UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was a bit flustered, something opposing defenses might not be able to cause this fall.
Asked how the college football world will greet the Bruins when they return for August training camp, Hundley said, “Great question. With open arms?”
Hundley turned serious, “That’s a tough question to answer because what I expect is different from what everyone else will expect of us.”
Actually, not so much.
The bar will be set high for UCLA entering the 2014 season … in the locker room and in the public’s eye.
“We definitely should be considered as a big-time program,” said linebacker Myles Jack. “I’m hearing we should be ranked top 10. I think we are starting to get the respect that we deserve.”
Laurel wreaths or scrutiny will follow.
That made the spring game a springboard for the Bruins. The Blue team earned a 28-0 victory over the White team at StubHub Center on Saturday. This was the first step in preparation for the new role the Bruins will play this fall.
“Last year, I was part of a chaser role; now we’re the chasee,” Jack said.
Things have been building the previous two seasons under Coach Jim Mora. UCLA was 9-4 in 2012 and 10-3 last season.
Hundley decided against declaring for the NFL draft to see whether he could take the Bruins places that have seemed off-limits for more than a decade.
“I was not going to leave something that we worked so hard to build,” he said.
Hundley had a light workout Saturday, playing one series. He completed four of five passes for 38 yards, then handed the first team over to Jerry Neuheisel.
Neuheisel directed three touchdown drives. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 180 yards, doing most of his damage against the second-team defense. He had two passes intercepted.
Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa had two sacks and linebacker Deon Hollins two. Ishmael Adams and Adarius Pickett intercepted passes.
This, though, was just a chance to loosen the legs. The sweating begins this summer.
“Every year, every team has the goal of winning the national championship,” Hundley said. “This year, we really have that opportunity. We can do something special. It’s out there for us.”
There are also bunkers along that fairway.
“We have a sign in the locker room, ‘Don’t listen to the noise,’” Jack said. “We haven’t accomplished anything yet. It sits there. But we still got to go out and make it happen. Last year, we didn’t win the Pac-12. We didn’t even win the Pac-12 South. We can’t listen to the noise. We have to earn our own legacy.”
To that end, Mora said there have been gentle reminders, even some swift kicks, about dealing with the noise.
“I continually preach that, our assistant coaches continually preach that, [strength] coach [Sal] Alosi continually preaches that,” Mora said. “All that matters is what happens inside our meeting rooms and inside the walls of the practice field. If we think that way, embrace that, then we’ll be fine.”
Still, even Mora peeks over that fence at times.
“There some good teams out there,” Mora said. “I watched Florida State’s spring game last night and Alabama’s game a little bit.”
Teams that UCLA would play only in the new four-team national championship playoff.
“That would be fine with me,” Mora said.