There are times when even the best-laid plan has to be ditched.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley senses defenders bearing down on him and begins to ad lib to get away from pressure. Downfield, that means it's time to improvise.
"Sometimes it turns into a little backyard football," tight end Joseph Fauria said.
Hundley's elusiveness creates opportunities for Bruins receivers even when plays don't go as drawn.
"Brett always tells you, 'Make sure you're ready for the ball,' " receiver Shaquelle Evans said. "He'll find you."
Hundley dips, dodges and floats out of the pocket. Receivers break off routes and find an opening. Opposing defenses can do just about everything right — pressure the quarterback, blanket coverage the receivers — and still get burned. It happened to USC a couple times in UCLA's 38-28 victory last Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
"It's what I call the me-to-you factor," said Noel Mazzone, UCLA's offensive coordinator. "Until you develop a good me-to-you factor in any passing game, it's hard to have success. The last few weeks, our receivers and Brett are starting to get that."
Instead of coming back to block or giving up when Hundley is on the move, receivers "now look for touchdowns," Mazzone said.
Said Evans of Hundley: "When he gets outside the pocket, you find that window to sit in it. He'll find you."
Evans had eight receptions for 114 yards against USC. Fauria had four receptions for 61 yards.
With Fauria, who is 6 feet 7, "you put the ball on the top shelf where the kids can't get it," Hundley said. "Joe is the safety net. You put it up high and he's the only one who can get it."
Fauria is second on the team with 35 receptions for 478 yards and he leads UCLA receivers with 10 touchdowns.
Likewise, Hundley and Evans have become synced.
"It's all trust and timing," Hundley said. "When Shaq runs an out I know where he will be. I throw the ball before he breaks. He'll be there."
Evans leads the Bruins with 47 receptions for 685 yards.
"Every kid comes out of a break a little different, their speed is a little different," Mazzone said. "Brett is at the point where he understands that. Now if I can just keep his eyes down field a little bit longer, we'd really be going."
No ordinary Joe
Fauria, a senior, has developed as the season progressed, to the point where Coach Jim Mora is certain the NFL will come calling.
"In spring, he let nagging things hold him back," Mora said. "He reached a point where he realized that you can't let anything hold you back at the next level. They'll find somebody else to take your spot."
Fauria has always been a talented receiver and a difficult matchup because of his size, but Mora now sees a more well-rounded player.
"The thing he has done well, which kind of surprises me because of the way he's built, is block," Mora said. "That's huge at the next level. The NFL is looking for guys who can spread the field and create matchup problems. But if you're one dimensional, you'd better be really special."
Tickets for the Pac-12 championship game went on sale at UCLA on Tuesday. The game will be played Nov. 30, a Friday, and UCLA will be participating. But that's just about all the information there is so far. The Bruins' opponent won't be known until after Saturday's games.
UCLA will face either Stanford or Oregon, and the game will be played in Palo Alto, Eugene, Ore., or at the Rose Bowl.
Tickets range from $85 to $110 and can be purchased through the schools or Ticketmaster.