What to watch: No. 18 UCLA vs. No. 12 Oregon

No. 12 Oregon’s arrival at the Rose Bowl on Saturday could give UCLA a chance at a program-altering win it sorely needs right now — even if head coach Jim Mora was reluctant to acknowledge it this week.

What to watch heading into today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff:

UCLA offense vs. Oregon defense: For all the talent and skill that Brett Hundley possesses, he can’t do much once he’s dragged to the ground. And considering that the Bruins’ allowed 10 sacks in last week’s loss against Utah last week, it’s almost surprising that the final 30-28 margin wasn’t larger.

The offensive line isn’t completely to blame for all those sacks, but even the staff agreed that the protection on the edges were lacking. Starting tackles Malcolm Bunche and Caleb Benenoch are playing out of position after arriving at UCLA as guards, something that especially showed against Utah defensive ends last weekend. A significant part of the Bruins’ hopes for an upset will depend on if the unit up front can redeem itself — an opportunity that Bunche himself suggested earlier this week.

If Hundley has time to throw, he should be able to find holes in the Ducks’ defense. The redshirt junior has stretched the field in his final season at UCLA, and already has nine passes of at least 40 yards — just eight shy of his previous two-year total. Those nine passes rank him third in the country in that category, behind Cal’s Jared Goff and Washington State’s Connor Halliday.

After allowing fewer than 5.0 yards per play in five of the last six seasons, Oregon is giving up 5.73 this season. Continue reading

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UCLA left tackle Malcolm Bunche: ‘It’s redemption time’

Coming off its first loss of the season, one particular set of UCLA players may particularly eager to hit the field again for Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s redemption time, man,” said Bruin left tackle Malcolm Bunche. “As an offense, we gave up what, 10 sacks? It’s time to redeem ourselves. And we know it.”

Them, and just about everyone else who saw Utah pull a 30-28 upset at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. The Utes unleashed 10 sacks, including three straight to snuff a fourth-quarter UCLA drive just inches in front of its own goal line.

Those 10 sacks, Utah’s highest single-game tally since 1983, again exposed an offensive line that had appeared to improve through its first four games. After allowing five sacks at Virginia in a performance that offensive line coach Adrian Klemm called “one of the sh–iest performances I’ve been a part of as a player or a coach,” the unit buckled down: four sacks given up to Memphis, three to Texas, one to Arizona State. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley reviews UCLA’s loss, looks to Oregon

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley looked back on Monday at his team’s 30-28 loss to Utah and the 10 sacks he took, and looked forward to Saturday’s tilt against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s a big game for us,” Hundley said. “But like I said, this game isn’t bigger than any other game previously. This is another game, obviously, the whole nation is going to be watching. We can go out and show the country what UCLA’s really about.”

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Brett Hundley, Ishmael Adams named Pac-12 Players of the Week

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and defensive back Ishmael Adams both earned Pac-12 Player of the Week nods on Monday, marking the second time this season that two Bruins have won on the same day.

Hundley was named the conference’s top offensive player following his big performance in UCLA’s 62-27 win over Arizona State. The redshirt junior threw for 355 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts, and finished the game with just five incompletions — none of which came in the second half.

He also rushed for 72 yards and another score, all while wearing a protective brace over his injured left elbow.

“It’s a little concern — not too much,” Hundley said of the brace on Monday. “Obviously, the more I practice with it the more comfortable I feel. Obviously, it adds a bigger piece of weight to your arm. It distributes weight a little different. But at the same time, you practice with it and it’ll be fine.” Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: Brett Hundley’s brilliance leads UCLA past ASU

In the second quarter of what would become UCLA’s 62-27 blowout of Arizona State, Brett Hundley showed everyone just how healthy he was.

On second-and-7 near midfield, the Bruins’ star quarterback capped a six-yard scramble with a hurdle, leaping over one linebacker before another came and hit him on his left arm. Hundley knew that this could happen — that by favoring thrill over caution, he could open himself up to defenders who were surely eyeing that heavy brace covering his left elbow.

He also knew he didn’t care.

“I’m playing football,” Hundley said. “I can’t not do what I like doing and how I like playing. … That’s what I wanted to do this game, is not come in and think that I’m limiting myself by not running. I wanted to show that I could still run the ball and still do all the things God has blessed me to do.”

Arizona State bore the brunt of all that Thursday night. This was as masterful a performance that Hundley has ever delivered in UCLA colors — one only highlighted by the fact that it came less than two weeks after an elbow injury that had fans holding their breath.

His final line was absurd: 355 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. He only had five incompletions, and two were dropped by receiver Kenneth Walker. He tacked on 72 rushing yards, punching in a one-yard touchdown for the final score, after the game was well in hand. In the end zone, he looked up at the stands and slapped his left arm.

His two 80-yard passes were a career-high, and marked UCLA’s longest pass completion since Drew Olson’s 91-yarder to Joe Cowan in 2005. He now has seven 300-yard games in his career four behind Cade McNown’s school record of 11.

