Jim Mora, UCLA's first-year coach, embraced this first step.
"We are all new together," he said.
Shiny new, for the moment.
The Bruins have a new coach, new offensive coordinator, new quarterback and new offense, and there is no reason to believe that new-car smell won't still be in the air after Thursday's game at Rice.
But will it be a Corvette or a Vega?
Two years of running the "pistol" offense brought excitement ... for headline writers and columnists ("Bruins shoot themselves in the foot").
Mora brought in as coordinator Noel Mazzone, whose offense doesn't come with a pun-filled name.
It is a no-huddle, spread offense that ran up 55 points against UCLA in 2010 when Mazzone was at Arizona State. The Sun Devils also scorched USC for 43 points in handing the Trojans one of their two losses last season.
Both games were engineered by Brock Osweiler, a 6-foot-8 quarterback who is now with the Denver Broncos. Mazzone hands the keys to redshirt freshman Brett Hundley on Thursday in Houston.
Like most students with a learner's permit, Hundley is ready to hit the gas.
"Let's throw it deep," Hundley said when asked what he wanted to do on his first play.
Mazzone was there to tap on the brakes. Asked how his offense will help an inexperienced quarterback, he said, "We try not to hold the ball too long. The tempo, we hope, will be an advantage."
The offense has the ability to dink and dunk, with Mazzone's philosophy to get players one on one with a defender.
Said Mazzone: "We just want our kids to play fast."
Tommy Tuberville, who had Mazzone as his offensive coordinator at Auburn, said, "Noel is not one of these fly-by-night guys we've seen the last couple years, who have success with a couple of good players. He has no ego. Noel has been at it too long to do anything but let the players win the game for him."
The players have been cramming for five months.
"I feel comfortable with the offense," Hundley said. "When the first play comes, I'll be ready for it. If it's incomplete, I won't worry about it."
Maybe he should.
Kevin Prince was in the same situation two seasons ago, taking the pistol into the opener at Kansas State. The first play was perfect. A wide-open Morrell Presley dropped the pass. The second play was perfect. A wide-open Presley dropped the pass.
So began the Bruins' 4-8 season in 2010.
"I have never looked back," Prince said.
But he has tapped some memories, offering advice to help Hundley take a new offense into the first game.
"It's a totally different atmosphere, doing it in practice against your teammates and doing it in a live game," Prince said. "Adapting to that is tough."
So is using the pistol in the highly competitive Pac-12. Pistol quarterbacks are required to run the ball. Prince suffered a concussion and a separated shoulder in the 2011 opener. Richard Brehaut, Prince's backup, broke his leg later in the season.
Although Hundley is a capable and shifty runner, Mazzone's offense is designed to keep quarterbacks out of harm's way, with the giraffe-like Osweiler as an example.
"The quarterback as a runner is a luxury," Mazzone said. "It puts a little more strain on the defense."
Running could also help Hundley. He will test the new offense behind an offensive line that could have three players who have never been in a college game — a first-year freshman and two redshirt freshmen — and another, Xavier Su'a-Filo, who has been on a Mormon mission the last two years.
"It's a little weird because I haven't stepped on the field in almost two years," Hundley said. "But I have been working just to get to this moment. It's cool to get back in. Let's go."