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UCLA freshman quarterback Brett Hundley looks like he can save this program…after only one game. AP Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher
UCLA looked good in 49-24 win at Rice, but real test will be this Saturday at home against No. 16 Nebraska.
UCLA could not have asked for a better start to the Brett Hundley/Jim Mora Jr. era than what they got at Rice. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Hundley, playing in his first college football game, was recruited to save the program. Mora, who was coaching in his first college football game as a head coach, was brought in to turn the program around.
Well it took only one play to get this revamped program off to a great start, as Hundley took the first play from scrimmage for a 68-yard touchdown run.
This is what UCLA fans have been waiting for. Hundley was UCLA’s prized recruit a year ago, and he sat as UCLA struggled last season. Even though many fans wanted to see Hundley get in a year ago to save the season, the smart choice was not to play him.
Now UCLA is reaping the benefits of his talents. In his first ever game, he completed 21 of 28 passes (75 percent) for 202 yards and two passing touchdown.
Helping Hundley out was running back Johnathan Franklin (Dorsey HS), who rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns, which included touchdown runs of 74 and 78 yards. Franklin looks faster and strong than ever as he ripped off numerous long runs and fought for extra yards after the first contact. A great running game is a young quarterback’s best friend. UCLA rushed for 343 yards, and finished the game with 651 yards of total offense.
Last season UCLA only had one play of 70 or more yards. In the first half of the Rice game, Franklin had both of his 70+ yard runs and Hundley had his 68-yard run. UCLA scored 35 points in the first half of the game. Last year they scored more than that in only one game. The 49 points that they scored on Rice was more points scored than any game last season.
Defensively, after a rough first half where UCLA gave up 24 points, they shut Rice out in the second half.
UCLA should be feeling pretty good right now, but fans should not get excited just yet, because this team has always showed flashes that they can compete, only to get blown out a week later.
That can happen as the competition level gets much tougher in UCLA’s home opener against No. 16 Nebraska this Saturday. Defense, especially against the run, has been a calling card of Nebraska for decades, so Franklin and company might not have the same success as they did against Rice.
This game may fall more on the shoulders of Hundley. If the young quarterback can deliver a strong performance against one of the better teams in the nation, then it will be time to get excited. But for now, UCLA fans should be happy about the positive signs from the program, but know that this team is still a work in progress.