It started with a blown chest bump and it ended with a quick-pick six, but UCLA’s football spring game was all offense.
There was even a backflip. Sort of.
The Bruins exploded for several long touchdowns – the majority on touchdown throws from redshirt senior quarterback Richard Brehaut and redshirt freshman Brett Hundley – during an offensive display in front of an estimated crowd of 13,000 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
With several defensive players in the two-deep not even dressed out – including linebackers Jordan Zumwalt and Eric Kendricks – the offense exploited the inexperience, particularly shining early in the afternoon.
Embroiled in a competition that will stretch into midway through fall camp, the quarterbacks performed well, Brehaut throwing four touchdown passes, including a pair to senior wide receiver Jerry Johnson. Hundley, meanwhile, got the first reps and got the offense off to a quick start, hitting walk-on wide receiver Tyler Scott for a 41-yard touchdown on the day’s first drive, one of Scott’s three scores on the day.
Hundley sprinted to the end zone to celebrate with his offensive teammates and a three-way chest bump with Scott and offensive lineman Kody Innes ended with the trio on the ground, laughing.
“(Offensive coordinator Noel) Mazzone told us, ‘Just have fun today,’ and that’s what we did today,” Hundley said. “We tried to light up the scoreboard. It was a fun offense. A fun day.”
Hundley added a 27-yard touchdown run and Kevin Prince added a pair of touchdown passes as well in the quarterbacks’ lost opportunity to shine before an offseason that will go a long way toward determining who gets the first snaps against Rice on Aug. 30 in the season opener.
“I just got done telling them – now is the time to start working harder,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “To me, it’s what they do between now and August 1 that’s going to play a big decision in what happens next season.”
The offense didn’t have all the fun on Saturday, though.
Defensive end Datone Jones had two sacks and was a constant presence in the backfield and UCLA defense picked up four interceptions, including an interception-return-for-touchdown by senior cornerback Sheldon Price that ended the action.
The coaching staff was smiling widest about coming out of the afternoon without losing any more players to injury as the team was hit particularly hard by the injury bug this spring.
“Any time you’re going 11-on-11 with your own team, you’re taking a risk,” head coach Jim Mora said. “You’re doubling your risk any time you scrimmage because you’ve got 22 of your own players. But the trade off for us in this point in the development of this team is important.”
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon, though, was the 80-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Valencia product Steven Manfro, who has excelled this spring.
The lowlight? His botched backflip immediately following the play.
“It was a long run, so…,” Manfro said, sheepishly. “I could do it after a short run … but I had no jumps.”