Who needs a Heisman Trophy campaign when you can take your act on the road to play Stanford and Oregon on consecutive weekends?
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is focused on winning games — one at a time — but he can also be his own Heisman campaign when he faces the No. 13 Cardinal and No. 2 Ducks.
Hundley knows what a performance in a marquee game can do. All he has to do is rewind the tape and watch Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel against top-ranked Alabama in 2012. The Aggies’ victory was the key steppingstone to Manziel’s winning the Heisman Trophy.
“He beat them at Alabama too, which is even bigger,” Hundley said. “These games are where you leave your legacy, where that Heisman talk will start.”
UCLA is 5-0 and ranked ninth. Hundley has 1,469 yards passing and 260 yards rushing. He has caught the eye of Gary Beban, UCLA’s only Heisman winner, who has sent Hundley two letters.
But the buzz remains with Manziel and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, who have received a large chunk of the television media’s attention. Manziel has 1,835 yards passing and 427 rushing. Boyd has 1,783 yards passing and 187 rushing. Each has played six games … well, 5 1/2 for Manziel, who was suspended for the first half of the season opener.
In two weeks, Hundley could force himself into the Heisman talk.
Said Hundley: “Heisman campaigns are cool, and they’re fun, and it’s all for attention. I always felt your play will speak for itself.”
Hundley, though, is less concerned with his legacy than the team’s.
That too could change dramatically in the next two weeks. It would be hard to keep the Bruins out of the national title discussion should they come back from Palo Alto and Eugene with victories.
“These are the type of games that everyone will look back on and say, ‘I remember that game,’” Hundley said.
They may even look back and say it was where Hundley won the Heisman.
“I feel I was born to play in big games like this,” he said.
This week makes UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks almost giddy with anticipation.
For weeks, the Bruins have played against zone-read run offenses that use spread formations to stretch a defense. Stanford will try to force-feed UCLA a meat-and-potatoes diet.
“This is what we grew up knowing and watching on TV, games with big, tough linebackers,” Kendricks said.
The Cardinal is a threat to throw with quarterback Kevin Hogan and receiver Ty Montgomery. But how the Bruins handle Stanford’s hard-knock ways will likely decide matters.
Stanford averages 199 yards rushing per game, ranking the Cardinal a modest 42nd nationally. But Cardinal ballcarriers average 5.1 yards per carry.
“This is power football,” said UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. “That’s what we came here to do, play in games like this. It’s running the ball, not zone read, but with power.”
Still, Barr said, “It will come down to a lot more than toughness. It’ll be execution not just brute strength.”
UCLA running back Jordon James is still hobbling in a walking boot. James, the nation’s fifth-leading rusher through the first three games, sprained his right ankle against Utah and sat out Saturday’s game against California. … UCLA’s game at Oregon on Oct. 26 will be at 4 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2.