Once again a talented UCLA defensive backfield helped pull out a win for the Bruins. Akeem Ayers returned an interception 2 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and UCLA shut down Temple in the second half for a 30-21 victory Tuesday in the EagleBank Bowl.
The Bruins rallied from a 21-7 first-half deficit to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2006. UCLA braved the freezing temperatures and a wind chill in the teens to overcome a sluggish start. Kevin Prince completed 16 of 31 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His counterpart, Vaughn Charlton, had more interceptions (two) than completed passes (one) in the second half.
The Owls took a 21-10 lead into halftime, but the Bruins outscored Temple 20-0 in the second half and won just their fourth bowl game in their last 12 appearances. Temple RB Bernard Pierce rushed for 53 yards and a TD on 12 carries, but left the game with an injury with 3 minutes to play in the second quarter. With Pierce in the lineup, Temple gained 224 yards. Without him, it was held to 58.
The game drew 23,072 to RFK Stadium, a decline of more than 5,000 from last year's inaugural game. Organizers had to dig deep for participants because the original matchup -- Army vs. an Atlantic Coast Conference team -- didn't pan out because Army finished with a losing record and the ACC lacked enough bowl-eligible schools. So perhaps unless deep pockets prevail this is the last Eagle Bowl.
The Pac 10 is now 2-2 in bowl games for 2009 with three left to play.