UCLA beat Virginia Tech at the 2013 Sun Bowl, 42-12, but the final score doesn't indicate how close the game was for much of the afternoon in El Paso, Texas.
After Michael Branthover drilled a 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter to pull the Hokies to within four points (14-10), it appeared the game was either team's to win.
The mystery didn't last long, however.
Brett Hundley threw two touchdowns late to cap off a lopsided fourth quarter that saw the Bruins outscore the Hokies 28-2, leading to the final score, as highlighted by ESPN's College GameDay:
UCLA defeats Virginia Tech 42-12 to capture the #SunBowl. Bruins finish the season 10-3, Hokies 8-5.— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) December 31, 2013
Here's a closer look at what Hundley accomplished in the game, followed by an examination of how UCLA's defense was able to shut down the offense of Virginia Tech.
Breaking Down Hundley's Huge Game
Hundley's performance was truly remarkable, and it highlighted the reasons why many NFL draft analysts are drooling about his pro potential.
The redshirt sophomore struggled to connect with his receivers in the first half, as pointed out by Bruin Report Online:
Halftime, with #UCLA up 14-7. Really odd first half. 168 yards rushing for Brett Hundley, but he's struggling to throw the ball.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) December 31, 2013
However, he rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns, which was a Sun Bowl record, as Jill Painter Lopez of the L.A. Daily News relayed:
In particular, Hundley's 86-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter illustrated his freakish athletic abilities.
The second half featured a different quarterback altogether, as Hundley actually lost seven yards rushing.
He made up for that lost yardage with a brilliant display of passing in the game's final 30 minutes, including a 59-yard dagger to Shaquelle Evans late in the fourth quarter to put the Bruins up by 30 points.
Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times was convinced after that throw that Hundley is ready for the NFL, and he may be right:
Seems to me that Hundley is ready for the NFL. 59-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans just rubbing salt in #Hokies' wounds.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) December 31, 2013
Hundley played one of his best games, helping UCLA reach the 10-win mark for the first time since 2005 while making some history of his own, as ESPN Stats & Info noted:
UCLA: 1st 10-win season since 2005; Brett Hundley: 387 yds of offense is most in a bowl game in UCLA history— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 31, 2013
If it was Hundley's last game for UCLA, then he surely made the most of his chance to leave on top. If he returns in 2014, then the Bruins will have a great chance of challenging Stanford and Oregon for the Pac-12 title.
Bruins Defense Bares Its Claws
From Jordan Zumwalt's game-altering hit on Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas in the first half to Myles Jack's 24-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter, UCLA's defense took it to Virginia Tech's offense all game long.
Zumwalt's vicious hit knocked Thomas out of the game.
He was flagged for the play, and many, including Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register, thought it was a dirty hit:
Jordan Zumwalt just annihilated Logan Thomas. That was a dirty hit, it looked like. Thomas is down, and it looked bad.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) December 31, 2013
However, a closer look revealed what appeared to be a clean, legal hit.
Zumwalt stayed in the game, eventually earning co-MVP honors along with Hundley for his efforts.
The entire front seven played tough all game long, and the culmination of the team's efforts on the defensive side of the ball was Jack's interception for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter—the team's second touchdown in 62 seconds.
Backup Hokies quarterback Mark Leal simply made a terrible decision, and Jack made him pay.
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