Charlottesville, Va. >> UCLA’s offense needed 43 minutes to score its first touchdown of the season.
Well, 43 minutes and 58 seconds, to be exact. In the third quarter of the No. 7 Bruins’ 28-20 win at Virginia, quarterback Brett Hundley took the handoff from six yards out, ran into a defender after three or four steps, and carried him the rest of the way. It was marvelous play, the type befitting someone who had graced two Sports Illustrated covers in three weeks this summer.
What didn’t fit the picture was … just about everything else. A team picked to make the inaugural College Football Playoff shouldn’t muster just 26 offensive yards in the second quarter. It shouldn’t have a offensive line that looked like Swiss cheese, even if the group isn’t at full health.
It shouldn’t need its defense to set historical milestones — not in the season opener against a 21-point underdog.
And after a scoreless first quarter at Scott Stadium, it was UCLA’s defense that poured on points.
At 13:35 in the second, cornerback Ishmael Adams — who had a punt return score nullified earlier — returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown. At 2:55, safety Randall Goforth picked up a fumble and ran 75 yards to the end zone. Ninety-five seconds after that, linebacker Eric Kendricks joined the party, plucking Greyson Lambert’s pass and scooting 37 yards to paydirt.
Suddenly, UCLA had a 21-3 lead despite just 122 offensive yards at that point — 10 fewer than they racked up on defensive returns.
The Bruins became first team since 2009 to score three defensive touchdowns in one quarter. They became the first in the last decade to do score three in one half against a Power 5 opponent.
But the momentum didn’t last long. The Cavaliers subbed out Greyson Lambert, who was making his first career start. They subbed in someone even less experienced: Matt Johns, a holder/reserve quarterback who had yet to throw a pass at Virginia.
It worked. Johns’ first throw sailed 32 yards down the sideline, hitting receiver Canaan Severin in stride. His second was a 29-yard strike to Andre Levrone. Instead of wondering how they trailed by 18 despite giving up zero points to the Bruin offense, the Cavaliers entered their locker room with a 21-10 deficit — and with hope.
Johns threw another touchdown early in the second quarter, but Hundley’s run gave UCLA enough cushion for its defense to close out the win.