UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley picks up a few bad habits
Quarterback Brett Hundley’s sophomore season at UCLA has been just that … a sophomore season.
The “ooohs” and “aaahs” that followed his breakout freshman season have subsided a little.
Hundley threw for a school record 3,740 yards in 2012 and his 29 touchdown passes were the second-most in UCLA history. Add to that 355 yards and nine touchdowns rushing and that word “Heisman” was being tossed around.
That chatter has been muted for the moment.
Hundley’s numbers are similar to last season’s with two games still to play — USC on Saturday and a bowl game. He has thrown for 2,637 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has run for 507 yards and seven touchdowns. He has even caught a touchdown pass.
Yet, his play has been unpredictable.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘digressed,’ but has he leveled off a little bit? Maybe,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “He has maybe fallen into a few bad habits, which I think is normal when there are so many moving parts that have changed on him the last two weeks.”
Hundley, at times, “drops his eyes,” Coach Jim Mora said. That he was sacked nine times by Arizona State might have something to do with it.
UCLA has lost its two starting tackles to injuries this season. The Bruins have three freshmen on the offensive line. The running back spot was so thinned out by injuries that linebacker Myles Jack was moved to offense.
None of which Hundley uses as an excuse.
“No matter what the game plan is, what we’re doing, how we’re executing, we have to be a consistent team in all four quarters,” Hundley said. “It’s my job to make sure everyone is on the same page no matter who is in there.”
Hundley’s on-again, off-again play was never more clear than in a 38-33 loss to Arizona State last week.
Hundley completed three of nine passes for 65 yards in the first half. He got the ball into the end zone twice, but one was a 18-yard interception return by Arizona State’s Carl Bradford.
UCLA was flat-lining by halftime, trailing, 35-13. Hundley was the defibrillator.
Hundley threw for 188 yards in the second half, completing 14 consecutive passes, and had a shot at winning the game when the Bruins’ young offensive line had a couple of freshman moments in the final two minutes.
“He is still a very young player and we ask a lot of him,” Mora said. “He is like any developing player. There are going to be some peaks and there are going to be some valleys. The thing I love about Brett is how he follows up a disappointment with a success. He bounces back. I appreciate that about him.”
Mazzone, again, points to the personnel turnover.
“There are very few quarterbacks who can go out there and control a game on their own ability,” Mazzone said. “It’s nice when they have a group around them. He’s gone through a lot of changes on the offensive line [and at] running back. There have been a lot of different people in there.”
After seeing lickety-split offenses the last month, UCLA’s defense will get a chance to catch its breath against USC … for a few seconds anyway.
USC’s offense will huddle, something the Bruins saw little in games against Oregon, Arizona, Washington and Arizona State.
“We’ll get about five seconds,” defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said. “It’s enough to gather your thoughts and make adjustments.”
Mora said cornerback Fabien Moreau (hamstring) and running back Damien Thigpen (ankle) will be game-time decisions. No UCLA player with “game-time-decision” status has played this season. … UCLA team managers defeated USC’s team managers, 25-7, Wednesday.
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