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UCLA's Brett Hundley is off and running, but with care

The Bruins quarterback runs the ball on occasion but needs to stay healthy. He's working on a technique like the one used by football great Steve Young.

October 01, 2012|By Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
  • Brett Hundley is tackled by Colorado linebacker Paul Vigo.
Brett Hundley is tackled by Colorado linebacker Paul Vigo. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley drops during games like a boxer taking a dive. It's a work in progress.

After five games, it is clear that the Bruins have something special in Hundley, a redshirt freshman. Now they have to protect him.

The Bruins have not had their No. 1 quarterback make it through the season since Drew Olson in 2005. In 2008, UCLA lost its No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks — Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson — before the season started.

So every time Hundley takes off on a run, UCLA fans are certain to gasp.

"The next step in him evolving as a quarterback is running to win," Coach Jim Mora said. "We want him to run a little more aggressively. But you're exposing yourself to hits. You have to be careful."

So when Hundley takes off, he tends to drop, somewhat clumsily, any time a defender appears on the horizon. Sliding is out.

"Steve Young taught me that a long time ago," Mora said. "He felt like he could get extra yardage, and protect the ball and his body, by diving rather than sliding."

Hundley has yet to master the Young technique.

"He's gotten better at it," Mora said. "He understands what we're talking about. It's not a huge concern."

Maybe it should be.

Hundley has completed 120 of 182 passes for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He ranks 17th in total offense and 33rd in passing efficiency.

The last UCLA quarterback to have 11 touchdown passes through the first five games was Cade McNown in 1997.

"It's only the fifth game of my college career, so I'm having a good time," Hundley said. "But you've got to come out to learn every week and continue to impress."

And stay upright. He suffered a sprained right ankle against Nebraska.

UCLA's young offensive line is in growth mode. The Bruins are tied for 89th out of 120 teams nationally in sacks allowed (13).

Hundley was sacked three times in the 42-14 victory over Colorado on Saturday. He also had eight runs for 35 yards, usually hitting the turf before a defender got near.

"There is a real fine line between aggressiveness and taking care of your body," Mora said.

Injury report

Wide receiver Devin Lucien will have surgery to repair his left collarbone, Mora said. He will be out eight to 10 weeks. Lucien has 10 receptions for 188 yards this season

"We're going to miss him, he's a playmaker," Mora said. "But I feel good about the guys we've got."

Jerry Rice Jr. and Jordan Payton received more time after Lucien was injured. Rice had three receptions for 30 yards and Payton one for 11.

Cornerback Aaron Hester underwent treatment for a left leg injury Sunday, but he is expected to practice, Mora said.

Poll presence

UCLA slipped back into the Associated Press rankings at No. 25. Thumping Colorado helped. But the Bruins also were pulled along by Oregon State, which outlasted Arizona on Saturday and ascended to No. 14.

UCLA's only loss was to Oregon State, 27-20. Getting a response win over Colorado was important to the Bruins.

"It was vital for us to get this win," running back Johnathan Franklin said. But, he said, "We're not satisfied at all."

Special number

This the third time that UCLA has had four victories in a season before Oct. 1.

The Bruins were 4-0 pre-October in 2001 and finished 7-4. They started 4-1 in September 2000 and finished 6-6.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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