UCLA's Steven Manfro, right, loses the ball on a punt return after… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
HOUSTON — Ka'imi Fairbairn wasn't yet ready to throw blame around.
Yes, three of the UCLA freshman kicker's extra-point attempts were blocked Thursday in the Bruins' 49-24 win here against Rice, but he wasn't ready to say how or why that happened.
"I don't really want to get into it right now, but I know what I've got to do better," he said after his first collegiate game. "So that's what I'm going to work on this week."
His three kicks were blocked by the same player, Rice linebacker Cameron Nwosu, who set an NCAA record by becoming the first player to block three extra-point kicks in a single game.
"I give all the credit to the line," Nwosu said. "They got a great push, and I just got my hand up and did what the coach told me to do."
One of the first aspects of the game that UCLA Coach Jim Mora mentioned was the blocked kicks.
"Some obvious things we need to clean up is our PAT protection and then getting the ball up a little bit quicker," he said.
Fairbairn made a 27-yard field goal with 9 minutes 17 seconds left in the second quarter that helped extend UCLA's lead to 22-17 after Rice had come to within two.
"I felt good, really good on that one," Fairbairn said, adding that there wasn't too much else to feel good about.
Offensive line praised
UCLA's starting offensive line included a player who hadn't played in two years (Xavier Su'a Filo, who was on a Mormon mission), a redshirt freshman who had no experience as a starter (Jake Brendel) and only one other player who had more than 20 starts under his belt (Jeff Baca, who had 33).
But the group received nothing but praise for its performance as the offense piled up 646 total yards.
"We won't get anything started without them, and they did an amazing job," said quarterback Brett Hundley.
No official backup
Mora has not named a backup quarterback and hasn't given any indications that he will any time soon, but with the game in hand, the offense was handed over to Richard Brehaut, who threw for 101 yards in mop-up duty. Still, on the depth chart that UCLA distributed before the game, the three backup quarterbacks were listed alphabetically.
Heat not a problem
How did the Bruins fare in the heat and the humidity?
"We went to San Bernardino and we were definitely prepared for this weather," running back Johnathan Franklin said after rushing for three touchdowns and 214 yards.
UCLA receiver Devin Lucien was ejected after a personal foul was called on him on UCLA's final drive in the fourth quarter when he blocked another player away from the ball as his teammate Damien Thigpen ran toward the end zone after making a catch.
Lucien said he was acting on instinct and meant no harm.
The play resulted in a touchdown reception by Thigpen being called back.