UCLA revs up offense after slow start

LINCOLN, Neb. — After an abysmal first quarter, UCLA was lucky to be down just 11 points heading into halftime.

The Bruins had made crucial mistakes and gifted Nebraska short fields, whether by interception or bobbled punt. Memorial Stadium, known for hosting one of the toughest home crowds in college football, looked to be wearing down on the visitors.

But when the clock ran down, UCLA walked out with a 41-21 blowout, its small pockets of fans cheering loudly as players and coaches ran past them into the tunnel.

How did it happen, the shift from sluggish to superlative? The Bruins took a big breath.

“We came in at halftime, just told kids, ‘Hey relax. I’m just going to call base plays. Just do what you guys do,’” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “Our whole motto is play to the next play. We’re going to snap it once, play, forget about it, and just play the next one. Live in the moment of each play.”

The shift slowly began in the second quarter, when quarterback Brett Hundley rescued what became his team’s first touchdown drive. Playing loose and free, he scrambled away from defenders, transforming what looked like a drive-ending sack to a 13-yard gain and first down.

From then on, UCLA turned juggernaut. The Bruins rumbled for 236 offensive yards in the third quarter, scoring 28 of their 38 unanswered points.

After the game, both coaches downplayed the notion of halftime adjustments, chalking the bulk of the change to execution.

“There was no mystical, magical X’s and O’s,” UCLA’s Jim Mora said. “It was all our players doing what they are supposed to do.”

“It’s nothing magical,” Nebraska’s Bo Pelini said. “It wasn’t anything they hadn’t done in the first half.”

On offense, the Bruins dialed up the tempo and found their rhythm. Jordon James, who had just 18 yards on 10 carries in the first half, ended with a game-high 105. His 38-yard run was one of the game’s biggest highlights — and likely would’ve reached the end zone with one more well-placed block.

“All the running backs started less looking for the big play and and just taking yards,” Mazzone said. “Whether it was three yards or four yards, instead of always looking for 50-yard runs. When backs look for 50-yard runs, they usually end up minus five yards.”

On the other end, UCLA successfully bottled up Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez. The senior is the fifth quarterback in FBS history to rush for over 3,000 career yards while passing for more than 6,500. Against the Bruins, he had the second-worst rushing performance of his career, taking two sacks and finishing with -13 yards.

“We just felt like we needed to make him make throws on us,” Mora said. “That’s not to take anything away from his ability to throw the ball. As you saw in the first half, he had three touchdown passes. We felt like he’s most dangerous when he’s out creating.”

The performance wasn’t flawless. UCLA’s secondary sprinkled in strong moments, including a big tackle by safety Randall Goforth, but looked out of its depth against receivers Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa, who combined for three touchdowns and 107 yards. Still, the Bruins did enough, and now have another week to improve.

“We made a few adjustments, but for what we needed to do was calm down,” safety Anthony Jefferson said. “The second half, we came out fast.”

And the Cornhuskers? They just came out looking lost.

“I guess we just lost our step and our sense of urgency,” cornerback Ciante Evans said. “Guys were unfocused. I don’t know what happened.”

Added Pelini: “At times, when I looked at our guys on the sideline, it looked like they’d seen a ghost.”

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  • FIGHTONtoVICTORY

    Good win today Bruins, now please, take your trolls back.

    • facescar

      Sadly trolls seem to be universal ._.

  • Scott

    Why do USC losers troll UCLA fan sites? Shouldn’t they be celebrating that awesome win over that football powerhouse BC? They should be celebrating the football genius they have in Lane Kiffin.

    • CrouchingBruin

      Have you been over at the Inside USC blog, lately? I’m embarrassed to say that there are many more Bruin trolls over there on a regular basis than there are Trojan trolls over here.

      • Scott

        Nope, never. And never will.

    • Joe Blow

      Because is hilarious to read all the Kool Aid comments. You’ve won NOTHING since 1954. And Gary Beban? HA. What a joke. I know, you’ll bring up OJ next. Who cares? You ain’t done nothin’ yet.

      • Scott

        If you would like to live in the past and bask in past USC history, here are some names excluding your boy OJ: Mark McGwire, Joe McKnight, Reggie Bush, Cole Ford, OJ Mayo, Todd Marinovich, Darrell Russell, R Jay Soward, Eric Wright, Todd McNair, Winston Justice, Hershel Dennis, Mark Sanchez, Rey Maualuga, Frostee Rucker, Stais Boseman, Daniel Han Sol Oh, Rey Maualuga. All cheaters or criminals. And one number for you: 109. But I suggest you live in the present and bask in the glory that is Lane Kiffin.

        • Joe Blow

          109? You’re way off, it’s 125 when you count your Ping Pong victories. Might as well, with all the minor girl sports in that number.

          • Scott

            Damn, I feel bad now. Clearly, your mental capacity is not to par. I will lay off of you now.

          • Joe Blow

            Of course you will. You’ll never out do me. Never get into a battle of wits half armed.

          • Bigwoof1

            Slightly misstated, Joe. It’s “never get into a battle with half wit, you’ll never outdo him.” Why? Because he’s a half wit, and his view of reality is far from the norm.

          • Joe Blow

            You’d know

  • Sam C

    Good win today. Gotta win all these and prepare as a team to take on Oregon and Stanford

  • Bruin 34

    The whole week leading up to this game I was more excited then I have been for a while. Big match up with a storied program. At home. Nationally televised. This was a big opportunity to let the rest of the country know what UCLA football is about. When we got down 21-3 I was very worried. I thought we might get blown out on national TV and do what we were so accustomed to seeing with other regimes. But at the same time I never lost faith. I knew they had only scored on a short field and weren’t consistently moving the ball on us. I knew we had arguably the best qb in the country. I thought we just needed to settle down and we did. It was so refreshing, i realize this isn’t the same regime or coaching staff. This is the Bruin Revolution now. Mora ball! I find myself looking into the future of what UCLA is and what it has become. A program! Go Bruins! Sounds like boom!