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UCLA's fast start helps topple UNLV, 42-21

The UCLA Bruins will try to bounce back from a season-opening loss in a nonconference game against the UNLV Rebels on Saturday evening at the Rose Bowl.

Bruins able to avenge season-opening loss with 42-21 victory over Rebels

UCLA wide receiver Mossi Johnson beats UNLV defensive back Troy Hawthorne into the end zone in the second quarter. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA wide receiver Mossi Johnson beats UNLV defensive back Troy Hawthorne into the end zone in the second quarter. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The celebration was subdued because, in the end, the win came easy for UCLA.

So easy that Josh Rosen watched from the sideline as backup quarterback Mike Fafaul put the finishing touches on the Bruins’ 42-21 win over Nevada Las Vegas (1-1) at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. 

UCLA (1-1) avenged its season-opening loss to Texas A&M by jumping on the Runnin’ Rebels (1-1) from the start. Aside from a few erratic plays as the second quarter wound down, UCLA scored on all four of its full possessions before halftime. 

And even though the offense fell out of a rhythm in the third quarter, its early efficiency was enough to help the Bruins avoid their first 0-2 start since 2010. 

Soso Jamabo punctuated a 14-play drive with a three-yard touchdown run for the Bruins’ first score. A possession later, he ran to the left sideline, stopped on a dime, spun around, ran the width of the field and then tiptoed the opposite sideline on his way to a 23-yard score. 

Rosen, who methodically completed 15 of 21 passes for 155 yards in the first half, found Mossi Johnson for a 29-yard touchdown to push UCLA ahead 21-7. Then Jamabo scored his third first-half score from seven yards out. 

But the Bruins couldn’t shake the Runnin’ Rebels — who scored right before the half to make it  28-14 — and flat-lined out of the break. 

After UCLA running back Jalen Starks fumbled on his second carry of the season, UNLV drew even closer. With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, Runnin’ Rebels quarterback Johnny Stanton scrambled up the middle 11 yards untouched into the end zone. 

The Bruins’ offense continued to sleep through the second half. Jamabo and wide receiver Ishmael Adams each saw passes bounce off their hands and to the Rose Bowl grass one drive. Then, just as another drive was fizzling, UNLV defensive back Kenny Keys was called for targeting on Eldridge Massington. 

Keys was ejected. UCLA was gifted a trip into Runnin’ Rebels territory. Four plays later, Bolu Olorunfunmi rumbled past the goal line from one yard out to stretch the Bruins’ lead to 35-21. 

UNLV’s offense, grasping to get its momentum back, jogged onto the field and then jogged off it less than a minute later. 

That proved to be its last chance to claw back into it, as the Bruins drained close to six minutes of game clock before Rosen dove for a one-yard touchdown. 

Then the star quarterback exited the game, his work finished and lit up by the scoreboard. 

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