If there were such a thing as the Bounce Back Bowl, UCLA would have long been eligible.
It turns out, however, that if the Bruins want to become eligible for post season play, they are going to have to bounce back from a loss one more time.
The Bruins are coming off a loss at Utah but each time UCLA (5-5) has lost a game this season, the Bruins have come back the following week with a victory. Keeping that streak alive Saturday against Colorado not only would make the Bruins bowl eligible, but it would keep them on track for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.
"It’s incredibly important that we bounce back because of the Pac-12 race the way it is and our desire to play in the Pac-12 championship game and bowl eligibility on the line and everything," quarterback Kevin Prince said. "And with the seniors going out with their last game at the Rose Bowl, it all makes this a huge game for us."
The Bruins lost, 31-6 at Utah last week, ending a mild two-game win streak and stopping some of the momentum the Bruins had built, but the blowout loss doesn't necessarily mean UCLA is down and out. They rebounded from a 49-20 loss against Texas by winning at Oregon State the following week for their only road victory this season.
A week after a 29-point loss at Stanford, the Bruins staged a fourth-quarter comeback in a victory over Washington State. And after hitting the low point of the season in a 48-12 loss at Arizona, the Bruins responded by winning the next two weeks to take control of their destiny in the Pac-12 South race.
"We’re just the type of gang that never gives up," center Kai Maiava said. "We just hang in there, you know because things are going to get rough and that’s just the way football is and everybody realizes that. We just hang in, stick together and just come out fighting."
It's a good news, bad news situation if there ever was one. The good news is that the Bruins know they won't go in the tank just because they have lost a game. The bad news is that they've had to do it so often.
"Unfortunately we’ve had experience with of losing and having to come back," Prince said. "It kind of bumps us up in the focus department when we lose. It’s frustrating for sure. I wish we didn’t have to have this up and down season but it definitely its encouraging to know that we can do it."
Putting losses in the rear view mirror is a mindset, offensive lineman Mike Harris said. It's shows a quality and character in a team that many left for dead several times this season, yet sits in the driver's seat for a spot in the Pac-12 title game with only two games left to play.
"We have guys that get knocked down but know how to climb back up," Harris said. "It comes from a love of playing this game and having the pride to come back when things aren't going well."
Scheduling has also helped a bit as the Bruins have faced San Jose State (3-7), Oregon State (2-8) and Washington State (4-6) in the weeks following three of their losses. This week, UCLA gets another gift from the scheduling gods in Colorado (2-9) following last week's loss.
"The fact that we have done it before gives us the confidence that we can come out and play well on Saturday," Prince said. "Guys are still really excited about getting back out there and upbeat about where we’re headed."
And to figure out exactly where it is UCLA is headed, just follow the bouncing Bruins.