Jordon James

Utah sacks No. 8 UCLA, capping historic day of Top 10 upsets

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Week 6 was not a safe time for college football teams to wear a single-digit number in front of their name. After unranked Arizona started the weekend by upending No. 2 Oregon Thursday night in Eugene, and No. 12 Mississippi State started Saturday but dusting No. 12 Texas A&M, and No. 11 Ole Miss shocked No. 3 Alabama and No. 25 TCU stunned No. 4 Oklahoma within minutes of each other, you had to know No. 8 UCLA was in trouble against unranked and dangerous Utah Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

It was in more than just trouble, as the Utes dumped the Bruins, 30-28.

As a sign that the upset was just meant to be for Utah, the Pac-12 refs nearly Pac-12 ref’d their way to handing UCLA the win. As UCLA lined up for a potentially game-winning field goal with four seconds to play, Ka’imi Fairbairn‘s 55-yard field goal sailed far wide right, but a generous running into the kicker call gave Fairbairn another try from 50. Ball didn’t lie, and Fairbairn missed.

That, however, was not where this game was lost for UCLA. That came along the offensive line, which allowed quarterback and former Heisman Trophy front-runner Brett Hundley to be sacked a staggering 10 times, including three straight plays in one sequence. Despite that, Hundley still completed 16-of-21 passes for 269 yards with two touchdowns, but threw what proved to be a costly pick six to Tevin Carter that opened the scoring with 5:51 to play in the first quarter.

The Bruins actually succeeded at run blocking, paving the way for Paul Perkins and Jordon James to combine for 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

After struggling through one quarter with Travis Wilson (2-of-5 passing, five yards) at quarterback, Kyle Whittingham inserted Kendal Thompson into the game and immediately reaped the benefits. Thompson’s mobility kept UCLA’s defense off-balance. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown and rushed 19 times for 83 yards.

Devontae Booker led the way for the Utes with 33 carries 156 yards and a touchdown and three receptions for 15 yards.

Utah led the game 17-7 at halftime and could have potentially put the game away while leading 24-14 early in the fourth, but Kaelin Clay dropped a 2nd-and-10 pass that would have put the ball inside UCLA territory. The Utes punted, and two plays later Hundley hit Eldridge Massington for a 93-yard touchdown pass, and suddenly Utah was in scramble mode.

Andy Phillips extended the lead to 27-21 on a 45-yard boot with 6:21 to go, but UCLA immediately grabbed the lead with another long scoring strike from Hundley to Massington with 4:50 to go.

Utah took the ball on the ensuing possession and marched 63 yards in 10 plays, setting Phillips up for a 29-yard game-winner with 34 seconds to go.

Utah’s win and UCLA’s loss creates a three-team logjam in the Pac-12 South, where USC joins these two clubs in a tie for second behind unbeaten Arizona.

Utah, which should be ranked on Sunday, plays next at Oregon State on Oct. 16, while UCLA must turn around to face fellow upset victim Oregon on Saturday.

 

With Hundley sidelined, Jerry Neuheisel squeezes No. 12 UCLA past Texas

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There was a moment when Charlie Strong seemed prime for his first statement at Texas. That was about how long it felt – a moment.

After taking a 17-13 lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Tyrone Swoopes to John Harris, Texas had the ball and the lead with four minutes remaining when Steve Edmond punctured the ball from Jordon James’ grasp and Longhorns defensive tackle Paul Boyette gathered the loose piece of pigskin. Malcolm Brown rushed for five yards on the ensuing play, but UCLA blew up the second down run, putting Brown right back where he started and setting up a low-percentage third-and-10. Swoopes threw incomplete to Harris on third down, and then Josh Turner was hit with a false start penalty, making William Russ punt from his own six yard-line.

Russ punted the ball 58 yards, and Ishmael Adams returned it 45, giving UCLA a first-and-10 two yards from the exact spot where James fumbled, and with ample time to work. The Bruins wouldn’t need it, though, as Jerry Neuheisel hit Jordan Payton for a 33-yard touchdown on the next snap, giving UCLA a 20-17 lead with three minutes to play.

