first time on the collegiate level, with starter Jordon James and Steven Manfro sidelined by injuries.

"We have always talked about using (Myles) Jack," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said, "but the question is: how much do you give our young players to do, and at what point do they become saturated and lose their effectiveness?"

That was hardly the case for Jack, however.

Facing a 24-10 deficit midway through the third and on the UCLA 5, the sure-handed Carey was flipped and fumbled after a 4-yard run and attempt to dive for the goal line. Jack - fittingly - recovered for the touchback.

"I'm passionate when I run that football so I'm just trying to get in the end zone. I close my eyes, jump, take a leap - anything for the team," said Carey, who finished with 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts to give him 12 consecutive games with at least 100 yards.

"They just knocked it out. It was a good play by the defense."

Late in the quarter and still trailing by the same margin, UA forced and recovered a questionable fumble in UCLA territory. But the drive lasted all of five plays - the last of which was a loss of six yards on a third-and-1 run from the 4, and the 'Cats settled for Smith's chip shot with 2:15 remaining.

"We didn't execute when we got in the red zone. We didn't put points up on the board," said Denker, who completed 20 of 33 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. "We either got field goals or we turned the ball over."

But Arizona kept chipping away at the deficit and eventually got back to scoring touchdowns. From 15 yards out, Denker connected with Phillips over his shoulder - his fifth consecutive game with a touchdown reception - but failed on the two-point conversion to make it 24-19 with 11:46 remaining.

In exactly a minute, however, UCLA and the growing legend of Jack swung the momentum. The true freshman rumbled for the decisive score.

"On the cut I just saw nobody else was coming inside, so I just started running and I just had to beat the safety," Jack said.

Trailing by 11 early in the second, Arizona received a gift from UCLA that turned a brewing blowout into a contest.

The Bruins attempted a fake punt on its own end of the field but Sean Covington's intended pass to an open Jack was wild. The Wildcats took over at the Bruins' 25 and Carey busted in four plays later for his 40th career rushing touchdown, cutting the deficit to 14-10 with 12:55 left in the half.

"I probably screwed with our momentum by calling that fake punt but we saw something there," Mora said. "We had it but we just didn't execute it well."

The UA defense, which was porous to start and allowed scores on UCLA's first two drives, received a jolt and stifled the Bruins for 28 yards over the next four possessions and made its way into the backfield. Among the highlights was a sack by Tra'Mayne Bondurant and tackle for a loss by Sione Tuihalamaka.

But the UA offense was unable to retake the lead. With 16 seconds remaining, Shaquelle Evans hauled in a tipped pass and dragged his toe inside the back corner for the 4-yard catch.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked four times but connected on 18 of 25 throws under otherwise little pressure. The redshirt sophomore threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns - both to Evans, who finished with four catches for 97 yards, the first 66 on a first-quarter touchdown.

The Bruins led 21-10 at halftime.

Trailing 7-3 and inside the red zone, Carey was stuffed on fourth-and-inches at the UCLA 15. Hundley - who completed all seven of his passes and was hardly pressured in the opening quarter - capitalized, converting on a third-and-14 and then rushing for a 15-yard score to extend the lead to 14-3 at the 1:23 mark.

The Bruins were 9 of 18 on third downs compared to the Wildcats' 5-of-14 performance.

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Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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