In another blowout, UCLA might have already trotted out backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel, the team’s savior in a 20-17 win against Texas almost two weeks ago. But Hundley wasn’t sitting this one out. Not in front of his hometown crowd, not when he had missed nearly the entire game against the Longhorns, and certainly not against the team that had beaten him a year ago for the Pac-12 South title.

“Brett, I’ve never seen him this hyped (as he was) this whole week,” said receiver Thomas Duarte.

» Someone scratched “UCLA” into Arizona State’s midfield pitchfork logo before kickoff, and the Bruins all but said that one of them was responsible.

Take it away, Brett Hundley and Thomas Duarte:

Mildly reminiscent of another midfield controversy, perhaps?

» UCLA’s offensive line played one of its better games of the season, allowing Hundley to get sacked just once despite losing starting left guard Alex Redmond in the first half. Continue reading

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UCLA 62, Arizona State 27: Quarterback Brett Hundley

Quarterback Brett Hundley put in a masterful performance in UCLA’s 62-27 win at Arizona State, finishing with 355 yards and four touchdowns on just 23 pass attempts. He talked to reporters afterward about how amped he was to be playing at home, and the “talking” that happened between the teams beforehand.

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Jim Mora: Lack of clarity on Brett Hundley doesn’t give UCLA edge

As he has for most of the past week, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley practiced on Tuesday with a brace covering his left elbow — the one he injured in a 20-17 win against Texas 10 days ago.

And as he has for most of the past week, UCLA head coach Jim Mora didn’t offer many details: “He’s been limited. He’s done a few things. He’s worked a little bit.” He said again that he is relying on the team’s medical staff to determine if Hundley is ready — a decision that could stretch, naturally, as late as Thursday evening.

Mora added that the lack of clarity surrounding his star quarterback’s health doesn’t give UCLA any sort of tactical advantage heading into Thursday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Arizona State, particularly given who the Sun Devils’ head coach is. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: If doctors clear Brett Hundley, he’ll play at Arizona State

Brett Hundley’s status remains unclear for UCLA’s Thursday night game at Arizona State, but the star quarterback appears to be making some progress.

The redshirt junior dressed for practice again on Sunday. He entered without anything covering his injured left elbow, but was spotted with a brace over it later.

After vowing not to reveal any injury updates until the 7 p.m. kickoff in Tempe, head coach Jim Mora deferred to the team’s medical staff when asked about Hundley.

“All of our players that are out, what we try to do is try to make the best decision for them based on the knowledge that we have,” Mora said. “We depend on our doctors to give us good information. We’ve got the best doctors in America, in my opinion.”

“If they clear him and they say that he can play, just like everybody else, we’ll play him.”

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Jim Mora stays quiet about UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley

Jim Mora is going to keep Arizona State guessing.

With a week to go until his team visits the Sun Devils at 7 p.m. next Thursday, the UCLA head coach declined to offer any information on quarterback Brett Hundley — or the status of any other injured Bruins. Hundley injured his left elbow during the first quarter of UCLA’s 20-17 win against Texas last Saturday, but was seen entering practice on Wednesday.

A few weeks ago, Mora said that the team had picked a backup quarterback (that he declined to name publicly). On Wednesday, he tried to back off from even that statement. He praised Jerry Neuheisel’s performance against the Longhorns — one in which the redshirt sophomore threw a game-winning 33-yard touchdown pass — but did not commit to him as the next one on the depth chart.

“Just because Jerry went in that game doesn’t mean that’s our backup quarterback,” Mora said. “We’ve never determined who’s No. 2, 3, 4. We’ve got a whole bunch of guys. Next time someone has to go in, it could be Asiantii (Woulard). Heck, Asiantii might start the Arizona State game. Who knows?”

Mora did say he was sure that new JUCO transfer defensive end Takkarist McKinley will play at ASU, and could contribute 10 to 15 snaps.

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Jim Mora: No status update on Brett Hundley’s elbow injury

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) watches action against UCLA from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 13,  2014, in Arlington, Texas. He left the game after an injury in the first half. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) watches from the sideline on Sept. 13, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. He the Bruins’ eventual 20-17 win after a first-quarter elbow injury. (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

After injuring his left elbow early in UCLA’s 20-17 win over Texas, star quarterback Brett Hundley’s status won’t be official one way or another until the Bruins take the field again.

“I’m not going to tell anybody anything until kickoff versus Arizona State,” head coach Jim Mora said Sunday. “Nobody. Nothing.”

Hundley reportedly suffered a slight hyperextension of his left (non-throwing) elbow that will hold him out one week, but Mora said the redshirt junior had not yet had his MRI. He may be examined on Monday, but Mora didn’t give a firm schedule.

UCLA (3-0) has a bye week ahead, and will travel to Tempe to play the Sun Devils on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. PT. That’s ideal timing for the Bruins, which can now give its Heisman contender more time to recover — as well as give backup Jerry Neuheisel more practice reps if needed to fill in. Continue reading

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