After months of hype of great expectations UCLA kicked off its most anticipated football season in recent memory with 58-20 victory of Nevada Wolf Pack. While the Bruins didn't explode out of the gate, they went up early in the first half thanks to the exploits of our super star QB Brett Hundley. Due to some sloppiness on special teams and a so so performance from the defense (as Lou Spanos appeared to be out-schemed in the first half by his Nevada counterpart) Bruins were barely up by a score of 17-13 at the end of the first half.
But then the Bruins shifted to a whole different gear in third quarter. The offense powered by a much improved looking OL, a determined and more physical Jordon James, and led by Hundley took control. And thanks to a spectacular special teams play (punt block by RS frosh Kenny Orjioke returned for a TD by FB Phillip Ruhl) Bruins scored 20 unanswered point to take full control of the game. The final score was 58-20. Here is the boxscore. The scoreboard looks pretty and it was a dominating quality win, but it wasn't easy from the get go. And oh BTW this win also thankfully snapped a 3 game losing skid that ended Mora's first season at UCLA.
Let's start with the stars of the game. As mentioned above, I thought our OL anchored by XSF, Jacob Brendel and Simon Goines looked superb. True freshman Alex Redmond made his debut at right guard and did a solid job. The OL gave number 17 a lot of time and opened up huge holes for the running game.
That brings me to Jordan "Joystick" James. The junior TB started his season in a spectacular fashion rushing for over 155 yards in 21 carries, scoring 1. He looked so much more physical and determined in attacking the holes and showed his speed and elusiveness, which made him one of the most coveted RBs out of high school. It wasn't just JJ. Redshirt freshman Paul Perkins had a great game, rushing for 55 yards in 5 carries. And, there was our QB, Mr. Hundley ran for 63 yards and 2 flashy TDs (Heisman highlight heel worthy I may add). Malcolm Jones had a beautiful 24 yard catch and run, taking it to the house. Steven Manfro finished with 32 yards in 5 carries. Overall, UCLA rushed for over 345 yards (averaging 7.7 yards per carry). Not too shabby at all.
Hundley's stat lines look pretty solid. In addition to his rushing yards, he passed for 274 yards, completing 22 of 33 passes, distributing the ball all around to 12 (is this right? I have 12) different receivers. But the cool thing here is there is a lot of room for improvement for Brett. I think while his stats looked all right, his performance was a little uneven at times. He overthrew some wide open receivers and gave us a scary moment during an awkward slide (come-on Brett!). But, I am nitpicking here with our QB. Keep in mind the dude is still just a redshirt sophomore. So here is to continued improvement for number 17 in next couple of weeks before taking the field against the Huskers.
As for the defense, I am not sure what to make of their performance tonight. On one hand, I thought the way we came out in the first half was disappointing. The Wolf Pack's OL did a good job of handling our DL and our young D looked somewhat unprepared against Cody Fajardo led pistol offense, getting burned by over pursuit time after time. The Bruin D gave up 246 yards of offense in the first half and looked fairly mediocre. But perhaps we are not giving Fajardo enough credit here b/c he is one of the better college QBs in the game?
Still just like last season Lou Spanos found himself in a position in which he quickly needed to come up with second half adjustments. This happened a lot early last year and we chalked it off to having a DC who didn't have much college experience after making transition from the NFL. Hopefully it will not be a pattern again in first part of this season.
Thankfully the Bruin D did appear to make second half adjustments in the second half, doing a much better job of disrupting Fajardo. They were also helped by the fact that the offense and special teams came out firing getting the Bruins a nice lead and putting the Wolf Packs in position to depend strictly on the passing attack. The Wolf Pack finished the game with 352 yards, which means the D limited them to about 106 yards in the second half.
Other key personnel highlights of note from me (both good, bad and ugly):
- Our receivers looked awesome. Shaq Evans was just solid. Devin Fuller looked silky smooth. Devin Lucien and Jordan Payton looked good. Jalen Ortiz made contribution as a freshman. Heck Grayson Mazzone made 2 key back-to-back catches in Q3. I don't recall UCLA offense having this many options on offense - in my time of following UCLA football (since 1987).
- Anthony Barr was a non-factor. I wish we hadn't played him for this game. And he was taken out after he took a hit around his neck in the second half.
- Our freshmen LBs looked good. Myles Jack balled out in the second half. He was all over the place. And his freshman team-mate Deion Hollins had himself a pretty good game.
- Special teams need to improve. Manfro bobbled another kickoff return. Fairbarn missed another kick in the first half. I know there will be disagreement on this one. But I think Mora should have gone for it on 4th and 6 on the Nevada 30 yard line early in the first half. Fairbarn missed the kick and it was one he should make. But I rather not depend on the kicker and operate with Pete Carroll mindset of working with 4 downs on that situation (brought back painful memories of the Stanford).
- Speaking of painful - penalty department was ugly. We once again committed 11 penalties costing us 88 yards. A penalty wiped out a beautiful TD catch (and run) by Devin Fuller. Cassius Marsh also committed a dumb personal foul, which he shouldn't be committing as a senior in the team.
- Pac-12 Network's production quality was mediocre. The commentators missed some key calls leaving viewers in the dark. The announcers were pretty atrocious and brought back nightmares of quality of commentary from ole Fox Sports West broadcasts. And, seriously guys - we don't want to see Steve Alford during a football game. Why show this loser (coach) from the Big-10 on our TVee to muck up the good football vibes?
Overall though - this is a pretty fantastic night to be a Bruin. We couldn't ask for a better start to the season. Now the key is to make sure the team stays even keeled and focus on all the issues it need to improve on before Nebraska.
From what we saw tonight - there are some signs of a promising season. But I am not going to get my hopes high too much because my heart has been crushed so many times. So fingers crossed for continued improvement and focused effort in Lincoln in two weeks.
With that I will let you all fire away in the post-game thread. I am sure I am missing many micro-details in this post-game post. So why don't you fill in the gap and remember if you have extended reflections, blog them as a fanpost. Enjoy the night.