UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley's response to his first interception thrown this season and the resulting scoring drive he engineered helped the 11th-ranked Bruins escape Rose Bowl Stadium Saturday with a 42-35 win over the Memphis Tigers.
Memphis scored twice early in the fourth quarter, including a 17-yard interception return by Fritz Etienne to tie the game at 35. Two plays prior to Etienne taking the ball to the house for a pick-six, Memphis running back Doroland Dorceus had scored on a 40-yard run.
Dorceus' third scoring run of the season was part of a 13-carry, 86-yard career rushing night for the sophomore.
After the Tigers had scratched back into the game, Hundley and the Bruins' response to Memphis' back-to-back scores including Etienne's interception return would result in the final points of the game.
During a nine-play drive that covered 75 yards and consumed less than three minutes of playing time, Hundley ran for 14 yards, starting with an 11-yard scamper on the series' first play and he completed all five of his passing attempts culminating with a 33-yard touchdown strike to Thomas Duarte.
Hundley would erase a holding penalty as well as a three-yard loss on a quarterback sack by Tank Jakes with a 17-yard pass to Jordan Payton and a four-yard run before Myles Jack converted a fourth-and-one from the Memphis 42. After a seven-yard completion to Devin Fuller, Hundley found Duarte open over the middle for the touchdown.
"They were playing man on the pick six and Brett didn't see the guy. He jumped it and took it in for six," said UCLA coach Jim Mora. "But what you see of good performers is when they need to come up with a drive and need to come up with a play, they do."
Saturday's game certainly turned into a track meet at times. Only two of 11 combined scoring drives consumed more than four minutes of clock - one by Memphis and one by UCLA.
Hundley completed 33-of-44 passes for 396 yards and the Bruins had 540 yards of total offense.
Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch had a career night for the Tigers. He completed 27-of-42 passes for 305 yards and Memphis amassed 469 yards of total offense (164 rushing). Lynch's previous career best passing was 279 yards in last year's seven-point loss to UCF.
Lynch gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead with an eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and would cut a two-touchdown UCLA lead in half with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hayes prior to intermission.
"At times he played well, at times he didn't," Justin Fuente said of Lynch's performance. "I am proud of him. That defense will make you make mistakes. I thing operating in a great environment and playing a great defense will be beneficial to him."
With UCLA leading 42-35 in the fourth quarter, Memphis next two offensive series would stall at the UM 49 and 44. Memphis punter Spencer Smith would pin the Bruins inside the 10 after both offensive series.
UCLA's last possession began with 2:25 to play.
Paul Perkins ran for 10 yards on first down before Jakes had back-to-back tackles on rushing plays which combined for five yards. Memphis took its final two timeouts after those plays and on third down, Bakari Hollier and Kendrick Golden dropped Perkins for a two-yard loss.
Memphis would take possession at their own 42-yard line with 45 seconds to play but the clock would expire.
In addition to Dorceus' career rushing yards, Brandon Hayes had 34 yards on nine carries and five receptions for 48 yards.
Memphis' three rushing touchdowns give the Tigers 12 for the season. The team had just 14 rushing touchdowns in all of 2013.
Defensively, Jakes led the Tigers with 12 total tackles including four tackles for loss. Jakes had two of the Tigers' four quarterback sacks in the game. Also with sacks were Jackson Dillon and Cortez Crosby, who now has a sack in each of his first two games.
"If you judge this team with what they showed today, it would be pretty easy to say that they are a tough group," Fuente said of his team. "They kept playing hard. We didn't always play well, but we played hard.
"We came here to try to win a football game, not to just play. We didn't come here to look at the stadium or be in awe of the uniforms, but to go play. I am proud of that. I wish this group played even just a little better at times."
Memphis is now 1-1. The Tigers will enjoy the first of two off weeks before playing host to Middle Tennessee on Sept. 20. With the win, UCLA improved to 2-0 and will play Texas next