The UCLA Bruins finished off a pretty good day for the Pac-12 Conference as a whole on Saturday with a 42-35 win over the Memphis Tigers. The Pac-12 Conference finished with a 9-1 non-conference record this weekend with the only loss coming on Friday night as the Washington State Cougars fell to the Nevada Wolfpack. On Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, it was the Brett Hundley show. The junior completed 33-of-44 passes for 396 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
That passing performance paced the UCLA offense which rolled up 540 yards of total offense. They actually scored four touchdowns on their first five drives but no matter what they did, Memphis always had an answer.
UCLA struck first late in the first quarter after a beautifully engineered 11 play, 71 yard drive. The Bruins were able to get a first down after two plays, both runs that combined for 12 yards. Brett Hundley completed a pass for no gain on the ensuing first down then could not connect with Austin Roberts on second down. UCLA faced a third-and-10 at their own 41 but were bailed out when Memphis was called for defensive holding.
Paul Perkins took the next two carries for a combined 20 yards down to the Memphis 29. Hundley completed three short passes and ran for a short gain to bring up a 3rd-and-2 at the 17. This time it was Perkins who broke through for a 17-yard touchdown run. The extra point from Ka'imi Fairbairn was no good making the score 6-0 in favor of UCLA.
The next drive for Memphis would be big to keep pace with the home side. They started out with five solid run to gain 24 yards. After lulling the defense to sleep, Justin Fuente put the ball in his quarterback's hands. Quarterback Paxton Lynch did not disappoint either completing the next three passes for a combined 42 yards to get the ball inside the ten-yard line. Lynch then took the ball himself for an 8-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good.
It looked as though the quarter would end with Memphis holding a shock lead over the nationally-ranked UCLA Bruins but Brett Hundley had different thoughts. On the first play of the drive, he hit Kenneth Walker deep for a 62-yard touchdown. One play, 62 yards, 16 seconds off the clock. The score was 13-7 UCLA after the first quarter.
The Tigers would respond once again with a very solid drive mixing up Lynch passes with some short runs from Doroland Dorceus and Sam Craft. Memphis took a huge risk in a very grey area of the field on a 4th-and-1 from the UCLA 43 yard line. Lynch calmly took the snap and completed a big three-yard pass to Daniel Montiel for the first down. That would be a very big play as it led to a 7-yard touchdown run from Sam Craft just six plays later.
UCLA scored touchdowns on their next two possessions. The first drive was a short 4-play, 75 yard drive that was aided by a face mask personal foul on Memphis that was tacked on to a 20-yard completion to Jordan Payton. Hundley would finish the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte.
After Memphis was forced to punt, UCLA came back with a very efficient drive to increase the lead to 14 points. The drive started with a false start on first down followed by a 5-yard run from Paul Perkins to get the ball back to the original line of scrimmage. Jim Mora decided to ride the hot hand on the next six play calling on Hundley to move the ball with his arm. Hundley responded with five completions for 26 yards to move the ball out to the 44 yard line.
The sixth pass on the drive though was the beauty, a 54-yard completion to Thomas Duarte to move the ball down to the four-yard line. Paul Perkins would convert the touchdown on the next play. Brett Hundley completed a pass to Tyler Scott to convert the two-point conversion and bring the score to 28-14.
Memphis needed a big answer with only 4:39 left in the first half. Payton Lynch knew exactly what they needed, a quick score. The first two plays were each completed passes over 30 yards. Lynch took a run of four yards before hitting Brandon Hayes on an 18-yard touchdown pass to pull within seven one more time.
Only one scoring drive in the third quarter and that was courtesy of UCLA. The Bruins extended their lead back out to 14 after a 13-play, 77-yard drive taking off five minutes from the clock. The exclamation point came from Bellevue High School graduate Myles Jack with the 4-yard run to extend the lead back to 35-21.
It looked as though UCLA was right there they wanted to be with a 14-point lead going into the fourth quarter but the beauty of college football is how crazy things happen when the momentum shifts. Doroland Dorceus broke through the Bruins defense on the second play of the quarter for a 40-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 35-28 UCLA.
On the second play of the next UCLA drive. Brett Hundley looked outside for a receiver when Memphis defender Fritz Etienne picked off the pass and took it to the house for a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown. Just like that with 13:44 left in the game, we had ourselves a tie ball game.
Jim Mora did not give his quarterback too much time to think about his mistake though coming up throwing on the next drive. Hundley completed 5-of-5 passes for 69 yards including the game-winning 33-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Duarte.
Memphis would have three more possessions but they could not get past the UCLA 44 yard line. In the end, the UCLA Bruins would squeeze by with a game that was surely too close for comfort. The VAVEL USA Player of the Game was UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.
The Memphis Tigers will be off next week before welcoming the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders to the Liberty Bowl on September 20th. UCLA travels to Arlington, Texas and AT&T Stadium for a neutral-field clash with the Texas Longhorns.