BILL PLASCHKE

Brett Hundley throws UCLA's future into doubt with his talented hands

As Tuesday's postgame scene proved, Hundley's influence at UCLA is about more than just football. He is not only their leader on the field, but he is the smart and genial face of the program. After thanking the city of El Paso for hosting the game, he spent time signing autographs with one hand while holding his game MVP trophy in the other. He posed for photos with little girls, hugged grown men, waved a farewell to everyone.

"It is crazy to think that it could be the last time … my last game ... it's something you have to think about," he said.

Hundley seems satisfied with the numbers, satisfied with the wins, which means the only question would be whether he was satisfied with his potential spot in the upcoming NFL draft.

Entering this game, scouts had him pegged as a low first-round draft pick, which would be enough to keep him in school. But it's now hard to imagine that predicted spot wouldn't rise. Then again, he could ignore the experts and spend one more year learning like Andrew Luck once learned at Stanford, a place where he could truly leave a lasting impression.

Of course, folks were once saying the same thing about Matt Barkley at USC, and he stayed for another year, and there was a big celebration when he made the announcement, and he became an instant Heisman favorite, and you know how that turned out.

Hundley's return is such a big deal to the future of this team that after Tuesday's victory, Coach Jim Mora was essentially asked to publicly convince Hundley to stay while the quarterback sat at the same table during a news conference.

"That's an awkward question you're asking me in front of him," Mora said. "I just think this — I think a quarterback gets better by playing the game, they get better by getting snaps, I think if you're going to go to the National Football League, you have to be as prepared and polished as possible."

Mora then emotionally added, "If you're at a premium position and you don't perform, you're ... out."

Mora then announced he wasn't talking further about the situation, and it's hard to blame him, but during the next two weeks, UCLA folks will be talking about little else.

For the record, the heir to Hundley's spot is true freshman Asiantii Woulard, an emerging prospect from Palm Bay, Fla. But late Tuesday in El Paso, hundreds of UCLA fans weren't thinking about that, as they were too busy chanting, "One more year, one more year."

Everyone in the stadium could hear them, it seems, except for — you guessed it — Hundley.

"I didn't hear that," he said with a smile.

Louder, folks, louder.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

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