Pasadena, CA – The 13th-ranked UCLA Bruins will look to carry over the success they had last weekend against Nebraska, when they face off with New Mexico State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
It was an emotional day for UCLA when it traveled to Lincoln. Just six days prior to the contest the Bruins lost wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who was struck and killed by a car earlier in the week. At first it seemed that the Bruins were unable to compete, as they went down 21-3 in the first half. However, UCLA found its groove and finished the game by scoring 38 unanswered points to claim a 41-21 victory. The win moved the Bruins up three spots in the Top 25.
"I am so proud of our guys. Those young men went through a tremendous amount of adversity this week and emotions were on a roller coaster the entire week. Matter of fact, they were on a roller coaster through the first half," UCLA head coach Jim Mora said. "I felt that the first quarter and a half of the game we were trying so hard - so hard - to try and make something happen good that we were tight."
It was a much less stressful week for the Aggies, though not one that ended in success. New Mexico State has lost its first three games of the season, including a 42-21 setback against Texas-El Paso in its most recent contest.
Although both have been FBS members for quite some time, this will be the first time these teams have matched up.
New Mexico State has not been a very strong team on either side of the ball, as might be expected for a team with an 0-3 record. The Aggies are scoring just 16.3 points and totaling 366.7 yards per game. New Mexico State's scoring average is among the 15 worst in the country.
A huge weakness for the Aggies has been maintaining control of the ball as the team has turned the ball over eight times already. Only three other teams at the FBS level have more.
"We beat ourselves and that's the one thing we can't accept," NMSU head coach Doug Martin said. "As a competitor, if another team comes out and they are better than you and they win that's fine but two turnovers in the red zone, we can't win doing that."
Andrew McDonald was the starter at quarterback to start the season, but after he struggled it seems King Davis is set to take over. McDonalad completed 69.3 percent of his pass attempts for 584 yards and three scores, but he was also intercepted twice. It also doesn't help that the Aggies have lost in all three of his starts. Davis has gone 14-of-23, for 210 yards and a score, while taking snaps in each of the last two games.
Since they have been playing from behind all season, the Aggies have been forced to throw early and often. That has provided plenty of opportunities for their receivers as seven different players have at least seven receptions, led by Joshua Bowen (16 receptions, 150 yards).
The need to pass so much has also been necessitated by a largely ineffective rushing attack. The Aggies are just averaging 3.1 yards per carry with lead rusher Germi Morrison managing just 105 yards on 39 carries.
While the offense has struggled to score points and hold onto the ball, the Aggies have done themselves no favors on defense. The Aggies are being ripped for 47.3 points and 576.7 yards per game. In fact, New Mexico State is dead last in the country in scoring defense and second to last in total defense
With teams running rampant the Aggies' defenders have had plenty of opportunities to stuff the stat sheet. Davis Cazeres (34 tackles) and Clint Barnard (32) have already reached 30 stops on the campaign, while Trashaun Nixon (23 tackles, 4.5 TFL) has been the best performer in terms of creating negative plays.
The Aggies will have quite a task on Saturday if they hope to improve on defense. As it showed against Nebraska, UCLA is one of the most explosive offenses in the country and will certainly not be easy to stop. UCLA is scoring 49.5 points per game and tallying more than 550 yards of offense.
At the center of that is quarterback Brett Hundley. The sophomore has seen no signs of a slump after a breakout freshman campaign. Hundley has completed 66.7 percent of his pass attempts for 568 yards and five touchdowns, with just a single interception. Hundley is also dangerous with his legs as he is averaging 62 rushing yards per game and has scored twice on the ground.
Jordon James has taken control of the starting running back spot and has been performing well for the departed Johnathan Franklin. James has averaged six yards per carry and has totaled 260 yards this season. He is second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (130.0 ypg).
Shaquelle Evans had a breakout game against Nebraska. The Bruins' wideout brought in just three passes but totaled 97 yards and a score, showing just how dangerous he can be. Evans leads the team with nine receptions this season and is the only player to have more than 100 yards in the first two games.
Against Nebraska, Anthony Barr continued to look like the defensive force he was a year ago. Barr had 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and also forced a pair of fumbles. Eric Kendricks (19 tackles) and Jordan Zumwault (18 tackles) give the Bruins one of the best group of linebackers in the country, while Keenan Graham (3.0 sacks) has provided great pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
As a team, UCLA is allowing just 342 yards and 16.5 points per game. The effort against Nebraska was especially impressive as the Cornhuskers had just 331 yards of total offense after putting up more than 470 in their first two games.