Bruins Go Bowling Crosstown

The competitive matchup between Boise State and UCLA will mark a return to this bowl game matchup for Gronkowski. During his college career at the University of Arizona, Gronkowski played in the then Las Vegas Bowl; its conference match-up was relocated to Los Angeles and renamed LA Bowl in 2020. 

UCLA defensive end Laiatu Latu (15) earned Pac-12 defensive player of the year

 

Earl Heath

Contributing Sports Writer

 

UCLA’s football team earned a Bowl bid right in its own back-

Yard. They will take part in Starco Brands LA Bowl held at So-Fi Stadium on December 16.

The opponent Boise State which found it way there by winning the Mountain West Championship game 44-20 over the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The two teams have squared off one previous time with UCLA winning 38-7 on Sept. 4, 1999.

“We are thrilled to welcome back the Mountain West and Pac-12 Conferences to the third edition of our bowl game at SoFi Stadium,” said Adolfo Romero, interim executive director, Starco Brands LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk. “College football’s bowl season begins at SoFi Stadium, with an exciting match-up.

The game is hosted by four-time Super Bowl Champion Rob Gronkowski. The highly spirited future Hall of Famer brings his unique style and flair back to college football as the official host.  The competitive matchup between Boise State and UCLA will mark a return to this bowl game matchup for Gronkowski. During his college career at the University of Arizona, Gronkowski played in the then Las Vegas Bowl; its conference match-up was relocated to Los Angeles and renamed LA Bowl in 2020.

UCLA was the fifth best representative after CFP selection from one of the strongest football conferences in the nation this year, the Pac-12. Five teams in the conference won eight or more games this season, with Washington leading the way with 13 wins followed by an 11-win season by Oregon, a nine-win season by Arizona, eight-win seasons by Oregon State and Utah, and seven-win seasons by UCLA and USC.

“They’ve got such a great, rich history and tradition and then Spencer’s (Danielson) done a great job, since they had the coaching change,” said Chip Kelley. “I know how tough the Mountain West is – we played a lot of Mountain West teams since I’ve been here. It’s an opportunity to play against the Mountain West champ and were really excited about it.”

RB Ashton Jeanty Boise State is MWC Player of the Year© Provided by ESPN

The Broncos head to Los Angeles with an 8-5 record, bringing a four-game winning streak into the bowl season. Following a 7-5 regular season that saw four of the five losses be determined by a touchdown or less, the Broncos – a program known for defying the odds – overcame a 0.1% probability to finish in a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West with UNLV and San Jose State. With the tiebreaker coming from an average of various computer rankings, Boise State advanced to play at UNLV, where Spencer Danielson became the first interim head coach in football bowl subdivision (FBS) history to lead his team to a conference championship game win.

“I’m so fired up for our team,” said Danielson the Broncos Head coach. Just like coach Kelly said I mean just a way to send these seniors off the right way. I mean, so proud of what they’ve been able to do this whole season – been through a lot of peaks and valleys and having them finish with the conference championship is a testament to them, our seniors.”  Boise State’s swarming defense ranks 17th nationally in sacks, led by Ahmed Hassanein, the first Egyptian to play Division I football. Hassanein has been credited with a sack in nine consecutive games following the Mountain West Championship Game, the longest active streak in the nation. Meanwhile sophomore James Ferguson-Reynolds leads the nation in punting by nearly two yards per punt and is one of only three punters in the country with multiple 70-plus yard punts. His current season average of 49.6 yards per punt would rank sixth all-time in NCAA history if his season were to end today.

A lot of our players are from Southern California,” added Danielson. “ So being able to go back home. Not only just playing in an NFL stadium like we talked about playing against a phenomenal opponent. That’s gonna be extremely well coached. I mean, those are all huge perks of why we tell you to come to Boise State to win championships and play big time bowl games. And that’s what this is. So once again hats off to our players or staff they deserve these moments and we’re gonna work our tail out to finish the right way.”

The Broncos head to the Starco Brands LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk with a .650 all-time bowl win percentage – ranking fifth among all FBS programs – and have won eight of their past 11 bowl game appearances.

The Bruins are headed to a bowl game for the third year in a row under Kelly. He opened the season with consecutive wins to open the 2023 campaign and capped off the season with a dominant 38-20 road victory over crosstown rivals USC on Nov. 18.

 

The Bruins finished the year 7-5, with two of the five losses to two Pac-12 teams who are both currently ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 poll, Arizona and Oregon State. Included among their four straight home wins was an eight-point victory over then-13th-ranked Washington State at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 7. The Bruins averaged 25.8 points and 420.2 yards per game, while their defense, led by Laiatu Latu with 13 sacks (best in the Pac-12), held opponents to 18.08 points and 217 overall. UCLA finished the regular season ranked 11th nationally in total defense (299.0 yards per game) while leading the nation in rushing defense (69.6 yards per game).

However their defensive coordinator D’ Anton Lynn has left headed to USC. When asked who will take his spot ? Kelley responded: “Our whole defensive staff will put together a game plan. We’re all on our way, on the road, to go recruiting right now and then we’ll meet at the end of the week and then sit down as a staff, but we’re not bringing in anybody new from the outside.”

ADD BRUINS: Freshman quarterback Dante Moore has entered the Transfer Portal- He will be joined by Jake Wiley a 6’6″, 310-pound o-lineman who is the fifth player on the 2023 roster to enter the portal, joining receivers Kam Brown and Keegan Jones, tight end Carsen Ryan.

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