UCLA offensive line earns promising reviews

As the first round of camera flashes dimmed Saturday, Brett Hundley pointed up and closed with these words: “Shoutout to the O-line.”

A year ago, a young patchworked UCLA line did little to keep Hundley from getting sacked 52 times — the highest total of any Pac-12 quarterback. The Bruins’ showing in a 58-20 home win over Nevada was close to a complete 180.

The star quarterback was one of many pleased parties. Almost every tailback credited the line for paving gaping holes. Head coach Jim Mora praised the unit for its pass protection. Even offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who said he was a bit nervous heading into the game, knew his unit would be fine after two or three series. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: UCLA 58, Nevada 20

– UCLA’s 647 yards of offense against Nevada Saturday was the ninth-highest total in program history. It was the most by the Bruins since last season’s 36-30 win over Nebraska.

– Quarterback Brett Hundley missed on a few deep throws, but was otherwise excellent in his first game as a team captain. He opened scoring with 37-yard run, a zone read that echoed his collegiate debut. He had two rushing touchdowns in a game for the third time in his career (also at Colorado, vs. USC last season). His 274 passing yards also came with a pair of touchdowns.

– The UCLA defense struggled to contain Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo early on, something head coach Jim Mora attributed in part to “first-game jitters.” The Orange County native had 77 of his 106 rushing yards in the first half, and finished with two touchdowns.

“We have to fix that,” Mora said. “I don’t want to put it on the players, necessarily, jumping out of gaps. We have to do a better job coaching it. We have to look hard as a staff.” Continue reading

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VIDEO: Steve Manfro says tailbacks proved themselves

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Junior Jordon James led the charge with a career-best 155 yards against Nevada, but his backfield teammates did their part too. Backups Paul Perkins and Steve Manfro each had nine carries, totaling 55 and 32 yards. Four backs had a run of at least 20 yards, with Perkins breaking out a 45-yarder that set up his three-yard touchdown.

Helped by a 58-20 blowout win, six running backs combined for 288 yards to complement quarterback Brett Hundley’s two rushing scores.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, showing that we all can and are willing to get on the field,” Manfro said. “Actually prove to people that we could play with the best.”

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley reviews UCLA’s offensive performance

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After losing roommate and UCLA’s all-time leading rusher Johnathan Franklin, quarterback Brett Hundley couldn’t have asked for a better start with his new tailbacks. Led by Jordon James’ 155 yards, the Bruins racked up 345 on the ground — their highest single-game total since Oct. 2, 2010.

“It was huge,” Hundley said. “JJ did an amazing job. Paul Perkins, (Steve) Manfro — all three of our backs, you just put them in and they’ll work. They’ll do what they need to do.”

The second-year starter also admitted to some first-game jitters. Those dissipated quickly, though: “After you get smacked around a couple of times, I was pretty relaxed.”

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Jordon James leads UCLA’s surprising ground attack

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PASADENA — So much for those backfield worries.

For weeks, the UCLA staff had insisted it would use as many as five backs in the rotation. Even after a depth chart was released, running backs coach Steve Broussard insisted starter Jordon James was only “penciled in” — and still may be in a two-way timeshare.

In front of 60,562 at the Rose Bowl, the 5-foot-9, 194-pound back set the tone Saturday night by rushing for a career-best 155 yards in a 58-20 romp over Nevada.

He’s no Johnathan Franklin, an All-American who set career and single-season rushing records at UCLA last season. But in his debut as a No. 1 back Saturday, James looked better than he ever has in blue and gold. Continue reading

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FINAL: UCLA 58, Nevada 20

After a slow start against Nevada, UCLA ran away with an impressive 58-20 win to open the season. Most notable was Jordon James’ debut as a starting tailback. The 5-foot-9 tailback had entered the season averaging 3.3 yards per carry; after three quarters, he already had 155 yards on 21 touches.

Stat of the game? UCLA’s 345 total rushing yards. The Bruins’ best mark in 2012 was 344, in a 36-30 win over Nebraska.

Some questions still exist with a defense that bent early, but the ground game looked like a strong complement for Brett Hundley’s superlative quarterback play.

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At a glance: No. 21 UCLA vs. Nevada

No. 21 UCLA (0-0) vs. Nevada (0-0)
Location: Rose Bowl, 7 p.m. PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro, Yogi Roth, Jill Savage)
Radio: 570 AM (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Last meeting: This is the first-ever meeting between UCLA and Nevada.
2012 records: Bruins (9-5, 6-3 Pac-12); Wolf Pack (7-6, 4-4 MWC)

Key storylines: Nevada enters life post-Chris Ault, the legendary coach who pioneered the pistol offense. Returning starters and staff members — including offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich — will help maintain continuity, but new head coach Brian Polian must prove that he’s capable of being more than just an assistant. Continue reading

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John Savage’s path to UCLA paved by work and chance

On June 6, 1983, John Savage graduated from Reno High and became the New York Yankees’ sixth-round draft pick. On June 6, 1986, after a collegiate career at Santa Clara, he was plucked out of the 16th round by the Cincinnati Reds. On June 6, 1992, he was married at Our Lady of the Snows, a red-bricked Reno church that hosted a crowd of about 400 — an unintended coincidence, he insists with a laugh.

But it wasn’t until six years later that Savage, now nearing a decade as UCLA’s head baseball coach, noticed the odd chronology. Then in his second season as USC’s pitching coach, he found himself in Omaha celebrating a national championship. June 6, 1998.

“That’s when it became apparent that day was special to me,” he says.

As June 6 rolls by again, another national championship is perhaps the only hole left on his stellar resume — the bulk of which he’s built in Westwood. Continue reading

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