UCLA Report Card: Class in session vs. Houston

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UCLA 37, Houston 6
3-0, 0-0 Pac-12

Firs, the bad. Brett Hundley threw two interceptions. His first INT in the first quarter was a freshman mistake. He locked on Jordon James down the sideline instead of following through his progression. Had he done so, he would have found Jerry Johnson wide open in the end zone. Nevertheless, Hundley passed for 320 yards and two toucdowns on 27 of 42 passing. It’s possible that Hundley’s ankle may have been an issue, but he also didn’t get the best protection throughout.

The Bruins rushed for 247 yards against a defense that ranked 114th in the nation. After impressive performances in the first two weeks you’d expect Johnathan Franklin to have a field day, but instead he had a “quiet” night with 110 yards on 25 carries. Still,Franklin in one game moved from seventh on the school’s all-time rushing list to second behind Gaston Green. Franklin passed Skip Hicks, Wendell Tyler, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, DeShaun Foster and Freeman McNeil. He’s shooting for Green’s record, which stands at 3,731 yards. Damien Thigpen helped balance the rushing attack with 89 yards on nine carries for a 9.9 average per carry. He did more, though, like picking up blitzes.

The Bruins had some assignments blown, dropped passes and a turnover. Devin Lucien fumbled after a big gain and Joseph Fauria backpedaled in the end zone instead of jumping for a sure touchdown.Not exactly the kind of help Hundley was hoping to get. Still, it was nice to see Jerry Rice Jr. get some action. He made his third career catch early and then on the next play provided some blocking down the Houston sideline to help Thigpen pick up a large gain. Steven Manfro dropped a couple passes including a would-be touchdown, but he finished with a solid game leading all receivers with seven catches for 78 yards.

There were some good signs. Johnathan Franklin benefited from pulling guards giving him blocks for a large gains. Brett Downey and Xavier Su’a-Filo made it happen. Downey also provided a solid block on Thigpen’s 41-yard gain in the fourth quarter that resulted in a Manfro touchdown run, another block by Downey for the open lane. There were times when it seemed like Hundley had all the time in the world sitting comfortably in the pocket. But too many guys came in unblocked, particularly Houston’s Philip Steward, who almost intercepted Hundley early in the game. Hundley was sacked three times. Torian White struggled as he was called for four penalties, uncharacteristic even though he’s a freshman. It was obvious the Bruins missed Jeff Baca’s senior presence.

Datone Jones was in beast mode the entire game. He caught a touchdown pass and then came back two plays later for a tackle for a loss. He finished with four tackles, three for a loss. Cassius Marsh had good penetration, too. The D-line was quick to the ball and held Houston to just 139 yards rushing, but it’s important to remember that through three quarters the Cougars had only 12 yards rushing and minus-1 yards at the half.

Nice heads up play by Eric Kendricks 16 seconds into the game, helping set the tone and giving the Bruins the early lead. Kendricks finished with a team-high 5.5 tackles. Dalton Hilliard put some good licks out there, leading to quick three-and-outs for the Cougars.

What a night for Sheldon Price. He tied the school record with three interceptions. Tevin McDonald and Randall Goforth also recorded interceptions. Houston dropped a lot of passes, and the secondary was directly responsible for that providing tight coverage. When the Cougars did make a catch they were quick to the ball for minimal gains.

Jeff Locke pinned Houston three times inside the 15 in the first quarter. As a result, Houston struggled with field position. Ka’imi Fairbairn converted all three field goals from 35, 23 and 33 yards. He also converted all extra points. The kid never lost confidence in himself, and he showed that Saturday. Manfro and Thigpen had some big returns.

This was a game where the Bruins could have really showed the pollsters they were a force on both sides of the ball. Defensively, UCLA locked it down, and much credit goes to Lou Spanos, Angus McClure and Jeff Ulbrich. Offensively, the Bruins struggled even if they almost put up 37. Truth is, UCLA should have had at least 54 points. UCLA coach Jim Mora said the team doesn’t feel satisfied. That’s the true sign of maturiy.


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