UCLA QB Brett Hundley dancing to a new tempo.

The biggest adjustment UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley had to make was the fast tempo with which coach Jim Mora wanted him to direct in the new spread offense.

Hundley’s gradually shown improvement over the course of five games, but it was last week’s performance at Colorado that really proved the redshirt freshman’s more than got what it takes to thrive in this offense.

It starts with Hundley’s record-setting numbers that are hard to ignore. He is the first UCLA quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in three straight games and the eighth to total at least three 300-yard games in a season. That he’s only five games into his college career makes it all the more impressive.

Hundley ranks 18th nationally in passing yards and 17th in total offense (second among freshmen). He’s completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

Hundley appeared destined to start as a true freshman, but those plans didn’t pan out. He sat out last year under Rick Neuheisel, who opted for more experience, albeit a battered tandem. Hundley exhibited talent and sheer determination during spring camp and finally won over UCLA coach Jim Mora a week into fall camp.

The talent was there, sure, but the intangibles such as driving an offense under pressure, under the lights behind a roaring crowd that had yet to be proven, and therein lies the gamble Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone made in choosing a redshirt freshman as the starting quarterback.

Hundley’s led UCLA to a 4-1 overall record and No. 25-ranking. Mora and Mazzone were proven right that Hundley was the best choice, but that answer was underscored last week with his ability to dictate the perfect tempo the offense requires to thrive.

Hundley led five of UCLA’s six scoring drives against Colorado in less than three minutes, and in four of those drives Hundley needed eight or less plays.

“Here’s a kid that six games ago was playing against Hamilton High School,” Mazzone said. “He’s played five games in college football and now you’re asking him to play in a real tempo offense and make split-second decisions at the snap of the ball and immediately after the snap of the ball.”

Hundley’s not only accepted the challenge, he’s overcome it less than half way into his first season as the starter, and Mora took notice at Colorado.

“We were smoother in our operation and our tempo was more like we wanted to be,” Mora said. “I think we’re starting to hit our groove a little bit there.”

That Hundley scored 13 seconds into his college career at Rice should have been an early indication of what was to come. He scored in similar fashion against Nebraska (27-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria in six seconds) and Oregon State (65-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans on three plays in 43 seconds), to name a few.

As Hundley continues to develop so will the efficiency with which the Bruins go about scoring. And as the right tempo continues that can only mean a bad spell for opposing defenses rushing to keep up.

“If you can catch a defense off balance a little bit, if they haven’t had a chance to read maybe some of the tactical clues, some of the tendencies that you might have developed through the years before the ball snap, that helps you,” Mora said.

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UCLA coach Jim Mora talks Cal rivalry, says Jordan Zumwalt will not start on Saturday vs. Cal, Damien Holmes again will start at outside linebacker.

Opening remark:
What we’re gonna do the rest of the day is give them time to tend to their studies. We’re not gonna have meetings this afternoon. We’re gonna extend our meetings a little bit in the morning. Just give them a little break here and lock in on school before we go up to Cal. We’ll have a final walk through in the morning, head on the buses at 12:30 and head north.

On first full week of class and morning practice:
I think they like the schedule. We get them up early, and they’re early birds anyway because year-round they work out early. They’re very focused at practice. We get them at the end of the day. It’s been good. I haven’t noticed any lapse in their focus. I’m glad we did it last week.

On learning about rivalries:
There’s a lot I don’t know. There’s many, many things I’m trying to learn. One of them is the significance of certain games to the alumni, to the university and the public, and this is one of those games I come to find out.

On what clued him in about the Cal rivalry:
Some of the players. Just the level of intensity they have. Just talking to people around campus. There’s a lot I’m not familiar with down here. It’s fun to learn about them.

On what he’s learned about the rivalry:
I’ve learned that it’s a little bit more significant than people would think. We get a lot of emphasis on our game versus Southern Cal, but this game versus Cal is pretty significant as well. We try as a team not to put any extra emphasis on any one game just because we’re trying to develop a level of consistency, but there’s certain things you can’t control, certain vibes that happen. And that’s one of the great things about college football, the passion of the fans towards their university and maybe against other universities. So it’s pretty neat.

On developing hatred toward another university:
No, I don’t hate anybody (laughs).

