Brett Hundley

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

ARLINGTON, Texas-- With three minutes left to play Saturday night, UCLA backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel made the majority of AT&T Stadium fall silent.

From 33 yards out, the quarterback tossed a long ball to UCLA receiver Jordan Payton to put the Bruins up by three and end Texas’ hope of defeating a top-15 opponent.

UCLA beat Texas 20-17, though, the Longhorns were able to rebound from an embarrassing loss last weekend against BYU and come within minutes of beating the No. 12 Bruins.

“I just like overall how this team bounced back from a week ago,” Texas head coach Charlie Strong said. “ And I told them ‘ Just keep fighting, keep battling and good things are gonna happen. These close games, we are going to be able to go win them.’ But it’s just hard right now, it’s tough in that locker room because I just know they just laid it out there and gave it all they had.”

The Longhorns had multiple opportunities against the Bruins, who were without starting quarterback Brett Hundley for most of the game. With less than five minutes left in the first quarter, Hundley was taken out with a left elbow injury and it became a battle of the quarterbacks in Arlington. Neuheisel replaced Hundley under center, leading his team to their third straight victory.

Neuheisel finished the game 23 for 30 with 178 yards and two touchdowns.

In his second start of his career, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes looked more comfortable. Swoopes completed 24 of 34 attempts for 196 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.

Swoopes' two most impressive throws of the game were completions to senior wide receiver John Harris, the first coming on fourth down near the end of the second quarter for 33 yards to get Texas to the UCLA five yard line.

“Fourth and eight, I had to keep the drive going alive,” Harris said. “So, you know, just had to step up and make a big play, so I did.”

The Longhorns scored a touchdown three plays later to take a 10-3 lead heading into halftime.

On the first play of the second half, UCLA running back Paul Perkins took the ball and ran 58 yards to the Texas 17-yard line after breaking an attempted tackle by redshirt senior linebacker Jordan Hicks. The burst was 23 yards longer than the total yards UCLA ran for in the first half and represented the Bruins' longest run of the game.

Down by three, Texas showed a glimmer of hope, responding with an 80-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 left to play in the game on an eight-yard touchdown reception by Harris.

UCLA fumbled on its ensuing drive when senior linebacker Steve Edmond forced the ball from Bruins running back Jordon James. The Longhorns were unable to move the ball on their penultimate drive and punted it back to the Bruins, who returned it for 45 yards to set up the game-winning score.

“Just can’t give up the big plays,” Strong said of the game-losing sequence. ”You look at it, we go up by a touchdown, we get the ball back.  We just don’t take no time off the clock.  And then we end up punting the ball from our territory, and guy has a really good return and get up our hitch and go.”

Texas finished with 322 yards of total offense, tallying 196 yards of passing and 126 yards on the ground.

 

Check out more photos from the game in the slideshow below - 

For Texas, experience on the field is becoming a rarity. As suspensions continue to mount, the Longhorns have been forced to field a team that hardly resembles its projected preseason starting lineup. Last week, for example, Texas’ offensive line entered the contest with a combined five total starts

Myles Jack, UCLA’s sophomore linebacker and running back, bests that number on his own, on both sides of the ball. As a freshman in 2013, Jack played in 13 games and started in 12 as linebacker. Not only does he boast more starting experience than Texas’ entire offensive line, his experience ranges more broadly than any player on Texas’ entire team.

“He’s a great defensive player for us,” said Brett Hundley, UCLA’s redshirt junior quarterback, Monday. “But when he’s in the backfield, just to be able to give him the ball and let him do what he does, and that’s get touchdowns — it’s nice as a quarterback not to have any reason not to just hand him the ball.”

While Texas head coach Charlie Strong harps on the need to improve all three phases of the Longhorns’ game, Jack will show Texas what it’s like to have personally mastered the trio. Jack’s accomplishments were recognized last year when he earned both the Pac-12 defensive and offensive freshman of the year awards.

“[Offense and defense are] really the same,” Jack said. “When I have the ball in my hand, I don’t want to seem nervous, but I’m antsy — I want to get out there. Defensive guys like me are trying to hurt you.”

Though Jack’s reputation may brand him as an intimidating foe, Jack doesn’t, however, want to hurt everyone. Instead, he seeks to help his teammates as best as he can — a selflessness and sense of accountability his teammates admire.

“He’s a freaking agent. We just tell him to go left or right, and he’ll follow,” Hundley said. “It changes the pace to have Myles [Jack] in there with his power, running and speed. He’s a good back force for us, and when he gets in the game, he does special things.”

Yet Jack isn’t focused on accomplishing “special things” on his own.

“I’m up for whatever the team needs,” Jack said. “It’s not for me or personal accolades. I’m not asking for extra plays, but when they need me, I’m ready.”

Jack, who turned 19 this month, has been ready for years now. His mother, La Sonjia, told CBS Sports that Jack would wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings to run drills and invite neighborhood guys over for practice. He analyzed film as early as age seven. His longtime commitment prepared him well to understand the game and used his analytical skills to look back on UCLA’s most recent game against Memphis. After securing three defensive touchdowns against Virginia in week one, the Bruins’ defense was under fire last week for allowing Memphis to score 35 points. The Bruins still pulled out a win, but Jack, naturally hard on himself, felt his defense had failed.

“We hurt ourselves,” Jack said. “Coach put us in the best position possible to succeed, but we were making errors — little thing that will be corrected.”

