New Mexico St.-UCLA Preview
After overcoming plenty of adversity to remain undefeated, UCLA shouldn't have any issues staying that way in its final tuneup before beginning Pac-12 play.
Back at home with heavy hearts, the 13th-ranked Bruins look to avoid a letdown Saturday night against visiting New Mexico State.
Six days after receiver Nick Pasquale was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while walking in his hometown, UCLA (2-0) got off to a slow start before rallying from an 18-point deficit in Saturday's 41-21 win at No. 23 Nebraska.
The Bruins, who wore No. 36 patches in memory of their teammate, erupted for 38 straight points to pull off the biggest comeback by a visitor in the 90-year history of Memorial Stadium and the biggest in Lincoln since 1920. It was UCLA's biggest rally since storming back from 22 points down to beat Northwestern in the 2005 Sun Bowl.
The next day, however, coaches and teammates visited San Clemente, Calif., for Pasquale's memorial service.
"You can't believe how tough it was on them,'' coach Jim Mora said. "You never want to say you won one for somebody. We didn't win one for Nick. What we tried to do today is go out and play with the type or energy, enthusiasm and passion for the game that would reflect what he meant to us.''
The Bruins hope to pay further tribute by making this season a successful one, and they can should be able to take another step in that direction against the Aggies (0-3) before starting their Pac-12 slate Oct. 3 at Utah.
"(Last week's win) only matters if we keep backing it up," Mora said. "It only matters if we prepare this week like we did last week and go get a win against New Mexico State.''
Quarterback Brett Hundley will attempt to build on his outstanding second half Saturday as he faces a struggling New Mexico State defense that has allowed an FBS-worst 47.3 points per game and 576.7 yards, second-worst in the nation.
The redshirt sophomore has completed 20 of 24 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns in the second half this season.
"We're a fast-paced offense, and once we get rolling it's hard to stop,'' said Hundley, who went 16 of 24 for 294 yards with three touchdowns and one interception Saturday. "This offense is made to put people in a one-on-one situation. You miss a tackle and we're going to get the big yards.''
Senior Shaquelle Evans has again been Hundley's top target with nine catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Devin Fuller has eight receptions for 87 yards.
After running for 73 of his 105 yards in the second half against the Cornhuskers, Jordon James appears to have a good chance to record his third straight 100-yard game since the Aggies (0-3) have been slashed for 994 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Andrew McDonald and King Davis III have split time at quarterback for New Mexico State, which has committed eight turnovers. They combined to complete 14 of 26 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns and two picks in Saturday's 42-21 loss to UTEP.
Though their defense may be their biggest concern, the Aggies' run game isn't much better. They've only managed 306 rushing yards on 98 carries.
Now they'll take on star linebacker Anthony Barr and a UCLA defense that held Nebraska to 135 yards and no points in the second half. Barr was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after making a career-high 11 tackles and forcing three fumbles.
The Aggies have dropped 13 straight road games against ranked opponents by an average of 40.1 points.