Correction: The original version of this article contained an error. After 16 seconds of gameplay, UCLA took a 7-0 lead.
PASADENA “”mdash; On the second offensive play of the game, Houston sophomore quarterback David Piland threw the ball to his right on what he, and his receiver, believed to be an incomplete pass.
Eric Kendricks knew better.
The redshirt sophomore linebacker picked up the ball and ran it 23 yards into the end zone, just as the coaches tell him to do every day.
“In practice, when we see a ball on the ground we scoop it up because you never know what might happen,” Kendricks said. “That was my reaction so I picked it up, didn’t hear a whistle and ran it back to the end zone.”
The pass was called a fumble on the field, and after 16 seconds of gameplay, UCLA (3-0) took a 7-0 lead and never looked back en route to a 37-6 victory over Houston (0-3).
UCLA’s offense put up 567 yards, but credit for the win primarily went to the defense. The Bruins held a Cougar offense ““ one that had scored 49 points the week before ““ scoreless until almost five minutes from the end of the game.
“Coach emphasized all week putting together complete games,” said redshirt sophomore free safety Tevin McDonald.
“In our (first) two games, we had two great second halves, but we had to put together a complete game. That was our plan, and I’m proud we executed it as a team.”
UCLA’s defense forced six turnovers on the game, including five interceptions. Three of those picks came from senior cornerback Sheldon Price, tying the UCLA record for most interceptions in a single game.
While the defense had its best performance of the season, the offense had its worst outing as it had five turnovers on the night.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley threw two interceptions and was sacked three times by a Houston defense that had only one turnover in its first two games.
“There is going to be some inconsistency in his game, sometimes, because he’s a young player,” Mora said of his quarterback. “There’s a lot of learning for him once he looks at that tape tomorrow.”
Despite a shaky performance, Hundley still had two touchdowns on the day and 320 yards passing.
On the ground, UCLA ran for 247 yards behind redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin, who had 110 yards rushing as he vaulted himself to No. 2 on UCLA’s all-time rushing list.
Outside of Franklin’s accomplishment, the highlight on the offensive side of the ball came, ironically, from a defensive player.
Redshirt senior defensive end Datone Jones came in on a goal-line package as a tight end and caught a 7-yard pass for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“We’ve been practicing that play every day since camp,” Jones said with a smile. “We used it last week against Nebraska and I was open in the back of the end zone but they didn’t get me a ball.”
The fanfare from Jones’ touchdown along with the final score and statistics left a bright spot on the game, but the Bruins know that they need to execute better as the season goes on to reach their goals.
“It’s really scary when you think about it,” Hundley said. “The stats we put up is all good to look at but, to us, this game wasn’t what we wanted. “¦ There were mistakes made and we have to respond and play a full game.”