Brett Hundley came into this season expecting to contend for a Heisman and a national championship. Both of those things are out the window, and Hundley’s game has seemed to change because of it.
At the beginning of the season, Hundley wasn’t running the ball as much as he used to, and seemed nervous to make mistakes. The biggest knock on him leading up the NFL draft last year was his accuracy and decision making. He seemed hellbent on fixing both those issues in the September and October.
But on Saturday in UCLA’s 17-7 win, he threw for just 189 yards, with one completion making up 70 of that total. His impact was on the ground, where he ran 24 times for 131 yards. Those aren’t stats that are going to wow NFL scouts, but they are stats that helped UCLA win the game.
“I think at the beginning of the season, there was a lot of thought, and I think it even got to me as far as not to run,” Hundley said. “But I think after last week, I really reflected on all this stuff. Everything happens for a reason, and for me, it’s all about winning games now. Focusing on the now. Doing that has gotten me to this point anyway, so why change? At this point, it’s all about winning and doing what I have to do as a quarterback to lead the team to wins.”
A big part of that pressure was trying to prove his NFL worthiness, something that got to the redshirt junior quarterback.
“I think that’s part of it, when you want to go to the next level, you want to show people you can do things,” Hundley said. “Sometimes it changed your game, honestly. … People don’t realize how much pressure there is, but at the end of the day, when you think about what got you to this point, you have to stay on your foundation.”
Hundley also said that he’s been listening to his family and friends, people who notice things about his body language and performance that he doesn’t pick up on. They saw him flinching during throws because he was so worried about making a mistake, or not running because he didn’t want to get hurt. It just wasn’t him.
“Even though there’s a future ahead that you want to get to, you can’t focus on that, honestly, because it will really throw your game off,” he said. “If you don’t make the throws you want to, if you’re scared to make mistakes, it will really throw your game off.”
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone guessed after the game that maybe two or three of Hundley’s 24 carries were designed runs. The rest were the quarterback making that decision on his own.
Hundley’s game on Saturday wasn’t incredible, and it definitely didn’t help his NFL draft stock. But after two months of feeling pressure, and a lot of reflecting, Hundley is ready to focus on the one thing he did get against Arizona — a win.
“I’ve shown a lot this year,” he said. “I’ve shown I can sit in the pocket and do what I have to do. But at the end of the day, I know what got me here, and that’s running the football, throwing the football, and having a good time. And not focusing on all that other stuff. Just focusing on the now and getting wins. You have to tell yourself that other stuff will come, all that other stuff will take care of itself.”