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Brett Hundley appears poised for great things

UCLA's redshirt freshman quarterback outplays Matt Barkley in Bruins' victory.

Chris Dufresne

6:04 PM PST, November 17, 2012

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They used to say you lost a game for every freshman you started, but that game has changed.

Did you see UCLA's Brett Hundley on Saturday?

"Did he even look like a freshman?" senior receiver Joseph Fauria asked.

The nerve of these kids playing today.

Hundley is technically a redshirt freshman, which meant he was around campus last year to hold a clipboard.

UCLA has a new head coach and offensive coordinator, however, so Hundley really was starting from scratch.

Hundley was simply brilliant in Saturday's 38-28 victory over USC at the Rose Bowl, outplaying Trojans senior quarterback Matt Barkley in every way, shape and form.

"Money throws, hard throws, critical throws," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said of his freshman.

Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes for 234 yards, with a touchdown and no interceptions. He had 10 net yards rushing, but just as important was his fancy pocket footwork.

They're building better mousetraps these days and also better college quarterbacks. They come to campus better prepared to compete.

"The kids are growing up in these systems," UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone explained. "They're playing seven-on-seven in summers. They've had much more exposure to it."

This has been the year of the redshirt quarterback in college football.

Until Saturday, Hundley had been overshadowed by Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M and Notre Dame's Everett Golson.

Mariota entered the weekend leading the country in passing efficiency. Manziel is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate who led the Aggies to an upset win against Alabama.

Golson has led Notre Dame to an 11-0 record and played a key role in the Fighting Irish's huge win at Oklahoma.

Mazzone said he inspires Hundley to keep up with his contemporaries.

"I tell you you'd better play better," Mazzone joked after the game.

Hundley had been a big part of UCLA's resurgence this year, but stars are born in Los Angeles with wins over USC in the driving rain.

Saturday, in the cloudy backdrop, a star was born.

Hundley led UCLA to the Pac-12 South title and only the Bruins' second win over USC since 1998.

"Redshirt, freshman, that doesn't mean nothing to me," Hundley said. "As long as you work hard and get out and do the things you need to do."

Hundley showed poise beyond his years throughout the game, particularly on a fourth-quarter drive after USC had closed the lead to 31-28.

On first down from his own 17-yard line, with 7 minutes 16 seconds left, Hundley threw 18 yards to Shaq Evans, a brilliant call for a team not content to get conservative.

"In this offense, we're not thinking take it easy, or take it slow," Hundley said.

On third and 13 on the same drive, from the 47, Hundley found Fauria for a 15-yard completion.

Hundley demoralized a USC defense desperately needing a stop to get the ball back, and USC finally broke when Johnathan Franklin scored on a 29-yard run.

"We weren't going to go into a shell," Mora said of the drive. "That's not how you do it. That's not how you win games like this."

Hundley has given UCLA stability at quarterback it has not enjoyed in years. The Bruins of late have had a hard time even keeping quarterbacks in the upright position.

Since 2005, Kevin Craft in 2008 is the only UCLA quarterback to make it through a season unscathed. And Craft was the starter only because UCLA's top two quarterbacks were injured in spring practice.

Because Hundley stands strong in the pocket, UCLA is now on top in the standings.

"He plays with such poise, leadership," Fauria said.

And he's "only" a freshman.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com