The Rose Bowl crowd cheered when Shaq Evans left the UCLA huddle and went to the sideline before the first play, leaving just 10 Bruins on the field in tribute to Nick Pasquale.
And after the Bruins honored their late receiver, they settled in for a blowout win over an undermanned opponent.
Brett Hundley passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 13 UCLA beat New Mexico State 59-13 Saturday night with Pasquale’s memory firmly in their minds.
”Our 11th guy out there was Pacman, and the players were fired up about doing that,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said, using Pasquale’s nickname.
Jordon James rushed for a career-best 164 yards and two scores as UCLA (3-0) racked up a school-record 692 yards while routing the overmatched Aggies (0-4) in its first home game since Pasquale was hit by a car and killed two weeks ago.
Mora said the players came up with the idea to honor Pasquale with a 10-man play, and the coaching staff agreed.
”I was pretty honored to do it,” Evans said. ”I loved Nick. Our whole team loved Nick.”
The Rose Bowl crowd waved blue towels and wore T-shirts emblazoned with his No. 36. Pasquale’s parents and brother joined Mora and athletic director Dan Guerrero for a ceremony after the first quarter on the field near where his name and jersey number was painted on the hallowed turf.
”It’s amazing to honor him like that,” said Steven Manfro, who caught a TD pass and rushed for another score. ”This game, this whole season is for him.”
Devin Fuller and Evans also caught scoring passes from Hundley for the Bruins, who blew out the Aggies even while committing three turnovers inside the New Mexico State 5.
Manfro also rushed for a score as UCLA took a 45-0 lead through three quarters, giving the Bruins 83 consecutive points after scoring the final 38 in last week’s comeback victory at Nebraska. Malcolm Jones rushed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns for UCLA, which has scored 50 points in consecutive home games for the first time since 1973.
”Any time you have three turnovers in the red zone and some penalties, you’re not happy about that,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. ”It was an inconsistent night for us offensively.”
Freshman King Davis III passed for 48 yards in his first start for New Mexico State, which got $550,000 to visit Pasadena as a 42-point underdog for the schools’ first meeting. Brandon Betancourt rushed for a late touchdown in his first start for the Aggies, who have lost 15 straight games.
Andrew McDonald, who lost his starting job to Davis this week, took over in the third quarter after Davis left with a possible concussion. McDonald threw a 33-yard TD pass to Adam Shapiro in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.
”Our kids played their hearts out,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. ”We were just a little overmatched, especially up front. But that’s a really good football team we played, and I thought we played as hard as we could.”
With last week’s win at Nebraska and this blowout, the Bruins embraced Mora’s desire for his team to play in a way that would honor Pasquale. The entire UCLA roster arrived at the Rose Bowl wearing the same No. 36 T-shirts that were sold to fans, with all proceeds going to the Nick Pasquale Foundation.
Pasquale’s name and No. 36 were painted near the spot where Pasquale lined up for his first play with the Bruins in last month’s win over Nevada. Both teams stood at attention on the sideline for a pregame moment of silence.
After Manfro returned the opening kickoff to the New Mexico State 16 and the Bruins ran their 10-man play, James fumbled at the New Mexico State 5 on the Bruins’ second play. Hundley then threw an interception at the Aggies 1 on UCLA’s second drive.
”Our defense all year long has been fantastic at (forcing turnovers),” said Martin, whose Aggies already have matched last season’s total of nine takeaways in their first four games. ”If they can keep that up, it’s going to give us a chance to win some games.”
The Bruins finally started the rout when James scored from 4 yards out late in the first quarter. Manfro added another score early in the second, turning a short reception into a 20-yard TD with a slick move.
Ishmael Adams returned an interception 52 yards to end New Mexico State’s first good drive. Star Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr got credit for his first sack of the season when he simply took the ball out of Davis’ cocked hand late in the second quarter.
Fuller was wide open when he caught a 21-yard TD pass over the middle with 39 seconds left in the second quarter, and UCLA’s Cassius Marsh blocked a field-goal attempt to end the first half with a 31-0 lead.
New Mexico State’s Anthony Edwards was ejected in the third quarter with a targeting penalty for a head hit on Evans. Moments later, Hundley threw his second interception at the goal line.
But UCLA kept rolling, with James carrying the ball three times for 55 yards and a touchdown in just 32 seconds late in the third quarter, putting the Bruins ahead 45-0.