On the surface, when one looks at the final score and the statistics of the UCLA-New Mexico State game, one would say that the Bruins did what was expected and blew out an Aggie program that has been struggling for pretty much their entire history:
* Jim Mora’s squad scored touchdowns in eight out their 13 possessions, plus a field goal to boot, while forcing nine punts, an interception and a blocked field goal out of the Aggies’ option offense.
* The Bruins accumulated 692 total yards, 394 in the air and 298 on the ground as they more or less did whatever they wanted, collecting a whopping 39 first downs while not having to punt once for the second time this season.
* Even the second string offense looked great, with backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel (son of former coach Rick) completing nine of 11 passes for 96 yards and leading UCLA to two touchdowns – scored on the ground by Malcolm Jones – in the fourth quarter.
And on top of all of that, the Bruins did several things in a touching tribute to Nick Pasquale, starting with a floral arrangement in front of the Rose Bowl.
They also issued blue towels with Pasquale’s #36 printed on them, many Bruin fans – including the student yell crew – wore t-shirts saying #36 with proceeds going to the Nick Pasquale Foundation, a #36 was marked on the field, the team snapped the ball with ten players in honor of the walk-on receiver on the first play from scrimmage, and Pasquale’s jersey was presented to his family after the first quarter.
That was after a video tribute to Pasquale’s life was presented – it was quite the tribute, and a well-deserved one to a fallen Bruin.
Getting back to the game…
Looking closer at the contest at the Rose Bowl, despite UCLA’s 59-13 romp over an extremely outmatched New Mexico State team, 58, 263 fans saw some things that were a problem and some issues that continue to be a cause for real concern:
* The Bruins’ first two possessions resulted in turnovers, a fumble by Jordon James and an interception by Brett Hundley, who threw a second pick in the third quarter.
All three turnovers were in the red zone, with Davis Cazares accounting for both interceptions and the fumble, the Aggie defender making some good memories to tell his children and grandchildren one day – he definitely gets the “New Mexico State Bright Spot Award” for his efforts.
* After showing much improvement in this area against Nebraska, UCLA reached a new low in the penalty department on Saturday:
15 YELLOW FLAGS FOR – get this – 138 YARDS!!
If that’s not a record for most penalties and penalty yards in a game, then I don’t know what is.
Two of those penalties directly led to New Mexico State’s two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, ruining the shutout that I wanted, and several of those infractions were personal fouls of the 15-yard kind, which included one thrown on Mora for unsportsmanlike conduct.
I know I’ve said this before quite a few times over the past year-plus, but I am not only sick and tired of this undisciplined play by the Bruins, I am absolutely fed up!
When is this team going to get it in their skulls that penalties, especially ones like holding and unnecessary roughness, hold their progress back, oftentimes killing momentum?
It makes me want to scream when I think about it, especially going forward as 13th ranked UCLA (3-0) begins Pac-12 play!
Outside of that, the Bruins put up some good numbers among their 692 yards.
Hundley was 23-of-35 for 280 yards, and his three touchdown throws offset his two picks, while James likewise made up for his first quarter fumble as he ran for 164 yards and a score.
In what has continued to be the pattern, 16 Bruins caught passes, led by Shaq Evans, Devin Fuller, and Paul Perkins, who caught four apiece, with Evans and Fuller each catching a touchdown throw.
Steven Manfro was a jack-of-all-trades as he caught the other TD pass, rushed for another score, and ran a kickoff 70 yards, totaling 137 yards and generally having an all-around good night.
And up until the fourth quarter, when the scrubs played, UCLA’s defense played hard as although they gave up 333 yards, they blocked a kick, had two sacks, forced three fumbles (recovering one), and ran back an interception 53 yards.
Quite a diverse performance by them.
“This is a good win,” Mora said after the game mercifully ended for New Mexico State, the Bruins taking a knee on the Aggie one-yard line to kill the clock. “I thought New Mexico State played their tails off, and I commend them for that.”
“We have not had a turnover problem this year. We had three in the end zone,” the UCLA head coach continued. “We’ve got to fix that and the penalties, we have to fix those as well.”
Regarding the penalties: That is a HUGE understatement.
Sure, the Bruins were able to smash an undermanned opponent despite the turnovers and the yellow flags, but that won’t be the case when conference play starts.
I’m sure the team, from Mora on down, is well aware of that and will respond accordingly as they head into another bye week, which hopefully will be beneficial.
SITE: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 3, 7:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports 1