For the first time in awhile, casual and serious observers of the college football world will keep a mindful eye on the UCLA football program. Jim Mora’s successful first season ended with a whimper, but in his second season as head coach, the Bruins managed to improve their overall record (from 9-5 to 10-3) despite a much more difficult schedule.
Even with that improvement, UCLA rarely looked like a national title contender for an entire game. Though the box scores tell a different story, the Bruins’ offense was normally the source of frustration. Noel Mazzone’s play-calling and decision-making came into question regularly, and his uncharacteristically conservative approach left the task of slaying solid teams almost entirely to his defense. Against Oregon, for example, the Bruins held Oregon to 14 points in the first half and 21 points through three quarters, but had only scored 14 points the entire game themselves. (Although it’s important to note that Brett Hundley looked indecisive at times, as is his custom, and the UCLA offensive line was a bit of a patch job for much of the season.) In many instances, UCLA’s defense anchored the Bruins, while the offense sometimes felt useless and even counterproductive.
Did an offensive romping of USC and Virginia Tech change all of that, though? Were the final two games of the season enough to convince observers that the Bruins were, indeed, for real, and had finally grown up, and that the offense was to take the credit?
Not entirely. The hype began when Brett Hundley announced he’d be returning for his junior season, in an announcement that got UCLA fans ready to run through a few walls.
Of course, the idea that Brett Hundley is the sole reason this team went from preseason top-25 team to national contender is one that’s pretty off-base. While quarterbacks are really damn important, it’s unreasonable to say that Hundley’s the sole reason.