UCLA Coach Jim Mora says the offensive line has a cohesive night. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images )
Getting a read on how good UCLA might be from its 49-24 victory over woeful Rice on Thursday was difficult. Getting a read on the Bruins after they play Nebraska on Sept. 8 should be fairly easy.
And nowhere should the truth be clearer than on the offensive line.
UCLA rolled up 646 yards — 343 on the ground — against Rice. UCLA Coach Jim Mora said Nebraska would be "a stiffer test."
The Bruins moved easily against Rice even with three offensive linemen — tackles Simon Goines and Torian White, plus center Jake Brendel — playing in their first college game. Guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, who missed the last two seasons while on a Mormon mission, was playing in his first game in nearly three years.
"Considering the fact they hadn't had a whole lot of work together, they had a cohesive night," Mora said. "Their pass protection was solid even though there wasn't a lot of blitzing, and they did a good job at the point of attack on the run game."
However, the coach also said he would "temper" his enthusiasm "because it's one game."
Game Two looms.
Nebraska's tradition of linemen on both sides of the ball is well known. Cornhuskers players have won the Outland Trophy nine times, the most for any school. Oklahoma is second with five.
"We're looked at film on Nebraska and they have a big, physical, powerful defensive line," Mora said. "They are a big powerful team in general."
For one day, though, the Bruins could enjoy the performance of its line, which had a new look.
White and Brendel were redshirts last fall. Recruited by UCLA's last offensive line coach, Bob Palcic, Brendel all but won his job during spring practice. White showed enough during training camp to earn the left tackle job, guarding quarterback Brett Hundley's blind side. Goines was a senior at Keller (Texas) High last season.
Su'a-Filo, a sophomore, started 13 games as a freshman in 2009, but then left for his mission. Senior Jeff Baca is the veteran. He made his 34th college start against Rice.
The group's youth could help the Bruins in seasons to come.
"I'm primarily focused on this week's game against Nebraska, and I try not to make a habit of looking beyond this season," Mora said. But, he added, "it would be naive to say that wouldn't be a bonus."
The Bruins had three extra-point attempts blocked. After examining the game film, Mora said, the problem was on the line.
"It was primarily up front," Mora said. "The pad level, foot placement, minor things that can turn into huge issues."
Freshman kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn, could have "got the kicks up quicker," Mora said, "but it wasn't the primary reason for kicks being blocked."
This was a good start in Johnathan Franklin's attempt to run down Gaston Green.
Franklin gained 214 yards, including touchdown runs of 74 and 78 yards. It gave him 2,883 yards rushing in his UCLA career, leaving him 848 short of Green's UCLA record. Franklin is eighth on the Bruins' all-time list, 31 yards behind Theotis Brown.
It was the second time that Franklin has topped 200 yards in a game. He had 216 yards rushing against Washington State in 2010. He is the fourth UCLA running back to go over 200 yards in multiple games. Green and Karim Abdul-Jabbar did it three times and Brown twice.