Aug 31, 2013
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Brian Polian suspected his Nevada coaching debut would be tough, given the hallowed location and the dangerous opponent.
Brett Hundley passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more scores, leading the No. 21 Bruins' second-half surge to a 58-20 victory over the Wolf Pack on Saturday night.
Nevada hung with the Bruins until halftime, trailing just 17-13 after controlling the ball for more than 18 minutes. Cody Fajardo played splendidly in front of more than 200 friends and family members from his native Orange County.
But then the Wolf Pack gave up 41 points in a second-half avalanche started by a blocked punt return for a touchdown - a particular pain for the 38-year-old Polian, a veteran special teams coach.
"It's really difficult to find any kind of silver lining right now, although I liked the way we competed in the first half," Polian said. "This is an explosive offense UCLA has. We're not going to hang in there with them kicking field goals. There's a lot to get corrected."
Fajardo passed for 164 yards and rushed for two TDs for Nevada, but the Wolf Pack couldn't keep up in their first game since the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault. The Wolf Pack have made eight consecutive bowl appearances.
"It was pretty tough playing a game of catch-up," said Fajardo, who went 19 for 32 and rushed for 106 yards. "UCLA outplayed us tonight We've got to learn from our mistakes and have an open mind to some constructive criticism."
Fajardo made a fan of UCLA coach Jim Mora, who sought him out after the game on the Rose Bowl field.
"He's gutsy and tough, and he's a heck of a player," Mora said. "I wanted to tell him how much I respected his performance."
Hundley went 22 for 33 in an impressive start to his second season, rushing for a 37-yard TD on UCLA's opening drive and adding another TD run to open the second half.
"I felt a lot more relaxed than last year, but I still had a little bit of nerves," said Hundley, who made a long TD run on UCLA's opening drive for the second straight season. "After I got smacked a few times, I felt a lot better. We went in at the half, made adjustments, and that was when we lit up the scoreboard a little bit."
UCLA tallied up 647 total yards and never trailed or punted, rushing for 345 yards behind a dominant offensive line.
Jordon James rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown, and Phillip Ruhl returned a blocked punt for a short touchdown. Shaq Evans had six receptions for 81 yards and a score, and Malcolm Jones caught a late TD pass.
"I thought our offense was really sharp tonight, especially for the first game," Mora said. "We couldn't get them on the field in the first half because we couldn't stop that quarterback. We're going to have to learn how to stop guys like that."
After the Bruins stopped Nevada's opening drive, Hundley showed his playmaking skills haven't faded since he set a single-season school record for total offense last year. After leading the Bruins past midfield, he made an impressive ball fake and rumbled up the middle for a score.
Hundley showed off his improved arm strength on a series of big throws, but didn't get many chances in the first half. Fajardo matched Hundley early on, engineering a series of long drives that were undone near the goal line by penalties or small mistakes.
The Wolf Pack persevered with two field goals from freshman Brent Zuzo, followed by Fajardo's leaping, lunging TD at the corner of the end zone with 7 seconds left to trim UCLA's halftime lead to 17-13.
But Hundley led another scoring drive right after halftime, following guard Xavier Su'a-Filo right into the end zone for his second score.
Ruhl, the Bruins' fullback, then picked up a fortunate bounce when Kenny Orjioke blocked a punt by Nevada's Chase Tenpenny, who had to field a bouncing snap. The ball ricocheted high into the end zone and then bounced straight to Ruhl, who dived over the goal line.
"Any time there's a big play like that that goes against you, it kinds of shuts you down a little bit," Nevada left tackle Joel Bitonio said. "Everybody made mistakes out there, but we played hard. It's tough, but as an offense, we need to answer back when things like that happen."
Nevada Post-Game Notes
Aug. 31, 2013
With the 58-20 loss to the Bruins, Nevada fell to 0-1 on the season and to 524-453-33 overall in its history. UCLA leads the overall series 1-0 as this was the first meeting between the schools.
Brian Polian is now 0-1 overall as a head coach and 0-1 at Nevada.
OPENERS: Nevada is now 59-45-1 overall in season openers. This was the third straight year the Pack opened with a Pac-12 school on the road in an opener and is 1-2 in those games (win at Cal in 2012).
FAJARDO SHINES: Nevada junior quarterback Cody Fajardo had a strong performance in defeat. He completed 19 of 32 for 164 yards through the air. He also ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
The 100-yard rushing effort was his seventh career game over the century mark.
ZUZO DELIVERS: True freshman Brent Zuzo won the kicking duties in training camp and had a strong night against UCLA. Zuzo connected on a pair of field goals in the first half (28 and 21 yards) and was perfect on extra-points.
DEBUTS: Nevada had more than a dozen players who saw their first action in Silver and Blue on Saturday night. That includes four true freshmen Zuzo, defensive backs Elijah Mitchell and Tere' Calloway along with linebacker Travis Wilson, who played on special teams.
BLOCKED: UCLA blocked a Chase Tenpenny punt in the third quarter and the Bruins recovered for a touchdown. It was the first blocked punt of Tenpenny's career. It was the first time Nevada has had one blocked since 2011 Hawaii Bowl (Southern Miss.).
WIM STREAK: Senior wide receiver Brandon Wimberly extended his nation's-best streak of consecutive games with a reception to 41 straight - all 41 games of his career.
EXTRA POINTS: UCLA won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half. Nevada received the opening kickoff and UCLA defended the south to open ... Kendall Brock started at running back (Don Jackson) and Dupree Roberts-Jordan started at defensive end (Lenny Jones) ... Kolby Arendse matched a career high (2011 vs. Hawaii) with six catches.