Upon further review, UCLA freshman Devin Lucien wasn’t ejected from the game Thursday against Rice.
The play in question came late in the game when running back Damien Thigpen appeared to be on his way to a long touchdown run. Lucien, in his attempt to provide a block, pushed Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines for which Lucien was levied a personal foul, negating Thigpen’s touchdown. Gaines reacted by throwing a punch that didn’t land. The two quickly were separated and Gaines was ejected for the punch. Camera replays showed Gaines fuming back to the sidelines and to the bench before leaving the game.
UCLA coach Jim Mora said during a conference call with reporters Friday that he was informed by officials that it was “number 15 on their team” but wondered why, then, if Gaines was ejected he wasn’t levied a personal foul. That would have offset the penalties and allowed Thigpen’s score to stand.
“I was curious they didn’t penalize (Rice),” Mora said.
HIGHS AND LOWS
Mora said he was pleased with the way the Bruins responded to Rice’s surge, particularly on defense in the second half where UCLA recorded a shutout. The offensive line particularly earned high praise. Freshmen Torian White, Jake Brendel and Simon Goines played their first college game, and Xavier Su’a-Filo played his first game in two years after completing his Mormon Mission.
“Their pas protection was solid though we weren’t threatened by blitzes,” Mora said. “For their first game together they did a good job.”
The real test for the offensive line comes in the home opener next week against Nebraska.
UCLA’s biggest low came on special teams as the Bruins lost a punt and had three point-after kicks blocked, which came by the same player in Rice linebacker Cameron Nwosu, who stands 5-feet-10.
Mora said he discovered some issues upon watching film.
“We recognized some techniques and errors that we’ll get fixed this week,” Mora said. “Primarily up front. It’s little things that can be corrected, foot placement. Really minor things that can turn into huge, huge issues if you don’t get them corrected.”
Mora said Ka’imi Fairbairn had a couple that could have gotten up quicker, but that that wasn’t the primary reason for why the kicks were blocked.
When Mora opted for a two-point conversion in the second half, that was more on the fact the Bruins were trying to make up for the extra points, and not a reflection on Fairbairn, a true freshman. Mora went out of his way to tell Fairbairn exactly that.
“I didn’t want him to think it was a prerogative of him,” Mora said.
Mora said freshman receiver Javon Williams has not been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse and that they’re still waiting to hear back.