In case you missed it (how dare you), UCLA beat Nevada 58-20 on Saturday night, beginning its 2013 campaign rather successfully.
Over the course of the Bruins’ tilt with the Wolf Pack, several players stood out as key components to UCLA’s win. Moving forward, these will likely be players that’ll be really important for this team to be successful.
With that, here are three players that stood out as heroes for the Bruins on Saturday.
Honorable Mention: UCLA Offensive Line
In general, it’s difficult to identify individuals on offensive lines that stand out. Run and pass protection is pretty much a collective effort, and because offensive line performance is not adequately quantified (and, sadly, we’re not sure it ever will be), it’s difficult to measure whether a single offensive lineman’s performance was significantly better than the others.
Because of that, let’s include the entire line, because though we don’t have numbers to back it up, it’s clear the UCLA backfield was given plenty of room to operate effectively. UCLA’s 58-point performance can be attributed almost directly to the Bruins’ offensive line.
This one was easy. For the most part, Hundley looks significantly more athletic and far sharper than he did all of last year. While he relied on downfield blocks for huge runs in 2012, he was able to outrun defenders straight up in open space. All while, of course, looking more comfortable in the pocket. (Much to the surprise of UCLA fans everywhere, Hundley often stepped into the pocket to take more shots downfield, and had they been just a tad softer, Hundley might’ve had a better night statistically.)
Thus, Hundley ended the night with 337 yards of total offense, completing two-thirds of his passes and accounting for four touchdowns (two on the ground and two through the air).
The Heisman hype has begun.
This one was also pretty easy. While Hundley had himself a solid night, Jordon James’s performance was more surprising and perhaps even better than the sophomore quarterback’s. James had large lanes to run through, sure, but it required a solid amount of patience, vision and shiftiness to exploit them, and exploit them he did.
To the tune of 155 yards on 21 carries, too, accounting for much of the UCLA’s vaunted run game. (Hey, remember when analysts, myself included, said UCLA’s run game would suffer without Johnathan Franklin?)
Inside linebacker Eric Kendricks, again, flew under the radar, just as he did for the 2012 season. Not only did Kendricks earn a game-high eight solo tackles, but he was often in proximity of every play that occurred up front. Swarmin’ and roamin’, Kendricks was brilliant in containing what could possibly be contained, never missing a tackle, particularly in the second half.
That’s Kendricks for you, though. Last season, he led the Pac-12 in tackling, and was snubbed by the Pac-12 for all-conference teams.