Pasadena, CA – For the first time this season UCLA will enter a game with a national ranking, as the Bruins welcome the Houston Cougars to the Rose Bowl for a non-conference bout.
Houston probably needs the entire week leading up to this game to recover after a marathon against Louisiana Tech last time out. The Cougars lost the contest 56-49 with a late-game rally falling just short. Houston is now 0-2 to open the season a year after going 12-1, albeit with record-setting quarterback Case Keenum at the helm in 2011.
Jim Mora has certainly shown why UCLA was so eager to install him at the head coaching spot for this season. After a 36-30 win over then No. 17 Nebraska, the Bruins are 2-0 to start the season. Even with the win and move into the top-25, Mora is still not quick to hand out any congratulations.
"We're 2-0. (The win) means we are 2-0. It means we beat Nebraska and we are 2-0, and we'll play another game next Saturday," Mora said.
While coaching the team to such early success Mora has molded the Bruins into a lethal offensive squad and pushed quarterback Brett Hundley into the national spotlight.
"Brett played outstanding," Mora said in praise of his freshman signal caller, "He doesn't get flustered. When he comes to the sideline, he has a very good understanding of what happened, whether it was good or bad."
This game will conclude a three-game series agreement between these two squads. The first two meetings were split with Houston winning last year's matchup 38-34 at home. Overall the all-time series is tied, 3-3.
In the loss to Louisiana Tech the Cougars still racked up 693 total yards and 40 first downs en route to posting 49 points, including a 22-point effort in the fourth quarter. The team still relies on the pass, as Houston had 77 pass attempts last time out and 580 total yards through the air.
David Piland had all 77 of those pass attempts and completed 53 of them, with four passing touchdowns. Dewayne Peace and Charles Sims each led the team with 11 receptions, but Peace was the more dynamic receiver with 141 yards and a score. Even with that performance, Peace's night still fell short to that of Daniel Spencer, who had 157 yards and a score on just seven receptions.
The running game was not nearly as prolific, but Sims did his part rushing the ball for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns to complement his efforts in the passing game.
As well as the offense performed it didn't matter because the Cougars' defense was bad. Houston got lit up for 56 points, 498 total yards and 38 first downs. In the game the Cougars allowed seven touchdowns on seven red zone trips for the Bulldogs.
The defense got beat both against the run (245 yards allowed) and the pass (353) and failed to get pressure on Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron.
With Bulldogs' players flying all over the field there were plenty of tackles to go around on the Houston roster which had five different players record double digit tackle totals. Derrick Mathews led the way with 13 stops, including 2.5 for loss.
It won't get any easier this week against a UCLA offense that has been running on all cylinders early in the campaign. The Bruins are currently ranked at the top of the Pac-12 and second in the nation in total offense (649.5 ypg) and are scoring at a 42.5 points per game clip. The offense has been balanced between the run and the pass. On the season, the Bruins have 687 yards on the ground and 612 through the air.
In the win over Nebraska, the Bruins recorded 653 total yards which marks the first time since 1998 the team has had consecutive weeks with 500 yards or more.
Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin have been the keys to the high- octane effort. Hundley completed 21-of-33 pass attempts for 305 yards and four touchdowns while also putting up 53 yards on the ground against Nebraska. Hundley is now fourth in the Pac-12 in passing yards and has the most rushing yards among quarterbacks in the conference.
Franklin also had a big game against Nebraska as he builds off of an impressive 2011 campaign. The running back carried the ball 26 times and racked up 217 yards. Franklin now leads not only the conference but the nation overall in rushing yards (431) by a wide margin. Buffalo's Branden Oliver is the closest behind him with 349 yards.
With the offense putting up such gaudy numbers, the defense just had to contain Nebraska's offensive attack. A week after throwing for five touchdown passes, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez completed only 17-of-31 passes for 179 yards against the UCLA defense. The Bruins were less successful against the run, allowing 260 yards on the ground, including 112 to Martinez.
Randall Goforth led the team with nine tackles on the day and Datone Jones made an impact with his three TFLs.