(AP) — Back in the Top 25 for the first time in more than four years, UCLA has exhibited a dangerous offense in the early going with Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin running the show.
Looking to continue their high-scoring ways, the No. 22 Bruins try to avenge last year’s loss to Houston, which tries to avoid opening 0-3 for the first time in 11 seasons Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
After a disappointing four seasons under Rick Neuheisel, UCLA (2-0) appears to be back on the winning track behind coach Jim Mora. The Bruins had little trouble beating Rice 49-24 in their opener before upsetting then-No. 16 Nebraska 36-30 last Saturday.
That vaulted UCLA back into the rankings for the first time since early September 2008.
“We came up with big plays at the right time,” Mora said. “Nebraska is a very good football team … It’s a heck of a win for our program. We have to learn from it. … We’ll enjoy it for 24 hours and then turn our thoughts to Houston.”
Those are sure to include memories of Houston’s 38-34 victory over UCLA on Sept. 3, 2011. The Cougars (0-2) prevailed thanks to the now-departed Case Keenum, who threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns, but Hundley and Franklin appear to give UCLA the edge this time around.
Hundley, a redshirt freshman, went 21 of 33 for 305 yards and four touchdowns against Nebraska. He injured his right ankle and briefly left the game but should be ready Saturday.
“He has a great command of the huddle and his offense,” Houston coach Tony Levine said. He’s doing a great job of utilizing his weapons that are around him.”
Franklin also proved instrumental last Saturday, compiling career highs of 217 rushing yards and 276 yards from scrimmage. The senior, who ran for 214 yards and three scores in the opener, leads the country in rushing and is averaging an FBS-best 10.5 yards per carry among players with more than 20 rushing attempts.
While Mora seems to have already had a profound impact on his program, Levine has yet to taste victory in his first full season at the helm. The Cougars fell 30-13 to Texas State in their opener and lost 56-49 to Louisiana Tech last Saturday.
Houston hasn’t dropped its first three games since going 0-11 in 2001.
“The bottom line is we’re 0-2. We’ll get back at it as a team … and get ready for UCLA,” Levine said. “We are going to play a team that is extremely talented and they have a lot of momentum right now … they are extremely balanced; the stats they have put up in two games are ridiculous.”