The 10 sacks UCLA gave up Saturday was troublesome. What they meant was more so.
Quarterback Brett Hundley was bottled up in the Bruins’ 30-28 loss to Utah. The Utes took away one of the things that makes him special.
Hundley has been able to use his running ability to punish teams for blitzing. He was only able to shake free and scramble three times against Utah.
“That’s one of the things Utah did a great job at,” Hundley said. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time, as a quarterback, you have to sit there and get the ball out of your hands.”
It was his feet that Utah was concerned about.
Hundley finished with a minus-24 yards rushing. He started the game needing only 23 yards to surpass Gary Beban’s 1,271 yards rushing, an all-time record for a UCLA quarterback. Hundley’s 22 rushing touchdowns are third all-time for a Bruins quarterback behind Beban (35) and John Sciarra (23).
The Utes clearly wanted none of that. The were able to get pressure from the edge, making it hard to have Hundley roll out. Eight of the 10 sacks were by ends or outside linebackers. The push up the middle didn’t allow him room to maneuver.
“When you collapse any pocket, there’s nowhere for your quarterback to run and that’s what was happening all night,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said.
Hundley gave the Utes a few examples of why they shouldn’t allow him out of the pocket. He scrambled for seven yards on a second-and-six play during a touchdown drive in the first half. He took off for 11 yards on a second-and-12 play during a second-half touchdown drive.
“My ability to run is part of what I do,” Hundley said. “A dual threat quarterback, who can sit in the pocket and throw or take off when he feels the pressure, is one if the hardest things to stop.”
Utah managed it.
“It also gives you throwing lanes for your quarterback to see,” Mazzone said. “We had multiple guys open, we just couldn’t give Brett time.”
As a result, the Bruins offense lurched along throughout the game.
“Our offense is rhythm based,” Hundley said. “When we get going, we get going. When it stutters, when we have self-imposed things, it sort of stops us. We have to get that back.”
UCLA receiver Jordan Payton is not one to shy away from a challenge. He has a big one this week, when the No.18 Bruins play No. 12 Oregon.
Payton, UCLA’s leading receiver with 31 receptions for 491 yards, expects to see plenty of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, the Ducks’ talented senior defensive back. Ekpre-Olomu was selected second-team Walter Camp All-American last season and is a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 Conference selection.
“I’ve been waiting for this one,” Payton said. “He is definitely one of the best corners in the country. He is a phenomenal player. There are so many things he does well, it’s hard to play off something he doesn’t do as well.”
Payton has had at least seven receptions in four of UCLA’s first five games. He has scored three touchdowns, tying him for the team lead.
Ekpre-Olomu, who played at Chino Hills High, has one interception. He has eight in his career.
“He is extremely athletic and extremely smart, too,” Payton said. “Playing a guy like that, you got to be on your feet. You have to be more prepared than ever before.”
Kicking it around
Utah kicker Andy Phillips had mixed emotions as UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn lined up for his a 50-yard field-goal try that would have won the game.
On the one hand, a miss would give the Utes the victory. Conversely, Fairbairn was a fellow kicker. Phillips had completed his job, kicking three field goals, the last a 29-yard effort to give the Utes the lead.
“I live for those moments, I guess that’s why I’m kicker,” Phillips said.
Asked about Fairbairn’s try, he said, “I couldn’t watch it. I turned away, just praying that we had done enough. I had my head down while he was kicking because you just don’t know.”