When Brett Hundley arrived at UCLA a year ago as a heralded football recruit he was walking on campus when a coed recognized him.
“Here comes the savior,” she said.
A bit embarrassed, Hundley replied:
“I’m not the savior. I’m just a freshman trying to find my way.”
Today Hundley is a redshirt freshman, and Saturday night in the Rose Bowl he certainly appeared to be the savior.
He directed UCLA to a eye-popping 36-30 victory over Nebraska, a victory that propelled the Bruins into No. 22 in the weekly Associated Press poll.
New Bruin coach Jim Mora has chosen Hundley over returning quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut, and now the Bruins are off to a 2-0 start.
If you’re not familiar with UCLA football in recent years you may not know that a savior was required.
The Bruins flopped with the last two coaches, Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel. Prince had been the quarterback who was going to make a major difference, but that didn’t work out.
It wasn’t just Hundley against Nebraska. Clearly, Mora has changed the culture of UCLA football, fielding a focused, aggressive squad that began attacking the Cornhuskers from the opening minute.
But every offensive play begins with the quarterback handling the ball, and Hundley made his presence felt throughout.
He threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Senior running back Jonathan Franklin, who has an ambition of becoming mayor of Los Angeles, rushed for 218.
Anthony Barr, once a prized running back at Loyola High, moved to outside linebacker and was a major contributor.
Mora said he saw improvement from Hundley’s first game, when he had a 66-yard touchdown run against Rice but made some mistakes.
So now we can begin looking at UCLA football in a different way. We began the season knowing Oregon and Stanford were the reigning Pac-12 Conference teams, with USC coming off probation and seemingly in a position to challenge them.
But UCLA has our attention now. Are the Bruins far better than they’ve been or will they level off?
And how about the Pac-12? Oregon State and Arizona also had upset wins on Saturday, and now the conference has five teams in the AP’s Top 25.
UCLA will host Houston Saturday night, then will begin its conference schedule against Oregon State.