The UCLA Bruins football team sent a message to the Pac-12 and the FBS in their performance Saturday with a 58-20 win over Nevada. Coming off a year of highs and lows in 2012, this season looks to be promising, with newcomers and veterans already showing they have what it takes to be a high caliber team. Let’s look at the most encouraging takeaways from the Bruins opener on both sides of the ball.
1. Offense was in sync
This is fairly obvious with the Bruins posting 58 points, 41 of which came in a dominating second half. However, it is important to note all the different ways the Bruins dominated the Wolf Pack offensively.
As difficult as it seems to replace a top running back like Jonathan Franklin, Jordon James might just be that guy. With only 21 carries, James racked up 155 yards and a touchdown. With so many weapons in the receiving core and the running ability of Hundley, James should be able to make heads turn in the running game for the Bruins.
Getting James to be so efficient in the running game, however was the offensive line that featured first time starter Alex Redman at guard. Redman was part of an explosive line that opened huge holes for James.
“The line was pushing people back three or four yards, so it was easy to make one cut and I was already in the secondary,” said James.
Heisman contender Brett Hundley, who showed Saturday that his name belongs in conversations, led the explosive offense. Hundley threw for 274 yards with two touchdowns and ran the ball for another 63 yards and two more touchdowns. Hundley will consistently be looked to for a spark, and as long as he is controlling and lead the offense with his arm and his legs, the Bruins have a bright future ahead of them.
2. Defense made adjustments and shut down the Wolf Pack in the second half
The Bruins will face an array of top tier offensives in both conference and non-conference play. The Wolf Pack was a good indication of some challenges to come and the defense handled it well.
Cody Fajardo is a difficult dual threat QB that gave the Bruins a headache in the first half. However, the D came out in the second half and shut down the Wolf Pack, holding them to just six points.
This response to a dual threat is key and will be needed next weekend when the Bruins head to Lincoln, Neb. to take on Taylor Martinez and the Huskers. Martinez, a senior dual threat QB, will test the young Bruins secondary more than last week and his running will also be a greater challenge.
“Martinez, to me, is one of the top running quarterbacks in football,” said Mora.
Coach is right. Martinez has the ability to take control of a game on the ground or through the air, so the Bruins D-line will need to keep him in check and the young secondary will need to have a breakout game against a veteran wide receiving core at Nebraska.
All in all, the good signs from game one need to carry on throughout the season for QBs like Martinez, Hogan, and Mariota. If they can contain these guys, the Bruins D will be a force to be reckoned with.