PASADENA, Calif. -- No. 22 UCLA showed what it can do on offense in its first two games of the season, rolling up 85 points and 1,299 yards. It was the Bruins' defense that stood out in the third game.
Redshirt freshman Brett Hundley passed for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and the hard-hitting Bruins held high-scoring Houston in check Saturday night in a 37-6 victory over the Cougars.
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"We played outstanding defense tonight except for one play," said first-year coach Jim Mora, referring to an 86-yard run by Houston's David Piland with 4:54 remaining that kept the Cougars from being shut out for the first time in nearly 12 years. "We're still trying to put it all together. But you take a win any time you can get it.
"We're 3-0 going into conference play and that's a real positive."
The Bruins (3-0) face Oregon State (1-0) in the Pac-12 opener for both teams next Saturday at the Rose Bowl, where an enthusiastic crowd of 53,723 watched UCLA dominate Houston from start to finish.
Johnathan Franklin, the nation's leading rusher, gained 110 yards on 25 carries, Sheldon Price tied a school record with three of UCLA's five interceptions, and Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked three field goals.
Hundley completed 27 of 42 passes with two interceptions. Franklin, a senior who averaged 215.5 yards in his team's first two games, moved into second place on UCLA's career rushing list with 3,210 yards. Gaston Green gained 3,731 yards in the 1980s.
The teams combined for 11 turnovers - six by Houston.
"It's great when you can win a game and have a lot of lessons learned from it," Mora said. "We can't feel bad about it, but we have to realize we have a lot of work to do. That's three weeks in a row we've scored on defense. We'd like to see that trend continue."
UCLA went ahead for good on the game's second play when linebacker Eric Kendricks returned Piland's errant backward pass intended for Ronnie Williams 23 yards for a touchdown. Then Price and his friends went to work.
"You know you're going to have opportunities on the ball," said Price, a senior cornerback. "I had three passes my way and I was able to make the plays."
While the defense might have taken the spotlight on this night, the offense was awfully good as well except for the turnovers. UCLA finished with 29 first downs and 567 yards of total offense and had the ball for 41:14 to just 18:46 for Houston. The Bruins averaged 649.5 yards in total offense in their first two games to rank third in the country.
The Cougars finished with 14 first downs and 388 yards in total offense. They averaged 31 points and 395.5 yards in their first two games.
"This is what we set out to do," said Tevin McDonald, whose 50-yard interception return set up a field goal.
Regarding Price, McDonald said: "He went up and got them all. Coach emphasized all week putting up a complete game. We take every game the same."
Piland completed 28 of 60 passes for 249 yards with the five interceptions. Dewayne Peace caught 10 passes for 103 yards and Kenneth Farrow gained 74 yards on 13 carries for the Cougars.
"I guess I took it upon myself to get out of my element and do more than I did and that's what caused the turnovers and the miscues and everything else," Piland said. "I take responsibility for that."
Playing under first-year coach Tony Levine, the Cougars are off to their first 0-3 start since 2001, when they went 0-11. They were 13-1 last season including a 38-34 season-opening victory over the Bruins, but coach Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M and many of their best players moved on as well.
"There were things we did poorly last week we improved on, especially tackling against a great UCLA offense," Levine said. "When you create turnovers, it gives you a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, we turned it over on our end offensively."
The Bruins led 17-0 after a dominant first half. The lead might have been bigger but for three second-quarter turnovers in Houston territory.
The Bruins moved 90 yards on 17 plays on their third possession, scoring on a 7-yard pass from Hundley to Datone Jones to make it 14-0. It was the first career reception for Jones, a fifth-year senior who starts at defensive end.
UCLA appeared on the verge of scoring again before D.J. Hayden picked off Hundley's sideline pass at the Houston 9 on the first play of the second period.
But UCLA forced a punt and Steven Manfro returned it 27 yards to the Cougars 26, setting up a 35-yard field goal by Fairbairn.
Houston was unable to capitalize after recovering fumbles at its 31 and 29 on the next two UCLA possessions. The Cougars crossed midfield for the first time after the second recovery, but Matt Hogan was wide left on a 46-yard field goal.
Damien Thigpen returned the second-half kickoff 55 yards, setting up a 45-yard, six-play scoring drive capped by Hundley's 12-yard pass to Jordan James.
The Bruins committed their fourth turnover midway through the third quarter, but McDonald's interception return two plays later set up a 23-yard field goal by Fairbairn. An interception by Price on Houston's first play following the kickoff set up a 33-yard field goal by Fairbairn that made it 30-0.
Houston reached the UCLA 12-yard line early in the final period before Price made his third interception in the end zone for the Cougars' sixth turnover.
Manfro's 14-yard run with 3:10 remaining completed the scoring.
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|UCLA||Eric Kendricks 23 yd fumble return (Ka'imi Fairbairn kick)|
|UCLA||Datone Jones 7 yd pass from Brett Hundley (Ka'imi Fairbairn kick)|
|UCLA||Ka'imi Fairbairn 35 yd FG|
|UCLA||Jordon James 12 yd pass from Brett Hundley (Ka'imi Fairbairn kick)|
|UCLA||Ka'imi Fairbairn 23 yd FG|
|UCLA||Ka'imi Fairbairn 33 yd FG|
|HOU||David Piland 86 yd run (failed 2pt rush)|
|UCLA||Steven Manfro 14 yd run (Ka'imi Fairbairn kick)|
|Third Down Efficiency||6-20||5-17|
|Fourth Down Efficiency||0-3||1-1|
|Kick Return Yds||16||55|
|Punt Return Yds||-1||55|
|Time of Poss.||18:46||41:14|
|HOU: Kenneth Farrow 13-74, David Piland 4-71, Ryan Jackson 2--6|
|UCLA: Johnathan Franklin 25-110, Damien Thigpen 9-89, Jordon James 7-23, Steven Manfro 1-14, Melvin Emesibe 3-11, Kenneth Walker 1-4, Brett Hundley 9--2, Team 1--2|
|HOU: David Piland 28-60-249-5|
|UCLA: Brett Hundley 27-42-320-2|
|HOU: DeWayne Peace 10-103, Deontay Greenberry 5-60, Daniel Spencer 5-59, Casey Martin 3-13, Ryan Jackson 3-3, Darian Lazard 1-11, Ronnie Williams 1-0|
|UCLA: Steven Manfro 7-78, Johnathan Franklin 4-58, Jordon James 3-28, Devin Lucien 2-42, Joseph Fauria 2-27, Darius Bell 2-24, Shaquelle Evans 2-20, Damien Thigpen 2-18, Jerry Johnson 1-10, Jerry Rice 1-8, Datone Jones 1-7|
|Houston||3rd Conference USA West||4-4||5-7|
|UCLA||1st Pacific 12 South||6-4||9-5|