The No. 7 UCLA Bruins kicked off their 2014 season on the road Saturday afternoon when they traveled to Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers.
When the final whistle blew, it was the Bruins who held on for a 28-20 victory even without the performance that many expected out of their offense..
Despite having a Heisman Trophy hopeful under center in quarterback Brett Hundley, the Bruins offense was slow out of the gate. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the UCLA offense finally got some points on the board.
Virginia had ten first-half points, but their mistakes led to huge plays for the UCLA defense, who went on to return three turnovers for touchdowns.
To start off the scoring, Bruins defensive back Ishmael Adams returned an interception 20 yards to put UCLA ahead.
Another UCLA defensive back found the endzone ten minutes later, when Randall Goforth returned a fumble 75-yards to paydirt. Goforth’s score put the Bruins ahead, 14-3. To cap off the impressive defensive performance in the first half, senior linebacker Eric Kendricks picked off Virginia’s Greyson Lambert and returned the interception 37-yards to the endzone.
UCLA entered the half with a 21-10 lead.
When Hundley found the endzone on a six-yard scramble, the Bruins offense finally had reason to celebrate.
However, the Cavaliers weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Virginia converted a field goal midway through the final quarter to bring them without eight-points, with Matt Johns leaving the way after replacing the underwhelming Lambert.
When it mattered the most, UCLA wide receiver Jordan Payton picked up a 35-yard gain after hauling in a pass from Hundley in what was the play that virtually sealed the win for the Bruins.
It wasn’t easy, but UCLA starts off their season with a win and the early adversity could be a valuable learning experience as they search for a Pac-12 title and national championship.