UCLA football devours Rice in season opener

By Mansi Sheth

Daily Bruin, U. California-Los Angeles via UWIRE

UCLA football devours Rice in season opener

The first play of quarterback Brett Hundley’s college career was a jaw-dropping one. The redshirt freshman broke through multiple tackles to dash 72 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.

“It was amazing. It hasn’t hit me yet, but just to be able to know that I scored on my very first play of my college career was pretty cool,” said Hundley, who went 21 for 28 passing with two touchdowns and one interception.

“Got to give thanks again to the offensive line and to (redshirt junior wide receiver Shaquelle Evans) for making that crucial block to set me free.”

UCLA (1-0) began its season opener with a bang against Rice (0-1), scoring three touchdowns in its first five plays. The Bruins went on to score four more touchdowns en route to a 49-24 victory.

“The way we have been practicing is the way we played,” said redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin, who scored three touchdowns.

The seasoned veteran had two rushes of over 72 yards, including a career high 78-yard run late in the second quarter.

“All praise is to God and the offensive line,” Franklin said. “They did a great job, I mean, you could have drove a bulldozer truck (through) those holes that they opened.”

Although several Bruins enjoyed successful debuts, freshman kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn did not have such a great first game. Three of Fairbairn’s five extra kick attempts were blocked, all by Rice junior linebacker Cameron Nwosu, who set an NCAA record for extra points blocked.

“Nothing that has ever happened in a football game has startled me in 25 years. Football is a crazy, wild game and things happen all the time,” said coach Jim Mora about the game’s many unexpected plays.

The adrenaline rush from UCLA’s scorching start may have been too much for the team to handle. The offense managed only 11 yards in their next six plays and the defense struggled to make stops as Rice charged back to narrow the deficit to as little as two at the beginning of the second quarter.

“I think it was kind of a blessing in disguise that (Rice) came back and scored some points so that we are never too high on the horse,” said junior outside linebacker Anthony Barr.

“It kept us levelheaded and we came out in the second half and played really well.”

Barr, who played with a cast on his hand after breaking his index finger during fall camp, recorded six tackles with one sack.

“For his first time playing linebacker since, I think, two snaps at Loyola (High School), he did a nice job,” Mora said.

“And once he gets that club off of his right hand, I think he will be even more effective. It’s hard for him to engage and disengage because he can’t grab. He is an explosive player.”

The defense settled down in the second half, holding Rice scoreless after giving up 24 points to the Owls in the first.

“We came back in the second half and made some adjustments and played well. It’s a good start, there is a lot of learning we can take from this and move on,” Mora said.

“Anytime you can get a win on the road, it’s a big-time thing.”

The Bruins will face Nebraska in their home opener Saturday. After coaching his first UCLA game on the road, Mora is eager to experience all the perks that come with playing at home.

“I am excited to have a band. I know that sounds silly but you know in the NFL, in Seattle, we had a band but they weren’t students,” Mora said.

“I don’t know, cheerleaders, a band, a college environment, a student section. I mean that stuff is cool. I can’t wait to see a student section, that is going to be awesome.”

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