UCLA falls four spots to No. 11 in AP poll, USA Today coaches poll

So much for that top-ten billing.

UCLA fell four spots to No. 11 in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls, its 28-20 win at Virginia not nearly matching up to wide expectations of a blowout. Although the Bruins’ defense looked elite in returning touchdowns on two interceptions and a fumble, the offense rarely found its rhythm.

There’s still time for UCLA to fix itself up before Pac-12 play begins, but mustering just one offensive touchdown against the Cavaliers on ESPN dispelled a lot of the national title hype of recent weeks.

Oregon remains the highest-ranked team in the conference at No. 3, while Stanford, USC and Arizona State follow the Bruins at 13th, 14th and 17th, respectively.

See the full AP poll below: Continue reading

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First look: Memphis Tigers

UCLA Bruins vs. Memphis Tigers
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Rose Bowl
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: AM 570

Coach: Justin Fuente was once a starting quarterback at Oklahoma before transferring to Murray State, where he became a finalist for the Walter Payton Award for the FCS offensive MVP. After a brief arena football career, he took a job assisting at Illinois State until 2007. He then jumped to TCU, eventually becoming co-offensive coordinator for an undefeated 2010 squad led by quarterback Andy Dalton.

The 38-year-old is in his third year at Memphis, where he has yet to win more than four games in a season. However, his 8-17 overall record still easily eclipses the program’s 5-31 stretch from 2009-11.

Key players:

QB Paxton Lynch, So., 6-7, 230 — 20/27, 242 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 rush TD
– Returns as starter after recording Memphis’ 10th all-time 2,000-yard season. Was once Florida’s fallback in case it missed on recruiting Skyler Mornhinweg. Continue reading

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Receiver Jordan Payton hits career highs in UCLA’s win at Virginia

Watching Jordan Payton play football can sometimes feel like watching a battering ram dressed in pads and a helmet.

UCLA’s junior receiver doesn’t jump the highest. He won’t wow anyone with pure speed. But you can be damn sure the 6-foot-1, 213-pound wideout isn’t going down on the first tackle.

Payton caught eight passes for 98 yards on Saturday, setting new career highs and playing a key role in the Bruins’ 28-20 win at Virginia.

His capped the game in fitting fashion. With 3:07 left in the fourth quarter, the Bruins were backed up on their own 18-yard line. On third-and-9, quarterback Brett Hundley zipped the ball to Payton, who shook off a defensive back and took off for a 35-yard reception. With a fresh set of downs, the team had enough time to run down the clock and escape its season opener unscathed. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Owamagbe Odighizuwa looks back on UCLA’s win at Virginia

Playing in his first game since 2012, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa returned from multiple hip surgeries and looked like a star in UCLA’s 28-20 win at Virginia. The senior shared his thoughts about the Bruins’ season opener, one in which he helped cause two interceptions — both quickly turning into touchdowns.

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UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week

After a star performance in UCLA’s 28-20 win over Virginia, linebacker Eric Kendricks was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

The senior recorded a game-high 16 tackles against the Cavaliers, but also made two more highlight plays: forcing a fumble that turned into a 75-yard touchdown return for safety Randall Goforth, and taking back a pick-six of his own a few minutes later.

Despite all that, he didn’t seem satisfied.

“I left a lot of stuff on the field,” Kendricks said Monday. “I can improve every week. I made a lot of little rookie mistakes. … If you watch the film, you’d see that I made some key mistakes in the pass game as far as drops and stuff like that, so I’m gonna get back to it.” Continue reading

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Jim Mora: Center Jake Brendel close to return from sprained knee

After missing his first start at UCLA, center Jake Brendel appears to be day-to-day in his recovery from a sprained knee.

Head coach Jim Mora said Sunday that Brendel was “very, very close” to returning to full action after injuring his MCL three weeks ago in training camp. The Bruins’ offensive line looked awful in Saturday’s 28-20 win at Virginia, and losing their most experienced lineman played a significant role.

Brendel dressed and warmed up at Scott Stadium, but sat on the bench while sophomore Scott Quessenberry took his place. The redshirt junior had started 27 straight games for UCLA over the last two seasons, giving Mora and his staff an anchor in the middle of the line.

“I didn’t realize that, until after the game yesterday, it was the first game since we’ve been here as a staff that Jake hasn’t been our starting center,” Mora said. “He’s a leader. He’s a great communicator. He’s got toughness. He’s got experience.” Continue reading

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Scott Quessenberry to UCLA defense: ‘Thanks for cleaning up our mess’

UCLA made a bit of history during Saturday’s 28-20 win at Virginia. In the second quarter on Saturday, cornerback Ishmael Adams and linebacker Eric Kendricks returned interceptions for touchdowns, while safety Randall Goforth took a fumble back 75 yards for the score.

It was the Bruins’ first game with three defensive touchdowns since 1986, when they hit the trifecta in a 49-0 win over Oregon State. Perhaps no one was more thankful than UCLA’s offensive line. The unit looked awful without center Jake Brendel (knee), committing numerous penalties and allowing five sacks.

“I was telling the guys — Eric, Ish, RG — the three guys that scored, ‘Thanks for cleaning up our mess,’” said sophomore Scott Quessenberry, who replaced Brendel in the starting lineup. “Especially us up front, we didn’t play our game today. They really stepped it up for us.”

– UCLA’s offense was far from championship-caliber in a 28-20 win over Virginia. Coordinator Noel Mazzone: “I’m hoping we got it all out of our system.”
– The Bruins’ defensive front shined despite not notching any sacks.

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UCLA 28, Virginia 20: Malcolm Bunche still confident in O-line

Malcolm Bunche’s first game at left tackle for UCLA didn’t go particularly well. The Bruins’ offensive line looked porous against Virginia on Saturday, allowing five sacks in a 28-20 win and committing multiple false start and holding penalties.

Still, the senior graduate transfer remained positive.

“This is not our best,” Bunche said. “This is not our best. We’ve still got a lot on the table that we’ve got to put down, and we’re going to do it.”

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UCLA 28, Virginia 20: Brett Hundley on Bruins’ offensive struggles

For just the third time in his career, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was held without a passing touchdown. In a 28-20 win at Virginia, the junior couldn’t find his groove against the Cavaliers’ defense until a 66-yard drive in the third quarter — one he capped with a six-yard scoring run.

“It was hard,” Hundley said. “It was a little up and down. We got into rhythm a couple of times, but the majority of the game … when we stop our momentum going forward, it kills our offense.”

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