On Brett Hundley dictating the right tempo:
We were smoother in our operation and our tempo was more like we wanted to be. I think it was partially Brett. That was our fifth game and getting used to what we’re trying to do. You want it to start and happen right from the get go and be at full throttle, but that’s probably not realistic. It’s a new program, new system, new coaches, new terminology. It just takes you a little while to ramp up, and I think we’re starting to hit our groove a little bit there.

On a goal in mind for time between plays:
It depends on the situation. If we’re substituting then the defense has an opportunity to substitute as well. So that can sometimes slow things down, but if we’re not substituting we want to go as fast as we can go. If you can catch a defense off balance a little bit, if they haven’t had a chance to read maybe some of the tactical clues, some of the tendencies that you might have developed through the years before the ball snap, that helps you. But in terms of a specific time, it varies. It varies by time in the game, by score of the game. Things like that.

On Jordan Zumwalt’s status:
He practiced. He did everything. He had his helmet on. He felt good and he’s ready to play on Saturday night.

On whether he’s starting:
No. We’re gonna start Damien (Holmes) out there and we’ll give Jordan some time. Going forward we’ll figure out the best way to play those guys.

On what Stan McKay brings to the defense:
Great intensity. He loves to play the game. We had that role for him in our base package where we put him at the weak inside linebacker that he or Dalton (Hilliard) play. Stan’s really embraced it. He’s taken it to heart. He calls himself a little backer, or a mini-backer. Stan’s just a guy that loves to play football. He’s passionate about it and it rubs off on his teammates. The last couple weeks he’s had a knack for being around the ball.

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UCLA in good hands when spreading the love.

The numbers don’t lie.

When UCLA spreads the ball evenly among its stable of receivers, the Bruins prove to be successful. UCLA is fourth in the nation in total offense (558.40 yards) and 19th in passing offense (315.0).

A part of that success is credited to the fast tempo dictated by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. And for that, a team needs the right personnel and depth.

UCLA (4-1, 1-1) seems to have both. The Bruins have thrown to no less than eight receivers in each game this season, and for the third consecutive week UCLA threw to 11 different receivers.

“We tell them we don’t really have a starting five,” Mazzone said. “We have more of a starting 10.”

Fresh and able bodies help establish a rhythm.

“We want to try to go fast,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “We get eight, 10, 11 guys every week and spread it around. That way everyone can play fast and we can be fresh and be sharp.”

In short, don’t expect a go-to receiver, and that’s OK for UCLA senior Jerry Johnson and junior Shaquelle Evans, who in a 27-20 loss to Oregon State made little of their career performances.

Johnson caught a career-high five passes for 75 yards and Evans had 148 yards on six receptions for his first 100-yard game. It was the only game this season UCLA had two receivers with at least five receptions.

The only other time UCLA had a receiver with five or more receptions was Steven Manfro, who caught seven passes in a 37-6 victory over Houston. In that game, Johnathan Franklin caught four passes and Jordon James caught three. The remaining eight receivers caught two or less.

No receiver has caught four or more passes outside the Houston and Oregon State games.

“Everybody wants to be that go-to guy,” Johnson said, “but I think if we get it in everybody’s hands, we’ll win a lot more games.”

With as many as 11 receivers rotating, it’s more about defending schemes than it is about stacking defenders on one receiver. It also gives UCLA a shot in the arm offensively.

“Just by giving everybody an opportunity like that makes the offense a lot more confident,” Evans said.

Every receiver wants the spotlight, but Johnson’s maturity shows when asked if he’s bothered that in his last season his numbers won’t reflect his talent. Johnson’s in his fifth season and entered his redshirt senior year with a career 21-30 record. His only winning season (7-6) was in 2009, so it’s safe to say he’ll trade stats for more wins.

“For me, I just put my team before myself,” he said. “Us winning games is better than having 1,000 yards and a 50- or 60-reception season.”

Evans knows his effort and talent aren’t limited to catching passes. It’s the meticulous tasks like downfield blocking and selling routes that go a long way.

“Little things like that help you win,” Evans said. “It’s infectious throughout the whole team. When one guy sees one guy doing that, everyone wants to do that, and it it helps us get yards, it helps us get points, it helps us get wins, and that’s why we’re successful.”

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