The UCLA Bruins have been up and down this season on their way to a 4-2 (1-2 Pac 12) record. When they are on, the Bruins present a balanced offensive attack that can put up points in bunches. When they are off, they get blown out 43-17 by a struggling Cal Bears team.
The common factor in their two losses seems to be the disappearance of their running game and Pac 12 leading rusher Jonathan Franklin in particular. Against the Oregon State Beavers, Franklin gained just 45 yards on 12 carries and the Bruins fell 27-20.
In the loss to Cal, Franklin eclipsed the 100-yard mark, finishing with 103 yards on 15 carries, but faded as the game wore on. Franklin carried the ball seven times in the second half for 53 total yards. However, take away a pair of 26 and 14 yard carries in the third quarter, and the running back gained just 13 yards in his five other rushes. In the fourth quarter, he had just two carries for four yards.
It turns out that Franklin was limited in the second half because of lingering injuries as much as the gameplan as the Bruins tried to rally. Head coach Jim Mora admitted that he was “dinged up,” so they rotated him out of the lineup frequently as he tried to play through it.
Officially, Franklin has thigh and calf contusions to go along with a bruised hand that will likely limit him in practice this week. Mora doesn’t see the injuries as a serious problem, merely a byproduct of playing running back in major college football. “It’s the time of the season where as a running back you start to feel the hits,” Mora said.
If Franklin doesn’t have his legs underneath him going forward, it will be a major blow to the Bruins rushing attack, which ranks 21st in the country. Without his presence in the running game, the Bruins will be forced to rely on redshirt freshman Brett Hundley‘s arm a lot more. While Hundley has proven to be a phenomenal talent throwing the football, the Bruins struggle when they become one-dimensional.
Franklin has rushed for 800 yards and nine touchdowns this season, leading the Pac 12 in rushing and ranking 4th in the nation.