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UCLA football: No. 7 Bruins escape Virginia on the road, 28-20

While the offense struggled, the Bruins were able to escape Charlottesville with a win thanks to some big plays from their defense.

Joe Robbins

Today's performance may have dialed back playoff talks for the Bruins for the time being.

No. 7 UCLA was expected to come into Charlottesville and run over Virginia and start off Junior Brett Hundley's potential Heisman campaign on a big note. Things didn't go as planned as the Bruins offense stalled almost all game long, and they just escaped from Virginia with a 28-20 win on Saturday.

The Bruins came out hot on the first drive, with Hundley completing a 48-yard bomb to Eldridge Massington to move into Cavilers territory less than one minute into the game. They stalled and tried to settle for a field goal, but Junior Ka'imi Fairbairn went wide right on the 45-yarder to start the game.

Both offenses traded punts until a Greyson Lambert pass was deflected at the line by Owa Odighizuwa, and picked off by Ishmael Adams who took it 20 yards the other way to put UCLA up 7-0 with 13 minutes left to play in the half.

MORE PUNTING HAPPENED. (And somewhere there was a Virginia Field Goal)

The 'Hoos were driving into Bruins territory and Lambert completed a quick pass to Kyle Dockins for what appeared to be a first down. Except the ball squeezed out and was scooped up by Randall Goforth, who ran by several confused Cavilers who thought the play was dead, and into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown to put UCLA up 14-3.

Next drive, Greyson Lambert would be picked off by Eric Kendricks, who would take it 37-yards the other way to put UCLA up 21-3 late in the 2nd quarter. That would end his day at QB. After Kendrick's return, the Bruins had a combined 122 combined yards off of those returns, the same amount of total offensive yardage they had at that point in the game.

Sophomore backup Matt Johns would come into the game lead the Cavilers down the field on a 5 play, 75 yard drive for the first offensive touchdown of the game, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Johns went up top and found Freshman Andre Levrone from 29-yards out and took the 'Hoos into the locker room trailing the Bruins, 21-10.

You would think the Bruins would come out with a little fire underneath them considering how the offense played in the first half, after being outgained by a Virginia team that went 2-10 in 2013, right?

Nope, not really.

On their first drive of the second half, Brett Hundley would be sacked for the fourth of five sacks on the day, and would fumble the ball over to Virginia. The Cavs would capitalize and march down the field for another Matt Johns TD pass to pull within four mid-third quarter.

After trading punts with UVA, Hundley finally led his first scoring drive of 2014, taking the Bruins 66 yards down the field for their first and only offensive touchdown of the game. On 3rd and goal, Hundley called his own number and spun his way into the end zone for the score.

UVA stalled on the followed drive and it looked like UCLA was going to take advantage and drive down the length of the field for another touchdown, but inside the UVA 30, Hundley was sacked again and he fumbled the back to the 'Hoos again. Virginia turned the mistake into a field goal and put the Cavs within a score early in the fourth quarter, 28-20.

Several stalled drives later, UVA was inside the UCLA 20 with less than five minutes to go, but couldn't make anything of it. Myles Jack seals the game by batted away a fourth down to help the Bruins escape Charlottesville with the W, 28-20.

Coach Mora and the team will take the win, I'm sure, but the way the played has to affect how they'll approach the rest of this season as well. The Offensive Line has to get better, that's the obvious fact about UCLA. The pocket collapsed on Brett Hundley way too many times for him to be effective through the air because he's too worried about the incoming pressure off the edge. They had more of an effect in the run game, helping Paul Perkins to 80 yards on the ground in the season opener, but their early play was still hard to watch as they were physically outmatched by the Virginia front seven.

The defense was the obvious high point for the Bruins on saturday, scoring three defensive touchdowns en route to their victory. The rush defense did well in holding Kevin Parks and the rest of the UVA RBs to just 3.1 yards per carry on the day, thanks in part to the pressure coming from Kenny Clark, Odighizuwa, and Deon Hollins. They also were a big reason for the turnovers committed by Virginia, brining pressure on Greyson Lambert when he threw both interceptions in the first half.

UCLA (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) returns home to the Rose Bowl next week when they'll host the Memphis Tigers.