After what transpired at the famed Rose Bowl last Saturday night before 71,530 fans, it seemed proper that a 15-minute fireworks show should follow UCLA’s stunning 36-30 upset win over No. 16th-rankedNebraska.
In what is Head Coach Jim Mora Jr.’s initial home victory, the Bruins crashed the polls for the first time since 2008, and are ranked 22nd in the Associated Press, and 23rd in the coaches’ poll.
Facing the five-time national champion Cornhuskers, UCLA rambled for 653 total net yards and 26 first downs, as redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley threw four scoring passes, while senior running back Johnathan Franklin pounded out 217 yards on 26 carries after getting 214 yards in a 49-24 triumph over Rice in the season opener.
The pivotal play came with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter when UCLA defensive end Datone Jones sacked quarterback Taylor Martinez (17 of 31 for 179 yards and one interception) in the end zone for a safety.
The two points pushed UCLA into a 29-27 lead, and Hundley’s nine-yard pass toFranklin(59 yards and three catches) with 2:13 showing in the fourth quarter afterMartinezwas picked off by cornerback Andrew Abbott, made it a nine-point Bruins’ lead.
When Hundley, one of the most sought-after high school signal-callers signed with UCLA, it was a major coup, and is already paying huge dividends.
One reason UCLA struggled offensively for four seasons under Rick Neuheisel was inferior quarterback play, but in one fell swoop Hundley, a native ofChandler,Arizona, who completed 21 of 33 attempts for 305 yards and no picks, has solved this problem.
Hundley’s 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds with a rifle arm and nimble feet that allows him to escape pressure and head up field, which he did to the tune of 53 yards on 12 carries.
Hundley looked poised and ready in the pre-game warmups, eventually throwing short, medium and long-range passes to eight receivers.
When Hundley found tight end Joseph Fauria on a 27-yard pass with 9:08 left in the opening quarter, the Bruins jumped ahead 7-0.
Hundley’s four-yard toss to Fauria (42 yards and four catches) with 7:55 showing in the second quarter gave the Bruins a 17-14 lead, and his 49-yard bomb to wide receiver Stephen Manfro (64 yards and four receptions) with 3:49 left before the half nudged UCLA in front 24-21.
The Cornhuskers (1-1) tied it at 7-7 when running back Ameer Abdullah (119 yards on 16 rushes) scored on a six-yard spurt with seven minutes left in the first quarter, and Martinez’s 92-yard dash up the middle with 2:24 on the clock made it 14-7.Martinezfinished with 112 yards on 13 carries.
Abdullah’s 17-yard run with 5:07 remaining in the second quarter made it 21-17 in favor ofNebraska(439 total yards and 20 first downs).
Just before the intermission,Nebraska’s Brett Maher nailed a 54-yard field goal that tied it at 24-24, outdoing UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn, who converted a 35-yard attempt early in the second quarter that brought the Bruins (2-0) to within 14-10.
The second half began with Fairbairn knocking down a 22-yarder, while Maher found the range on a 43-yard boot with 7:45 left, and added a 40-yard shot with 1:38 showing in the final quarter that cut UCLA’s lead to six points.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.