Unfortunately for the Trojans, they failed to account for the running ability of
UCLA pass-catchers repeatedly turned short completions into long gains and touchdowns as No. 9 UCLA manhandled the No. 19 Trojans, 38-20, on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
It was the Bruins' third consecutive victory over the Trojans and ended USC's hope of winning the Pac-12 South.
Hundley, who burned the Trojans for 80 yards rushing and two touchdowns in last season's 35-14 victory at the Coliseum, gained only two net rushing yards Saturday in the 84th game between the rivals.
He scored on a 15-yard touchdown run, but most of his damage was inflicted with the aid of receivers Thomas Duarte, Devin Fuller, Devin Lucien, Mossi Johnson, Jordan Payton and Eldridge Massington. Hundley, who passed to 10 different receivers, completed 22 of 31 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
He distributed the ball horizontally, laterally and down the field, and his receivers did the rest.
"Brett Hundley makes our job a lot easier," said Duarte, who scored on a 57-yard touchdown pass play. "We know where the ball is going to be and when it's going to be there."
Lucien said receivers coach Eric Yarber "harped on us this week that we were going to be the squad to take it head-on."
UCLA's receivers had been overshadowed by a USC receiving corps that features Biletnikoff Award semifinalist Nelson Agholor and rising star JuJu Smith.
But Bruins receivers found seams, slipped tackles, outjumped or simply dashed away from Trojans defenders the entire game.
"That's been the story of the season for us," USC safety Gerald Bowman said. "You have to finish plays.
"Everyone has a job to do, and if you don't do your job, they're going to make plays. One mistake can result in a touchdown."
Hundley's running ability forced the Trojans to account for the junior on every play. That left him plenty of opportunities to get the ball to the perimeter.
"You just get deployed all over the field, which in turn creates a lot of space," USC Coach
UCLA was effective even when the gains started small on perimeter passes.
"They weren't getting two and three yards, they were getting eight-, nine-, 15-, 20-yard plays out of those things," Sarkisian said.
In the first quarter, Lucien broke free and was wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown that tied the score, 7-7.
After USC went three and out, Hundley and UCLA wasted no time putting it again in the hands of a playmaking receiver.
Duarte caught a short pass over the middle, slipped past safety Leon McQuay III and then sprinted to the end zone end zone for his long touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Hundley completed the first half by connecting with Massington for a 13-yard touchdown and a 24-14 lead.
But those were the highlight plays.
The Bruins did damage throughout the game by taking passes in the flat and turning upfield for extra yardage.
USC actually did a decent job of controlling Payton, the Bruins' top receiver. Payton, who played at Westlake Village Oaks Christian High, entered the game with a team-best 58 catches, seven for touchdowns.
Payton had three catches for 31 yards on Saturday.
Duarte, a sophomore who played at Santa Ana Mater Dei High, finished with two catches for 95 yards. Fuller, a junior from New Jersey, had five catches for 63 yards. Lucien, a redshirt junior who played at Encino Crespi, caught two for 20 yards. Johnson, who played at Crenshaw High, had five catches for 60 yards.
And Massington, a onetime USC commit from Texas, had his touchdown catch.
"I thought they played well," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said of his receiving corps. "That's a product of the offensive line doing a good job, and Brett was accurate."