UCLA freshman receiver Devin Lucien, who suffered a broken collarbone… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Lost in the thrill of nine wins, beating USC and playing to the brink of the Rose Bowl is the fact that UCLA was without a major young talent after the fifth game.
Redshirt freshman receiver Devin Lucien will return to the field in the Holiday Bowl against Baylor on Dec. 27 after suffering a broken collarbone in the Sept. 29 victory over Colorado.
"I was cleared 100% a week ago," Lucien said after Thursday's practice. "I felt good four to five weeks after the injury, but the doctors didn't think so."
TIMELINE: College football 2012-13 bowl schedule
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said receivers Shaquelle Evans and Jerry Johnson will start in the bowl game but promised (with Lucien standing in front of him) that the 6-foot, 200-pound Crespi High product will be used liberally.
"We've missed him," Mazzone said. "People forget he hasn't been around, but you go back to the Nebraska and Rice games … he made some big plays.
"He plays hard, has great ball skills, can get in and out of the breaks. Him being gone didn't change how I feel about him. Playing well might boost his confidence in that."
Lucien had 10 receptions for 188 yards before being injured, and he caught three passes for 70 yards in the victory over Nebraska.
"I hope the coaches still remember the Nebraska game; so much has happened since," Lucien said. "All I want to do is leave a lasting great impression, to make everyone look forward to seeing me when I come back next year.
"I feel like I want it more than others who defend me. I want to be great … [so] I'm thought of as one of the best."
Seniors carried off
As they ended their final practice in Westwood before continuing their work in San Diego on Saturday, Bruins players carried 19 seniors off the practice field on their shoulders.
"It was cool," senior safety Andrew Abbott said. "We've been through a lot and done a lot."
Coach Jim Mora said the seniors had more impact this season "than I would ever have imagined. They've responded to everything we've asked of them with no problems. It's been inspiring.
"I relied on them a lot. What needed to change, and what didn't."
Senior safety Dalton Hilliard said Thursday's practice in pads repeated the effort "we pride ourselves on: high tempo, intense. There was a lot of thumping of the pads, a great way to end practice here."
"I wouldn't have wanted to leave to San Diego without a day like today," Mora said.
Now, the pageantry begins, with a Friday reception with mariachis and dinner in San Diego. The Bruins are staying in the Gaslamp District.
"We'll have our normal curfew rules," Hilliard said. "We'll make sure to represent the school with respect. We're a disciplined team, and Coach has harped on that stuff in meetings."