The Foster Farms Bowl, affectionately called the “Chicken Bowl” by many, will feature the 8-4 UCLA Bruins and the 5-7 (yes 5-7) Nebraska Cornhuskers in a game that should be called by a third name, “The Frustration Bowl”.
“Chicken Bowl” Features Two Teams Ready to Close the Book on 2015
With UCLA, you have to give Jim Mora some credit for guiding a constantly injured UCLA team to an eight-win season while starting a freshman quarterback, but he also deserves some blame for some mind boggling play calling decisions. At one point, UCLA was undefeated and ranked seventh in the country after impressive victories over BYU and Arizona. Then the wheels fell off. Countless injuries to key players such as Eddie Vanderdoes, Myles Jack, and Fabian Moreau crippled a Bruins defense as UCLA stumbled to a 4-4 record in the final two-thirds of their season. When the injuries on defense weren’t getting the blame for UCLA’s struggles, it was usually directed at offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Mazzone first started feeling the heat after stubbornly sticking with the run against Arizona State despite seeing nine man boxes on almost every play. Mazzone refused to adjust until it was too late, allowing Arizona State to win 38-23 and wreck the Bruins’ undefeated season. Mazzone continued to rely to heavily on the run despite having a hobbled Paul Perkins, and it cost the Bruins as the season wore on. Despite all the injuries and bizarre playcalling, UCLA still had a shot at the Pac-12 South title, needing only a victory over hated rival USC to clinch their trip to Santa Clara to face Stanford. It didn’t happen. After taking a 21-20 lead midway through the third quarter, USC scored the final 20 points of the ball game to hand the Bruins a demoralizing 40-21 loss in their season finale and taking the Bruins spot in the Pac-12 title game.
With Nebraska, you’ve got to feel for new head coach Mike Riley. His tenure at Nebraska began with a heartbreaking 33-28 loss at home to BYU when freshman Tanner Mangum completed a Hail Mary on the final play. The heartbreak continued with a 36-33 loss to Miami in overtime in which the Huskers scored 23 points in the final 9 minutes to tie the game, only to give the game to the Hurricanes on a horrible Tommy Armstrong interception. The most heartbreaking loss was probably against Illinois, in which the Huskers gave up 14 points in the final quarter and lost to the Illini 14-13. Nebraska’s heartbreaking ways continued with a 23-21 loss to Wisconsin on the final play of the game. Then they continued with an infuriating 30-28 loss to Northwestern after the Huskers were seemingly back on track after blowing out Minnesota. The most embarrassing loss came against the Purdue Boilermakers who, despite entering the game with just one conference victory in three years, torched the Huskers for nearly 500 yards of offense in a humiliating 55-45 loss for NU. Nebraska seemed to have finally saved its season after a thrilling 39-38 upset of the Michigan State Spartans and an easy 31-14 victory over Rutgers, and Husker fans were confident that the Huskers had some more upset magic heading into the season finale against #4 Iowa. Didn’t happen. Nebraska went toe to toe with the Hawkeyes all game, but a horrible four interception performance from Tommy Armstrong doomed the Huskers to yet another heartbreaking 28-20 loss. There have been countless scapegoats for Nebraska’s rough season. Injuries on defense, Tommy Armstrong, lack of a run game, Tommy Armstrong, terrible play from their seniors, off field distractions from their seniors, terrible secondary play, and once against Tommy Armstrong all took turns shouldering the blame.The loss to Iowa should have (mercifully) ended Nebraska’s season at 5-7, but the glorious 40 bowl game schedule gave the Huskers one final shot to save their season.
Both teams are ready to move on from their incredibly frustrating 2015 seasons. UCLA fans get to look forward to another year of growth from super freshman Josh Rosen. More passing from Noel Mazzone, and another run at the conference title with a young but extremely talented squad in 2016. Nebraska fans meanwhile, get to have another year away from the toxic presence of Bo Pelini and will continue weeding out the locker room cancers that plagued the Huskers this season. Husker fans also get to look forward to another year of Tommy Armstrong, though hopefully with a lot less #yolobombs.
Both schools are ready for fresh starts, but both have one more game to go. UCLA has nothing to gain, Nebraska has nothing to lose, so expect things to get crazy in this years Chicken Bowl.