Hundley, defense lead UCLA past Houston

Hundley, defense lead UCLA past Houston

Published Sep. 15, 2012 11:08 p.m. ET

PASADENA — The last time UCLA and Houston met, it was under drastically different circumstances.
A year ago Houston was the darling of the college football world. The trendy pick for BCS Buster of the year under the leadership of record-setting senior quarterback Case Keenum and the guidance of head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Fast-forward a year and the Bruins are quickly becoming this season's trendy team. No. 22 UCLA has effectively busted the Los Angeles football scene moving to 3-0 on a night where No. 2 USC went down to an unranked Stanford team. The Bruins beat the 0-2 Cougars easily 37-6, having now done everything right in positioning themselves as one of the top up-and-coming programs.

However, it's not that a 3-0 record and a near shutout isn't good enough for the team, but this team is ready to do more.

"I think we had 567 yards of total offense and had a heck of a game," Mora said. "And yet, we don't feel satisfied… They are happy that they won, but I don't think they are satisfied with the overall performance of the team."
The Bruins did, in fact, wrack up 567 total offensive yards. The total was actually the lowest number of the season, having surpassed 600 yards in the two games prior, which is still a far cry from last year's average of 367.6 per game, but less than what the offense intended on doing against the Cougars.
Brett Hundley was plagued with minor injuries and struggled in the red zone. Johnathan Franklin gained ground against the Cougars, 110 yards of it, to be exact, but not quite the number that was expected of him against a Houston team that gives up big gains.

"I'm glad our team feels that way," Mora said. "Because I think we realize what our potential is if we play at our maximum potential."

It was on the other side of the ball where the most potential was shown. Where Hundley and Franklin left off, the defense picked up.

For the third week in a row, the Bruins opened up with a defensive touchdown when Eric Kendricks returned a fumble for a 23-yard touchdown just 16 seconds after the first whistle.

Sheldon Price picked off David Piland three times, tying a school record, and the Bruins scored 13 of their 36 points off turnovers. Price now has four interceptions in the two games he has played in.

"You know that you're going to have plenty of chances to make plays on the ball," Price said. "I got three passes my way and I was able to make plays on them and capitalize on them."

A team known for its precision passing offense, Houston came into the game averaging 395.5 passing yards per game. The UCLA defense picked it apart, rattling the Cougars and holding them to just 249 yards in the air and no touchdowns.

The switch from zone to a man-to-man defense had the team on track for a shutout, which would have been UCLA's first since 2007, until late in the fourth quarter when Piland suddenly found a seam and slipped through for an 86-yard touchdown run.
"If not for that last play when we put a bunch of young guys in there (and) we blew the defense a little bit, it would have been one of the finer defensive efforts I've seen against a team that put up about 700 yards last week," Mora said.

Mora has consistently emphasized playing at a championship level since he was named head coach late last year. But what was once thought to be a rebuilding project is already showing shades of the future product. A more efficient offense and a hard-hitting defense has been on full display, and Mora intends to make further refinements by cleaning up the mistakes and penalties.
"We're still searching and trying to put it all together as a football team," Mora said. "But it's a win, and we're 3-0 going into conference play so that's a real positive."

With the start the team has had, expectations are higher than they have been in years. Undaunted, Mora plans to continue raising those expectations, possibly holding his team in a higher regard than everyone else.

"Every week we're going to raise them higher," Mora said. "I don't think you should ever be satisfied until the end when you're a champion."