More cohesive play by Bruin offense secures win in home opener

PASADENA — Redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, with a flick of his wrist, he sent the ball some 62-yards downfield right into the hands of sprinting sophomore wide receiver Kenny Walker.

A minor miracle.

No, not the throw or catch. The time. After a near-universally panned performance in the team’s opening game, UCLA’s much-maligned offensive line delivered a strong second effort in the Bruins 42-35 win over the Memphis Tigers.

Yes, Hundley was sacked four times – one of which coach Jim Mora attributed to Hundley not getting rid of the ball soon enough – but the group opened up holes for the running backs, gave their quarterback time to throw and was an integral part of a UCLA attack that scored every quarter after mustering only one in the entire game against Virginia.

The reason? Another game’s worth of experience for a group that depends on communication and chemistry didn’t hurt. The fact that the team was playing at the Rose Bowl and not on the road didn’t either. Oh, and redshirt junior center Jake Brendel, he of 28 starts, was back in action for the first time since spraining his knee during fall camp.

“Having Jake back, I know one thing, it has a hell of a lot more calming effect on me,” said offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. “I don’t know about the other guys but I feel better with him there.”

So does Hundley. After playing his first ever game without Brendel, the quarterback said he felt very comfortable with the center back in the lineup.

The effect was immediately noticeable. By the first quarter’s end, Hundley was 10-11 passing with 23 yards on the ground while redshirt sophomore running back Paul Perkins had plenty of room to run, racking up 46 yards on six carries and a score. A week ago UCLA never found a rhythm and was often flustered by the Virginia defense. Today, the Bruins found their groove early en route to a 540-yard day, with Hundley tossing 396 yards through the air.

Much of that was made possible by a consistent run game. After barely opening so much as a crack a week ago UCLA found success running up the middle and scored three times on the ground. Perkins, who led all Bruin running backs, has quickly emerged as the leader of what was presumed to be a by-the-committee approach at the season’s beginning. The redshirt sophomore started the game and saw the majority of the carries throughout. He fell just two yards shy of his first 100-yard game and added two scores on the ground, displaying patience and good vision when he carried the ball.

“The offense is predicated around the run game. So if the running game is working the pass game is going to open up,” Perkins said. “I’ve just been trying to perfect my craft, read the defenses better, just pick up blitzes and just make sure I can bust through the hole (and) make plays when I can.”

Still, there are problems to address. Hundley hit the ground four more times than UCLA would’ve liked and the team failed to pick up a crucial first down on the ground late in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the victory.

“(We) certainly protected better, ran the ball well,” Mora said. “(But) at the end of the game there, when you have to be able to run it, when you need to be able to get a first down running it, and they stuffed us three in a row so we have to get that fixed … I want to be able to run the freaking ball.”

Read more here:
Copyright 2018