PASADENA-Big things are expected this year for the UCLA Bruins football team. So far, the Bruins have lived up to the hyperbole. New Mexico State might have a word or two vouching on UCLA’s behalf of just how good a team the Bruins are this season.
Since Jim Mora Jr. took over head coaching duties, the Bruins have brought a new attitude and exceptional play to the Pac-12 Conference table.
Part of that attitude adjustment is not fiddling around with weaker opponents and allowing them to hang around in a game when it should be out of hand in their favor. That has been the case for the past three games for the Bruins. That was clearly the case Saturday when the Bruins smashed New Mexico State 59-13 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
After blowing two certain scoring opportunities in the first quarter, the Bruins got it together and finished the game the way they are supposed to. Running back Jordon James scored two touchdowns and rushed for 164 yards for the Bruins. But had he not coughed up the ball near the goal line, James would have had three scores on the night.
Fortunately, James and the Bruins didn’t need it.
Quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns. The Bruins, leading 7-0 after the first quarter, put the pedal to the medal in the second period, scoring 24 points to take a 31-0 advantage into halftime. Point. Game. Set. Match over.
The Bruins were so dominant that they nearly accumulated nearly 700 yards of total offense (692 yards) and racked up 39 first downs. A key statistic for the game that helped UCLA distance themselves from the Aggies was the conversion of third down opportunities.
UCLA converted 12 of 14 third down chances. New Mexico State, in the meantime, was a total opposite. The Aggies made only 1 out of 11 third down opportunities for the game. That won’t get it done, especially when you go up against a defense like the one Mora has put together at UCLA. While Hundley kept his name in the Heisman Trophy conversation with a pretty decent afternoon, James was the man of the hour for the Bruins.
The team’s leading rusher through the first two games, James tacked on his rushing totals for the game to come away with 424 yards on the ground this season. James earned his 164 yards on 19 carries and in just three quarters of play. This is James; third straight game in which rushed for 100 yards or more.
The redshirt junior ran amok against Nevada in the team’s season opener, running his way to 156 yards. Then against Nebraska, James bulldozed his way to 105 yards on the ground in the Bruins’ 41-21 rout of the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. James got the Bruins on the scoreboard with a four-yard run in the first quarter.
He ended his night with a 19-yard run with a little more than a minute left in the third period to give UCLA a 45-0 lead before the fourth quarter had even begun. If James keeps this up, he’ll be joining Hundley pretty soon in the Heisman Trophy discussion.