For the first 12 minutes of the UCLA-San Diego State football game at the Rose Bowl, it seemed that the Bruins would be the same old team that went 4-8 a year ago.
The Bruins were shooting themselves in the foot, committing four penalties and a turnover that led to 14 Aztec points, including a 78-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Lindley to Vincent Brown, giving UCLA a 14-3 deficit.
Then the Bruins woke up.
After obviously making some adjustments on defense, UCLA's defense tightened up on San Diego State, allowing only 39 yards rushing for the night. The Aztec offense did nothing for the remaining three quarters, constantly going three-and-out and getting three passes intercepted by Rahim Moore—a UCLA record.
Bruin running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman had rushing touchdowns of 12 and 33 yards, respectively.
Kevin Prince, in his first college start, threw for 176 yards and a touchdown to Terrance Austin that gave UCLA the lead for good in the second quarter.
All of that led to a solid 33-14 win for the Bruins on Saturday night before a crowd of 55,761 that was generally happy with how the game turned out.
The game's biggest highlight? It happened with 37 seconds left in the third quarter, when Jerzy Siewierski blocked a field goal attempt and Alterraun Verner returned it 70 yards for a touchdown that pretty much broke San Diego State's back.
UCLA showed particular improvement in the offense, with the offensive line consistently opening up holes, sustaining drives, and rushing for 144 yards total. That was something that Bruin fans had not seen in quite a while.
True, there were some mistakes: Prince threw two interceptions in the second half, and the mistakes that were made in the first quarter worried the Bruin faithful a bit.
But as I wrote in my UCLA preview, progress will be made.
The Bruins certainly showed that progress last Saturday.
Will it continue in Knoxville against a Tennessee Volunteer team that is looking for revenge due to their 27-24 loss to UCLA a year ago?
That remains to be seen, but as long as the Bruins continue to show that progress, things will ultimately continue in the right direction.