Silencing doubts, Brett Hundley returns to field to knock out ASU

TEMPE, Ariz. – After he took a knee on the final snap of UCLA’s 62-27 win over Arizona State, Brett Hundley let it soak in.

He turned around, placed the ball behind his back and bowed. Then, he turned slightly to the side, and bowed once more.

He had, after all, earned it.

“He played very well, and he played fearless,” said coach Jim Mora. “That’s what I was looking for.”

For nearly two weeks, it was hardly a certainty that Hundley would play Thursday night. The left elbow injury he suffered against Texas continued to plague him, and during the game, he covered it with a brace. In some ways, the brace limited him, he said. But he could play, and that much was enough.

It was enough for No. 11 UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) to hang 62 points on the scoreboard in a critical Pac-12 road game. And it was more than enough for UCLA to overcome an early 17-6 second quarter deficit.

Late in that second quarter, with his team down three, Hundley engineered a critical drive.

He had 9-yard and 21-yard runs. In between, he nailed sophomore Y receiver Thomas Duarte for a 30-yard pass. Hundley, a redshirt junior quarterback, capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore F-back Nate Iese with 2:13 left. After that, UCLA would not trail again.

All night long, Hundley never seemed to back down, from the challenge or the contact. He ran the ball, took hits and, on one play, he even cleanly hurdled a defender.

“Just to see him out there – doing his thing, hurdling guys, taking shots – that inspires a team,” Duarte said. “It says something about his character, and him as a man.”

On the first play after halftime, Hundley put the nail in the coffin.

He dropped back and threw a lofted, deep pass down the sideline, hitting junior wide receiver Jordan Payton in stride. A cut to the inside later, Payton was breezing into the end zone, an 80-yard touchdown reception in hand.

Sandwiched between the two key offensive drives, just prior to halftime, was perhaps the game’s most momentum-shifting play. With Arizona State deep in UCLA territory, junior cornerback Ishmael Adams picked off an Arizona State pass and returned it 95 yards for the touchdown. That began the trickling down on the hourglass of No. 15 Arizona State’s (3-1, 1-1) upset hopes.

Adams turned the trickle into a stream when he returned a mid-third quarter kickoff return 103 yards for a touchdown. And then Hundley turned the stream into a glass-full ending for UCLA.

Early in the fourth quarter, he threw a 52-yard pass to Payton. Near the goal line, he went back to him, hitting him for a 4-yard touchdown pass. That made it UCLA 55, Arizona State 28.

By the time the clock hit zero, Hundley’s final stat line was staggering: 18-of-23 passing, 355 yards and four passing touchdowns. He also ran eight times for 72 yards and one rush touchdown.

“For us to come in here and get a win was huge for us,” Hundley said. “It spoke a lot.”

In the end, though, it spoke most about Hundley.

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Copyright 2018