Bruins’ second-half surge leads to rout over Nevada

PASADENA, Calif. — The Bruins might have put up gaudy numbers against Nevada Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, but make no mistake, this was not a cupcake game.

No. 21 UCLA’s 58-20 win over Nevada was hardly the dismantling the final score might indicate. It was a tough first-half that was won due to a big momentum swing early in the second when Kenny Orjioke blocked a punt that resulted in a touchdown.

As opposed to a glorified scrimmage against a low-level FBS team, the game against a solid Wolfpack team served as a test to gauge where the Bruins stand coming into a much-hyped about season.

“It’s a good first step for us. There are so many unknowns in any season,” Mora said. “That’s a good football team, Nevada. They have a lot of California kids in there who wanted to perform well. I think when you can win and win convincingly and make some corrections in the second half, I think that’s a good sign for us.”

The takeaways from the game were clear from the start: The Bruins played an electrifying offense with the help of a dominant offensive line, but a penchant for letting a mobile quarterback break off long runs and sloppy penalties are issues that will need to be remedied.

The key play

Up 24-13, Nevada was then forced to punt on its first drive of the second half. But Orjioke dove into Wolfpack punter Chase Tenpenny, blocking the attempt and sending it, bouncing toward the end zone and into the hands of Phillip Ruhl who dove to the corner for a touchdown.

The play, a result of second-half adjustments made, swung the momentum in favor of the Bruins and UCLA went on a tear scoring four more times.

“There was no panic or anxiety, but we felt like we needed to start fast and establish ourselves,” Mora said. “If you can score on special teams, then the rest of the crew really jumps in.”

The highlights

The offensive fireworks were on full display. The Bruins amassed 647 total yards, the most since their win over Nebraska last season. The 58 points scored was the most in a home opener since 1988.

Quarterback Brett Hundley engineered each drive with precision with Shaquelle Evans and Devin Lucien making head-turning catches and Devin Fuller a nightmare out of the slot.

In the first quarter, Hundley took off on a zone-read option and ran nearly untouched into the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown to give UCLA a 7-0 lead.

The redshirt sophomore completed 22 of 33 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for two more.

“I thought he looked sharp the whole game,” Mora said. “He was rolling and tried to square up, and he had some green grass in front of him where he could have run it but he’s got to learn the right mix.”

Hundley didn’t need to run because Jordon James did enough running for everyone involved. James netted a career-high 155 yards and scored a touchdown, helping combine for 345 rushing yards, highlighting a much-improved offensive line.

“The line was blocking very well and knocking people off the line of scrimmage,” James said.

The lowlights

“In the first half, we couldn’t get them off the field because we couldn’t stop that darn quarterback,” Mora said. 

The quarterback in question is Cody Fajardo, a local product out of Huntington Beach that prepped at Servite High and grew up a fan of the Bruins.

Fajardo, who never received an offer from UCLA, finally had his chance to play at the Rose Bowl Saturday night and didn’t disappoint: The Wolfpack’s lead rusher with 106 yards and the only two touchdowns, Fajardo earned the respect of Mora.

“He’s gutsy and tough and a heck of a player,” Mora said. “But the negative was certainly the quarterback runs.”