After every UCLA football game, we’ll go behind what you saw on SportsCenter late at night and give you the best, most honest look at what UCLA did. Here’s the inaugural post of this feature.
Congrats, Bruins fans. Your team made it to the level of consistency that we’ve been seeking since Bob Toledo damned this team to hell in the early 2000s.
And good lord, does this feel good.
UCLA didn’t do that many things different against Nebraska in comparison to their blowout’ish win against Rice last week. The team put up serious points in the first half of the game, leaning heavily on Johnathan Franklin to run the ball like the Heisman contender we expect him to be. Brett Hundley played smart and within himself, and played the hell out of his strengths. The defense adjusted after the half and allowed three points for Nebraska the entire second half.
Except that everything, literally, was done a dozen times better.
UCLA couldn’t do exactly what it did with Rice against Nebraska and come out feeling happy about their performance. Nebraska doesn’t mess around, and the team — despite what some Nebraska fans would like you to believe — is still a damn good squad.
That UCLA offense is something to marvel at, though. 646 yards of total offense from these Bruins on a hot Saturday afternoon, which was damn near the same number they put up against the Rice Owls in Houston.
So much for “it’s Rice, though!” discussion.
Brett Hundley looked mature beyond his years. He looked light-years more comfortable sitting in the pocket and waiting for routes to develop. The dude slung gorgeous check-down passes to his receivers in stride, and when shit got hot, he tried to run at the right time. In the end, Hundley’s performance earned him a 63 percent completion percentage to go along with 305 yards and four touchdown passes and no picks.
Against a Big 10 team. In his second collegiate start. As a redshirt freshman. Be afraid, Pac-12, for the next four years. You’ll have to play this guy and it won’t be pretty.
And though Hundley deserves a crap-load of praise, he wasn’t UCLA’s best player. Again, that distinction went to the incredibly beastly Johnathan Franklin, who somehow followed up his 200-yard performance with yet another one against a top-25 team with a far better defensive line.
Because Franklin was a wonder to watch. Gone are the days of him just running as hard as he can wherever he deemed fit. The dude was running at gorgeous angles, shifting and skipping his way for extra yardage after contact, using those ridiculous swerve moves and an array of spins to get into open space.
Franklin was so damn elusive on his way to 217 yards. He didn’t score, mind you, although he picked up a receiving touchdown. Blame that on Hundley for making things happen in the red-zone.
None of this could’ve happened if the offensive line didn’t get so motherfreaking cohesive so quick. Because while Franklin was being shifty, he also had enough time to let holes develop as he stood patiently in the backfield. In the passing game, Hundley had more than enough time to get the ball out of his hands to his receivers, and holy crap, he had time to survey the field and come to a calculated decision as to where to pass.
That offensive line was as good as we’ve seen it in friggin’ years, and this helped UCLA turn in one of the biggest offensive performances (given their opponents).
That was the first half, though. After that? UCLA staggered, when Nebraska’s secondary stepped up their game and that defensive line became even more aggressive. In fact, UCLA only scored one touchdown, and that was after safety Andrew Abbott set up the Bruins for an easy score at the Nebraska 16 late in the fourth (which came shortly after UCLA took a 29-27 lead by sacking Taylor Martinez in the endzone for a safety).
UCLA’s rhythm died offensively, and all that swagger dissipated when Nebraska adjusted.
Good thing UCLA’s defense adjusted, too, eh?
Because holy hell, did it adjust. After the game was tied 24-24 at the half, UCLA allowed just three points from Nebraska. Taylor Martinez wasn’t allowed to get comfortable and the Nebraska offense sputtered far worse than you can imagine. Here’s what the drive summary looked like for the Corn, via ESPN:
That’s an ugly drive summary, and it’s one that Huskers fans will look at for days wondering what the hell went wrong.
No one rational pegged for Nebraska to beat UCLA handily, though. Vegas had the Bruins as 5-point dogs, so an upset was likely.
And that’s what happened.
We’ll discuss the implications and context of this upset as we continue. For now? Enjoy your win, Bruins fans. This was a good one.