All you need to know about UCLA's season opener against Oklahoma State is that the Bruins limited the Cowboys' passing attack to 23 yards -- and still lost by two scores.
That's what happens when you turn the ball over four times and have an inexperienced defensive line that is treated like a speed bump. The Cowboys rushed for a whopping 426 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-20 victory over UCLA Saturday in front of 48,702 at the Rose Bowl.
Vernand Morency gained 261 yards rushing, the third-largest total by a UCLA opponent, and scored two touchdowns to help offset a nonexistent air game for Oklahoma State, which won with redshirt freshman quarterback Donovan Woods throwing only eight passes, completing two.
"They really took advantage of us on the run and that's unacceptable," said UCLA's Jarrad Page, who combined with fellow safety Ben Emanuel II on 19 tackles from the secondary.
"It was surprising to me because I thought we were going to come out and play well. The effort was there, but we obviously have some things that we're going to have to work on."
Making tackles would be a good place to start for the Bruins, who have lost six consecutive games, including their last five last season.
With tackle C.J. Niusulu, UCLA's most experienced defensive lineman, sidelined because of a knee injury, the Bruins began the game with four players making their first collegiate starts on the defensive line, and they played like it.
UCLA simply did not have an answer for Oklahoma State's offensive line, which had four returning starters from last year's 9-4 team. Beginning with their first possession -- which covered 63 yards in six running plays, capped by a 22-yard run by Morency -- the Cowboys dominated the line of scrimmage even though the Bruins rotated 10 players up front.
"Those guys did a lot of slanting and cutting, and they kept putting fresh people in there," said Morency, who had 165 yards rushing by halftime. "They had an agenda that they were [trying to stop the run]. They just weren't able to do it."
It wasn't only the Bruins' defensive line that struggled. Although Spencer Havner was solid with a game-high 16 tackles despite missing much of the second quarter because of a shoulder injury, as a group UCLA's linebackers did not have a strong game.
On many Oklahoma State plays, Morency either ran untouched into the secondary through a huge hole or made Bruin defenders miss with cutbacks to gain additional yards.
"Defensively, we did some things to try to counter-balance their running game," said second-year UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell, who is 0-2 in season openers. "Our defense did improve in the second half, but we weren't effective enough."
If Dorrell's defense had played better, the Bruins might have been able to overcome two fumbles (by Craig Bragg and Maurice Drew) and two fourth-quarter interceptions thrown by quarterback Drew Olson, because their offense did not play badly.
Senior running back Manuel White had a career-high 145 yards rushing with two touchdowns and caught four passes for 40 yards. Seniors Paul Mociler and Steven Vieira and junior Mike McCloskey spearheaded an offensive line that enabled UCLA to rush for 191 yards and kept defenders off Olson all afternoon.
But mistakes proved crucial. Bragg fumbled the ball after making a catch for a first down in the opening quarter and Oklahoma State took a 7-0 lead six plays later.
After White scored two touchdowns and Morency scored to tie it, 14-14, UCLA was in position to take the lead early in the second quarter when Drew fumbled at the Oklahoma State 14-yard line.
Minutes later, it was the Cowboys who regained the lead on a 13-yard touchdown run by Greg Jones.
The next UCLA mistake was by Chris Kluwe, whose 25-yard punt gave great field position to the Cowboys. They needed only seven plays to travel 40 yards and take a 28-14 lead.
"We knew what they were going to do, we had their game plan down for over a week," said redshirt freshman Bruce Davis, who finished with three tackles in his first start at defensive end for UCLA. "We knew they were going to run because their quarterback was not much of a passer. They just really executed well."
It was all uphill from there for the Bruins. After settling for a field goal before halftime, UCLA cut Oklahoma State's lead to 28-20 midway through the third quarter when Justin Medlock made a career-best 52-yard field goal, his second field goal of the game.
On the ensuing possession, UCLA had a chance to get the ball back, but on third down and two from the Cowboys' 28, Morency took a pitch on a misdirection play and galloped 38 yards to set up Oklahoma State's final points, on a 35-yard field goal by Jason Ricks.
In the fourth quarter, the Bruins had their chances. One drive into Oklahoma State territory ended with a punt and their final two possessions ended with interceptions of passes intended for senior Tab Perry, who played after being cleared academically by the NCAA on Friday.