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UCLA safety Tevin McDonald raced down the sideline after he intercepted a pass, which set up a touchdown. Photo by Jason Lewis
A member of UCLA’s youth cheer squad had a lot of cheering to do, as UCLA racked up 37 points and forced six turnovers against Houston. Photo by Jason Lewis
37 points of offense and only giving up six points on defense while forcing six turnovers was great, but committing five turnovers on offense a Houston was not
The final score this past Saturday night at the Rose Bowl read 37-6 in favor of UCLA over winless Houston, but that game seemed like one good team stumbling their way to a rout over a bad team.
Thankfully for UCLA, it was Houston on the schedule after their upset win over No. 16 Nebraska a week earlier. The win over Nebraska put UCLA in the top 25 for the first time since 2007. Sitting at No. 22, a letdown game was coming. The last seven times UCLA defeated a ranked opponent, they lost the next week five times. And the way UCLA played against Houston, if they had played a good team, it might have been another let down.
UCLA built a 17-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter, and they had a blowout in the works. Then they fumbled the ball away twice and was intercepted once, all in Houston’s territory, before halftime. UCLA went on to turn the ball over five times in the game (three fumbles and two interceptions), but luckily for them, Houston turned the ball over six times.
UCLA cornerback Sheldon Price caused half of Houston’s turnovers as he intercepted three passes. UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, and safety Tevin McDonald intercepted a pass that set up a 3rd quarter touchdown.
At times UCLA’s offense looked like the team that averaged nearly 650 yards over the first two games of the season, as they racked up 567 yards of total offense, but they were inconsistent and careless with the ball at times. Five turnovers soured a solid effort, as they held the ball for 41:14 minutes of the game and they rushed for 247 yards.
Defensively, in the first two games of the season they looked really good at times, namely in the 2nd half. Against Houston, they looked good for all but one play, which was an 86-yard touchdown run by Houston’s quarterback.
The 31-point blowout victory did not showcase UCLA at their best, but when East Coast writers woke up on Sunday morning, all they saw was 37-6, and UCLA was able to move up in the rankings from No. 22 to No. 19. This was also a good showing for the high school recruits who were at the stadium. Young players want to see blowouts, and this game, coupled with the huge victory a week earlier over Nebraska, could sway a number of the top local recruits to UCLA.
This victory also shows that UCLA has something special going on. They did not play their best but the still won by 31 points. They were playing against an opponent that was way below their level, and they took care of business instead of laying an egg.
Next up for UCLA will be a home game this Saturday against Oregon State, who is 1-0 on the season. Oregon State was 3-9 last year, and they have only played one game this season because their opener against Nicholls State was postponed until December 1. But their one game, they knocked off No. 13 Wisconsin. So UCLA cannot take this game lightly, even though they have defeated Oregon State seven out of their last nine meetings.
Oregon State held Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who is supposed to be in the Heisman race, to only 61 yards rushing, so they may be able to give UCLA’s running game some problems.