BILL PLASCHKE

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

After Hundley dominates Virginia Tech's great defense in big Sun Bowl victory, no one knows how the quarterback is leaning as Bruins face losing their genial leader to the NFL.

Brett Hundley, Jordan Zumwalt

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, left, and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt were chosen co-Most Valuable Player for the Sun Bowl. (Victor Calzada / Associated Press / December 31, 2013)

EL PASO -- One moment he was standing still enough to be wrapped in a tight embrace. The next moment he was sprinting alone into the distance.

The unsettled state of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could be described in a single breathtaking sequence Tuesday during a bright and cheery Sun Bowl clouded with ominous doubt.

Less than two minutes into the game against Virginia Tech, Hundley took a shotgun snap and was immediately shadowed by Tech's large and charging defensive end Dadi Nicolas.

Hundley was sacked. Then he wasn't. In a move containing the sort of wondrous instincts that have turned him into Los Angeles' hottest football entertainment, Hundley ducked around Nicolas and ran past him in the other direction, racing seven yards for a touchdown.

Where did he go? How did he do that? While the Bruins were dancing and hugging in the distance, Nicolas stood frozen and alone in the spot where Hundley had juked him, holding his maroon helmet with both hands and shaking his head.

UCLA knows how the kid feels. After Hundley led the Bruins to a big and glittering 42-12 victory, this potentially championship team remained stuck in its tracks, shaking its head, with no clue where its leader might go or whether they will ever see him again.

And they're not alone.

"I have no idea, to be honest," said Hundley afterward, and it appeared he meant it.

Entering this final game of his second dynamic season, Hundley, a redshirt sophomore, seemed to be leaning toward remaining in school for another season in an attempt to win a national championship and Heisman Trophy.

Yet ironically, on a day when both those goals appeared to move into reach, Hundley played so well he's apparently now having serious second thoughts about sticking around.

While walking away from a cryptic postgame news conference, he was pointedly asked, do you know?

"I thought I did," he said, "but now I don't."

Only the fate of what could be the most important UCLA football season in more than 50 years rests on his decision. If Hundley stays, the Bruins could be headed for a historic autumn. If Hundley leaves, those hopes could be history.

Before Tuesday's game, the 20-year-old apparently thought he could use more polish, more passing work, more snaps. But after he dominated one of college football's traditionally great defenses, he seemed far more NFL-assured.

"That was the No. 4 defense in the country, it's truly special to be able to do what we did," said Hundley, his eyes growing wide. "Right now, I feel like I'm pretty confident where I'm at as a quarterback."

He seemed to be asking himself, how much more must a college quarterback prove after leading a team to 447 total yards against a Virginia Tech team that was allowing barely half of that?

The Hokies were allowing just 104 rushing yards per game, but Hundley exceeded that much in the first half by himself, highlighted by a twisting, swerving 86-yard touchdown run that will one of the highlights of the bowl season.

The Hokies were allowing only 17 points a game, but Hundley led the Bruins offense to 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, including finishing with a perfectly thrown 59-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans.

His performance helped the Bruins record a 10th win for the first time in eight years. Yep, more irony here, that's another impressive statistic that might push him right out the door.

"I think the legacy I wanted to leave was to bring UCLA back to prominence," he said. "I think a 10-win season, if I left, I would feel I accomplished that."

Connect
Advertisement

VIDEO