Football Monday – Sept. 15, 2014

Every UCLA football Saturday has so much more to it than a win or a loss. That’s why each postgame Monday, the Daily Bruin will break down the Bruins’ most recent game, outlining the good, the bad and the verdict for their performance.

This week, we take a closer look at UCLA’s 20-17 win over Texas on Saturday at AT&T; Stadium.

The Good: The running game

Early last week, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said the running game was behind where it normally should be at that point in a season. Redshirt senior running back Jordon James had just five yards through two games and redshirt junior running back Steven Manfro was out indefinitely with a torn ACL, leaving the burden on redshirt sophomore running back Paul Perkins.

On Saturday, the offense needed to lean on its rushing attack with redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley injured, and both Perkins and James stepped up. Perkins ran for a career-high 126 yards and James got back on track with a 69-yard performance. After a dismal rushing attack in the second quarter, the Bruins came out of halftime with a 58-yard run by Perkins and the UCLA offense finally started moving again from that point forward. Mazzone said the run game still isn’t as far along as he’d like, but this week was a step in the right direction.

The Bad: Injuries

The Bruins took a beating against Texas. Hundley’s left, non-throwing elbow was the main storyline for the majority of the game, before the final few minutes. Hundley landed awkwardly on it after scrambling and play had to be stopped while he sat on the field for several minutes with trainers. Hundley was originally listed as probable to return, but later left for the locker room for X-rays and was downgraded to doubtful. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Monday, and the full extent of his injury and its severity is unknown.

Besides Hundley, redshirt senior left tackle Malcolm Bunche, junior punter Matt Mengel and junior cornerback Fabian Moreau all sustained injuries during the game, though they all later returned to the game later. On top of all that, UCLA’s two starting safeties – redshirt senior Anthony Jefferson and junior Randall Goforth – both missed the entire game. Goforth is recovering from a shoulder injury sustained against Memphis and Jefferson sprained his ankle before the game, Mora said.

The Bruins will make full use of their bye week to get healthy before Arizona State next Thursday.

The Verdict: UCLA’s most complete game comes without a complete lineup

Despite the injuries and backups in the game, UCLA finally put together its first complete performance of the season, with both the offense and the defense playing well. Considering the personnel the Bruins were working with, they played about as good a game as possible. The running game excelled in the second half, the defense stepped up and made critical stops when UCLA most needed them and redshirt sophomore quarterback Jerry Neuheisel made most of his opportunities. The scoreboard won’t show it, but just about every position group played well and made the most of what they had.

Player of the Game: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jerry Neuheisel

Sure, Perkins had a career game, but it’s impossible to give out this award to anyone but Neuheisel. Stepping in as a backup quarterback is one of the hardest things to do in football. To keep the offense moving smoothly while the most important player – Hundley – is out is a tall task, but Neuheisel did an admirable job. He wasn’t dominant by any means. Yes, he was 23-30 on his throws, but most of them were simple screen passes. Still, Neuheisel kept the team on track, avoided costly mistakes and even threw a perfect, game-winning touchdown. He was the hero of the night, and the recognition was well-deserved.

Quote of the Game: UCLA coach Jim Mora on whether he had words of wisdom for Neuheisel.

“There (were) no Rudy moments, no Hoosier moments. Just, ‘Jerry go do what you do.’”

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