UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins will play a Temple team in the EagleBank… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
UCLA's wait is over, and Bruins Coach Rick Neuheisel can claim victory.
A bowl game was set as the bar for success this season and the Bruins got there, but only after Navy defeated Army, 17-3, Saturday. That put UCLA in the EagleBank Bowl against Temple on Dec. 29 at RFK Stadium in Washington.
"We've reached our goal," Neuheisel said. "Now, we need to finish with a flurry."
Standing in the way of that will be Temple (9-3), which had its first winning season since 1990 and is appearing in only its third bowl game.
The Owls lost to Tulane in the 1935 Sugar Bowl -- meaning they reached a BCS game before UCLA did -- and didn't get to another postseason game until beating California in the 1979 Garden State Bowl.
"This means everything to our kids," said Al Golden, who has a 19-29 record in four seasons as Temple's coach. "This is what we've been working for the last four years.
"We have the fourth-largest media market. UCLA has the second-largest. The game is in the nation's capital. This couldn't have been designed any better."
Design seemed the right word.
UCLA (6-6), which failed to qualify for one of the Pacific 10 Conference's six bowl games, was available as an at-large team, provided all teams with at least seven victories against Football Bowl Subdivision teams had bowl invitations.
The Bruins were courted by the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl and Little Caesars Bowl, among others.
UCLA looked into bowl payoffs, and decided the EagleBank Bowl was the best financial decision.
ESPN, which will televise the game, was eager to get UCLA for ratings purposes.
"We wanted Temple-UCLA, Temple wanted UCLA," said Steve Beck, the EagleBank Bowl executive director. "[UCLA Athletic Director] Dan Guerrero called and said they had made their decision to come to Washington, D.C. He said they knew the risk, but they were going to stay home or come to Washington."
The EagleBank Bowl was contractually required to take Army if it had beaten Navy to become bowl-eligible.
"You obviously would like to have destiny in your own hands," Neuheisel said. "We knew we needed help. I had some trepidation when Army was leading at halftime, but I'm thrilled that the Midshipmen came back in the second half. This is a tremendous deal for our program to be back in postseason."
UCLA last played in the postseason in 2007, when the Bruins lost to Brigham Young, 17-16, in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Early Temple scouting report
Temple ranks 23rd nationally in rushing offense. The Owls' Bernard Pierce is 11th in rushing with 1,308 yards. Temple ranks 19th against the run.
"The ability to run the ball and stop the run usually equals victory," Neuheisel said. "Their defensive linemen remind me of the type of guys I would see play on Sunday."
UCLA struggled against the run at times this season. The Bruins gave up 150 or more yards rushing in seven games this season.
Still, Temple's schedule included only one team from a BCS conference. The Owls were routed by Penn State, 31-6, in the second game of the season. Their other losses were against Villanova and Ohio.
All but one of UCLA's games were against BCS conference teams.
"I looked at their schedule and could see why they felt they deserved a bowl game with six wins," Golden said. "Many of their losses were to teams ranked in the top 25."