Jack remains realistic, knowing that the three scores his defense had against Virginia aren’t going to happen each week. Defensive touchdowns aren’t his main goal, however. Instead, Jack prides himself on the defense’s ability to respond to adversity.

“Teams are going to score, [and] teams are going to make plays, but we need to answer as a defense,” Jack said. “That’s one of the traits our defense has: we can answer.”

QB Brett Hundley

Now in his third year as a starter, Hundley has been frequently mentioned as a Heisman candidate and a potential first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Hundley lived up to the hype for the most part in his first two games, passing for 638 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 148.7 passer rating. What should scare the Longhorns most, however, is his ability to run. Hundley has rushed for 1,168 yards and 21 touchdowns in his career, and after watching BYU junior quarterback Taysom Hill torch the Texas defense last week, he has to be excited about the opportunity to improve on those numbers.

RB Paul Perkins

Coming off an impressive freshman campaign when he rushed for 573 yards and six touchdowns, Perkins should receive the majority of the carries this season for UCLA. He’s off to a fast start this year, rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games. Aside from Hundley, Perkins appears to be the one constant for the Bruins’ offense. He’s not much of a big-play guy, but he is extremely steady. After averaging 4.3 yards per carry last season, he’s boosted that average to 4.6 yards per attempt this season.

LB Eric Kendricks

Kendricks is off to a torrid start in 2014, racking up 26 tackles through the first two games. He’s also forced a fumble, recorded a tackle for loss and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Kendricks possesses the ideal size for a linebacker, and he’s built a reputation as a player able to make an impact against the run and the pass. Kendricks led the Bruins with 106 tackles last season, a total he could shatter this year if he continues to play the way he has so far.

DB Ishmael Adams

Adams is one of the most versatile players on the Bruins’ roster as he plays a major role on both defense and special teams. The junior established himself as a playmaker in the secondary in the Bruins’ first two games as he’s already returned an interception for a touchdown, broken up a pass and recorded 11 tackles. He’s even more dangerous, however, as a returner, averaging 20.7 yards on kickoff returns and 11.5 yards on punts in 2014. Adams is only 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, but, despite his small stature, he’s been one of the Bruins’ biggest impact players in 2014.

QB

Advantage: UCLA

Redshirt junior Brett Hundley has the kind of athleticism that has ruined the Texas front seven, but his 396-yard and three touchdown passing performance against Memphis last week showed the dual-threat ability that makes him a Heisman candidate.  

Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes did as well as expected with the vanilla game plan that his coaches drew up last week, but his deep passes were inaccurate, and his athleticism was not a factor until the game was out of hand.

RB

Advantage: UCLA

Redshirt sophomore Paul Perkins has put together a solid first two games for the Bruins — averaging 4.6 yards per carry — but he has not yet faced a top-tier defense, and his backups have struggled.

Junior Johnathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown only averaged 2.7 yards per carry against BYU, but a weak offensive line should take some blame for that. So far this season, neither back has been a factor in the passing game. 

WR

Advantage: UCLA

A strong receiving corps allows Hundley to spread the ball around. Junior Jordan Payton and sophomore Thomas Duarte both had 100-yard games last week, and junior Devin Fuller added
nine catches.

A head injury may keep senior Jaxon Shipley out against the Bruins. Redshirt senior John Harris led the team in receiving for a second straight week, but junior Marcus Johnson has yet to make any impact on offense.

OL

Advantage: Texas 

The Longhorn offensive line will again be without tackles junior Kennedy Estelle and senior Desmond Harrison, both of whom were recently suspended. Texas struggled to run last week, but this unit tops UCLA’s on the basis that the pass protection has been decent through two games.

The UCLA offensive line has allowed nine sacks in two games, and Bruin runners are averaging a scant 3.3 yards per carry. Redshirt junior center Jake Brendel returned to the team last week, but he cannot compensate for the lack of experience around him.

DL

Advantage: Texas

Senior Cedric Reed and Co. put constant pressure on BYU junior quarterback Taysom Hill last week, but they need to focus on containing the quarterback. If the ends get up the field too quickly, Hundley will step up and hurt the team with his legs.

UCLA’s defensive line, led by sophomore Eddie Vanderdoes, dominated in its first game against Virginia but has recorded only one sack this season.

LB

Advantage: UCLA

Sophomore Myles Jack and redshirt senior Eric Kendricks return to what should be one of the best linebacking corps in the Pac-12. It shut down Virginia’s offensive attack but allowed 164 rushing yards
to Memphis.

The linebackers fell apart against BYU. Ball carriers burst through to the secondary at will, and outside linebackers Jordan Hicks and Peter Jinkens struggled to seal off the perimeter. It is hard to imagine them improving against better competition this week.

DB

Advantage: Texas

The secondary has been the Longhorns’ strongest defensive unit. Senior Quandre Diggs grabbed an interception in the end zone last week, and the team has only allowed 196 passing yards all season.

Apart from two interceptions against Virginia, UCLA’s veteran secondary has struggled through the first two games of the season. The Bruins will be further weakened if junior cornerback Randall Goforth misses this weekend’s game due to a shoulder injury. 

ST

Advantage: UCLA

Placekicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has struggled early on for the Bruins. The junior missed one extra point and his only field goal try. Junior returner Ishmael Adams has been solid in the return game, averaging 11.5 yards per return on punts. 

Texas’ special teams have been disastrous through two weeks. Junior placekicker Nick Rose is 1-for-3 on field goal attempts, and Marcus Johnson made several poor decisions against BYU.