Texas gained three yards in the next four plays, and that was that. Final score: No. 12 UCLA 20, Texas 17.

UCLA relied on the golden locks and famous name of Neuheisel after star quarterback Brett Hundley injured his left elbow in the first quarter. Hundley completed all four of his passes for 48 yards and added nine rushing yards before leaving the game; he did not return but was active on the sideline with his left arm in a wrap. In his absence, Neuheisel connected on 23-of-30 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, the first two of his career. In the second half, the sophomore was 15-of-18 for 132 yards and those two scores, the first of which, to Nate Iese, quickly pulled the Bruins into a tie after a lackadaisical 10-3 first half, and then the winning score to Payton.

Swoopes played well in his second start, showing marked improvement from a week ago. He completed 24-of-34 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. The duo of Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 21 carries and 118 yards.

The most frustrating aspect for Strong and company, other than the late-game meltdown, was the rush defense allowing UCLA 217 yards on 47 carries. Paul Perkins raced 58 yards on the first half, erasing any momentum Texas had taken away from the locker room after grabbing a 10-3 halftime lead. Perkins finished the game with 124 yards on 26 carries.

UCLA, 3-0 with an average margin of victory of six points, is still alive as everyone’s College Football Playoff dark horse. The Bruins take next Saturday off before visiting No. 16 Arizona State on Sept. 25. Texas (1-2) takes next week off as well before opening Big 12 play at Kansas on Sept. 27.

UCLA’s top RB ‘fine,’ expected to play vs. UW

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While Myles Jack stole the show, the linebacker’s running back emergence came about in large part because UCLA’s top back was sidelined with a lingering ankle injury.  Come this weekend, however, that should no longer be the case.

Following Wednesday’s practice, head coach Jim Mora declared Jordon Jamesfine,” presumably meaning the running back will take the field in Saturday’s game against Washington.

James missed three straight games after suffering a high-ankle sprain in an Oct. 3 win over Utah.  He returned for the win over Colorado last Saturday, but rushed for just eight yards on six carries.  He subsequently sat out the Arizona game this past weekend as well.

The first three games of the season, prior to the injury, he averaged over 140  yards per game.  Despite essentially missing an entire month of the season, James’ 471 yards leads all Bruin backs.

While James is returning to health, another pair of tailbacks are dealing with their own injury issues.  Steve Menfro has already been ruled out of the UW game and Damien Thigpen is a game-time decision, both situations courtesy of ankle injuries.  Those two have combined for 131 yards and tow touchdowns on 35 carries this season.

As for a repeat performance from Jack — the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Week — in the backfield, especially given the dings their depth at the position has taken?  “He’s a linebacker,” Mora flatly stated.

Well see about that.

UCLA’s leading rusher a no-go again

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A lingering ankle injury will once again keep UCLA’s leading rusher on the sidelines.

Head coach Jim Mora confirmed on ESPN‘s College GameDay show that Jordon James will not play in tonight’s road game against Arizona.  The Bruins’ second-leading rusher among running backs, Paul Perkins, will get the start instead.

James missed three straight games after suffering a high-ankle sprain in an Oct. 3 win over Utah.  He returned for the win over Colorado last Saturday, but rushed for just eight yards on six carries.  The first three games of the season, prior to the injury, he averaged over 140  yards per game.

Despite essentially missing an entire month of the season, James’ 471 yards leads the team.  Perkins has totaled 334 yards, while quarterback Brett Hundley is second on the Bruins with 431.

UCLA’s leading rusher a game-time decision

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Despite not gaining a single yard since the first weekend of October, Jordon James remains UCLA’s leading rusher.

After nearly a month on the sidelines due to injury, the running back could be set to pad that lead. Maybe.

For the second straight day, James participated in practice as the Bruins prepare for Saturday’s game against Colorado. While no official decision has been made, head coach Jim Mora said the junior “looked pretty good” but will still be a game-time decision.

James suffered a severely sprained ankle — insert high-ankle here — in the Oct. 3 win over Utah.

With 463 yards and five rushing touchdowns, James is tops on the team even with missing three of seven games played. Paul Perkins is second among running backs with 331 and three.