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End justifies the yawns for UCLA

UCLA FOOTBALL

Bruins hold off Utah, 21-14, with some solid defense and versatility by Brett Hundley. 'Games like that build character,' Jim Mora says.

October 14, 2012|By Chris Foster

Usually spending a day like this involves hanging out with a certified accountant and poring over a W-2 form.

Phrases like "dirty yards" and "old school" were tossed around by UCLA players after a 21-14 victory over Utah in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

The word "boring" was not mentioned, in part because this went into the ledger as profit and not a loss.

UCLA was able to stabilize its position in the Pac-12 standings heading into a bye week by lurching along against a rugged Utah defense.

The Bruins, 5-2 overall, 2-2 in conference play, next face South Division leader Arizona State on Oct. 27 in Tempe.

"A win is a win," running back Johnathan Franklin said. "I don't care if you're playing Harvard or Alabama."

The Bruins probably would have buried Harvard. And just as certainly, they would have been crushed by top-ranked Alabama.

Utah (2-4, 0-3) was the crimson-uniformed team that fell somewhere in between.

The Bruins' defense stared down Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, a true freshman making his first start, and smothered the Utes' running game. Meanwhile, the UCLA offense, which came in ranked eighth nationally averaging 528 yards a game, did just enough, amassing a season-low 354 yards.

"Would I liked to have had 600 yards and 48 points? Yeah," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "Sometimes there are games like this. We weren't a crazy, explosive offense today, but I thought we ran the ball well."

Quarterback Brett Hundley, using a feet-don't-fail-me-now approach, pushed the offense along. He had a 12-yard touchdown run and tossed a 64-yard touchdown pass to Shaquelle Evans in the first quarter. Franklin was the supporting act, grinding out 79 yards rushing, including a one-yard touchdown run for a 21-7 third-quarter lead.

"We got those dirty yards," guard Xavier Su'a-Filo said.

Translation: It was ugly, but effective.

"These games are fun," Hundley said. "You see all the hard yards, a few here and there. These games are cool."

To play in, maybe. But with a remote control in hand?

"I don't know," Hundley said. "I like throwing the ball and getting big plays. It's fun when you're slinging it around the field."

That didn't happen Saturday. The Bruins left the game in the hands of the defense, which was carved up in a 43-17 loss to California a week ago. But Utah gained only 75 yards rushing. Wilson threw for 220 yards, but he looked very much the greenhorn.

On his second pass, Wilson jammed the ball into double coverage. Andrew Abbott intercepted the deflected pass, which led to Hundley's touchdown run.

"We needed a tough game like that," Coach Jim Mora said. "Games like that build character."

Building fan interest? Well, that's another matter.

"A 'ticket seller' is a win," receiver Joseph Fauria said. "Yeah, we have Brett Hundley, we have Johnathan Franklin and they can light up the scoreboard. This one was old school."

Actually, it was more schoolyard in execution, at least in the second half. Hundley took the snap and seemed to improvise. He threw for a season-low 183 yards, but ran for 68. He scrambled for positive yards six times in the second half, with three runs nudging along a third-quarter touchdown drive.

On a third-and-three play, Hundley ran for six yards. Later, on second-and-15, he scrambled for 13. On third-and-10, he took off for nine yards to the Utah 13-yard line. Franklin got the first down on the next play and later scored on a three-yard run.

"You have a timer in your head," Hundley said. "You go through your reads. If you don't see anything there, you got to use the legs."

That was his view. Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham had another, saying, "He's elusive, but we made him appear more elusive than he really is because we were not disciplined in our pass lanes."

UCLA defensive players know that frustration.

"I know what it's like chasing Brett around," linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said. "It stinks. It's more fun watching other teams have do it."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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