LOS ANGELES -- A year later, Datone Jones had the type of impact everyone thought he would.
Jones, looking to rebound from a forgettable 2011 season, wasted little time in doing just that by playing one of the best games of his career in the UCLA Bruins' season-opener last week at Rice.
A 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive lineman, Jones equaled his career high with six tackles, including a sack, and made a game-changing play by forcing a fumble just before halftime of a 49-24 victory over the Owls.
It was a far cry from his start to last season, when he had only five tackles through the first five games and made it the entire season without forcing a fumble.
"I just wanted to go out there and dominate," Jones said. "It didn't have anything to do with stats. I just wanted to dominate my man every play and every chance I got."
He made an almost immediate impact. Four plays into the game, Jones sacked quarterback Taylor McHargue and two plays later the Owls punted. Then, with UCLA clinging to a 29-24 lead near the end of the first half, Jones burst through the line and disrupted the backfield enough to force a fumble. Damien Holmes scooped up the ball and ran it 44 yards for a momentum-shifting touchdown that gave the Bruins a 35-24 halftime lead.
These were the types of plays expected out of Jones last season, who looked unstoppable during camp then didn't record a sack until Week 6. He disappeared for games at a time, twice registering zero tackles in a game. In one game Thursday, he had more tackles (six), sacks (one) and tackles for a loss (two) than he had through the first five weeks last season.
Jones said he spent the offseason of soul searching. He watched game films over and over and saw a selfish player. He had missed the season before because of a broken foot so maybe he was trying to make up for lost time. He has been touted as an NFL prospect, so maybe he was trying to live up to the hype. Whatever it was, Jones didn't like what he saw.
"I was chasing stats," Jones said. "My biggest thing was making plays and chasing down quarterbacks and my ego and that was one thing I had to let go. I had to check my ego at the door. I was worried about the quarterback so much, I was looking in the backfield instead of playing the block and I wasn’t making the plays I should have been making."
Thursday, that wasn't a problem. Jones made plenty of plays and said his focus going forward is to keep doing exactly that. And this time, he's not talking about the plays that get him on highlight videos or the stats sheet, he's talking about making whatever plays are necessary to help the team win.
"After last season, it just clicked for me," Jones said. "I just need to watch as much film as possible and study my opponent and then dominate. If I do that, then I should have a good game."
Taylor-made report: Receiver Ricky Marvray was a high school teammate of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez at Centennial High in Corona and said it would not be easy to contain the Cornhuskers if Martinez is on his game.
"He’s going to be relentless, he’s going to have good energy, he’s not ever going to give up," Marvray said. "All I can tell them is don’t expect anything with him to be easy. He’s not going to give you anything and if you give him and inch, he will take a mile. I think we all know that."
Martinez passed for a career-high 354 yards and five touchdowns last week in a 49-20 victory over Southern Miss, quelling doubts about his ability as a passer. Marvray, who caught 67 passes for 1,212 yards and 12 touchdowns from Martinez when Centennial won the 2008 state title, said he was not surprised about his former teammate's passing prowess.
"I wasn’t surprised at all," he said. "I’ve seen Taylor do his thing ever since high school. ... Taylor in high school always threw me a perfect ball. There wasn’t many balls I had to go out of my way to make him look good, but there were a couple where I had to go down on the ground and scoop it one-handed. It happens."
Making a point: UCLA spent a considerable amount of time Monday and Tuesday working on extra-point and field-goal attempts in an effort to shore up a unit that got three extra-point attempts blocked against Rice.
Coach Jim Mora said that technique issues on the line were mostly to blame and that he is shuffling around some of the personnel on the blocking line.
"A little bit more experience going forward," Mora said. "Guys that have done it and are more stout. Sometimes you try to get guys in there that you think are going to be good, but they haven’t done it before and bad things happen. So lesson learned and we’ve really got to work on it hard this week and shore it up because if that fire gets out of control, it’s hard to stop."