PASADENA, Calif. — If Brett Hundley was playing his last career game as No. 9 UCLA’s quarterback against crosstown rival and No. 19-ranked USC, the redshirt junior made Saturday’s 38-20 win one to remember.
Hundley’s 326 yards passing elevated him past Cade McNown as the program’s all-time career leader in total yardage.
As for Hundley’s effort on the night, he passed for three touchdowns and ran for another, officially ending the night with four touchdowns—though he was involved in five, surrendering a pick-six to USC linebacker Anthony Sarao on UCLA’s opening possession.
“To be honest, after that happened, I was the calmest I was all game,” Hundley said. “We didn’t panic, and when stuff like that happens, you can’t panic.”
He added: “You can’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
The play became a microcosm for UCLA’s season: a slow start with a torrid finish.
The Bruins broke a 14-14 tie in the second quarter with 24 straight points that put an emphatic punctuation mark on the current era of the USC-UCLA rivalry.
“UCLA runs L.A.,” Hundley said matter-of-factly. “If you didn’t hear it last year, I think this year sort of made the stomp to express that.”
Hundley’s comment isn’t without support. He’s undefeated against USC in his three seasons as the Bruins’ starting quarterback.
UCLA’s run in the rivalry also coincides with Jim Mora’s arrival as head coach, but Mora was reserved in his assessment of the Bruins running the city.
He’s more focused on them running the Pac-12.
“Can’t sit here and gloat,” he said. “Got to move on, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
UCLA’s win was its fifth straight and keeps the Bruins in control of the Pac-12 South with one game to play.
A Bruins win Friday at home vs. Stanford sends them to Levi’s Stadium and the conference title game for a rematch with No. 2 Oregon.
The Ducks handed UCLA its last loss, 42-30, at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 11.
|Pac-12 South Championship Race|
|Team||Pac-12 Record||Overall||Next Week||Reaches P12CG|
|UCLA||6-2||9-2||vs. Stanford||with win|
|Arizona||6-2||9-2||vs. Arizona State||with win and UCLA loss|
|Arizona State||6-2||9-2||at Arizona||with win and UCLA loss|
Hundley is winless against Oregon in his UCLA career at 0-2. Getting another crack at the Ducks also means scoring his first career victory against Stanford.
The Cardinal beat the Bruins last season and twice in 2012, including in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Snapping that skid against Stanford is UCLA’s next mission. For the next few hours, however, the team can revel in another rivalry win—particularly for seniors like linebacker Eric Kendricks, who were part of the 50-0 USC victory in 2011.
“My first start as a Bruin was in the 50-0 loss,” Kendricks said. “I told myself I was never going to go out like that again.”
Kendricks did his part to ensure UCLA wouldn’t go out on the losing end, intercepting a pass in the first half on a diving play along the sideline.
Kendricks helped key a defense that held USC to just 62 rushing yards. And the Hundley-led offense took advantage on the other end, beating the Trojans where they’d excelled most heading into Saturday.
USC entered with the best red-zone defense in the Pac-12 and seventh best in the nation. But UCLA, the most effective red-zone offense in college football, won that battle.
The Bruins capitalized on five of six red-zone opportunities, four of which culminated in touchdowns.
Perhaps the biggest of those possessions came just before halftime when Hundley found Eldridge Massington in traffic for the quarterback’s third touchdown of the first half with just 14 seconds remaining before intermission.
For the Trojans, a field goal was the difference between a six-point halftime deficit and two-possession disadvantage to open the back half. And USC never quite recovered.
On the Bruins’ first drive out of the locker room, Hundley took a big hit on a blitz up the gut—but not before delivering a perfectly placed ball to Thomas Duarte for 38 yards.
“We saw inexperience in their back end,” Duarte said. “We saw some things we could take advantage [of], and we did.”
That pass, leading to a 10-yard Paul Perkins touchdown run, was the second of two game-breaking connections between Hundley and Duarte.
The duo hooked up on a routine slant pattern in the first quarter that Duarte took 57 yards for a touchdown after shaking safety Leon McQuay III on a cutback.
“I came to the sideline and told Brett and [offensive coordinator Noel] Mazzone, ‘Hey, we’ve got to look for this. They’re going to split safeties and they’re leaving me wide open,’” Duarte said. “Sure enough, we came back to it and it was a touchdown.”
For Hundley, such moments have helped define a record-setting career.
“It’s truly a blessing to now be able to now hold the career passing touchdown, career total offense,” he said. “To think of Pop Warner days, to high school, nobody dreams about doing things like this. Now it’s a reality with hard work.”
And with a little more hard work, Hundley and the Bruins can add another notable record to a growing list of accomplishments: a Pac-12 championship.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics courtesy of the UCLA athletic department.