Following UCLA’s 59-13 victory over New Mexico State last Saturday, Brett Hundley joked to reporters about how he tells offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone that the Bruins have no need to run the football.
The redshirt sophomore quarterback might be disappointed should he ever look at UCLA’s first-team throwing and rushing ratio: ground and aerial attempts have, essentially, equally comprised UCLA’s plays three games into the season. Hundley owns 92 pass attempts, while UCLA’s top three running backs redshirt junior Jordon James, redshirt freshman Paul Perkins and redshirt sophomore Steven Manfro have totaled 86 rushing attempts through three games.
UCLA coach Jim Mora said that he believes that the four-wide receiver sets typically employed by UCLA provide a boon to the Bruins’ offense by forcing defenders to guard larger portions of the field.
“When you spread the field, you make it wide, it’s tough to defend. We’ve got some guys doing a really nice job up front,” Mora said. “The more you can spread the field the way we do, it opens things up, both for the run and pass. We’re pretty balanced right now, and that’s what we strive for.”
Thursday night’s matchup against Utah may have UCLA’s trigger-happy signal caller salivating. The Utes field the No. 29 rushing yardage defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, compared to a 111th-ranked passing yardage defense.
Though Utah has proved susceptible to passing in crucial situations, Hundley recognized the importance of keeping third-down situations manageable in the first place, given the quick tempo of the UCLA offense and the implications of shorter, ineffective drives on his defense. Hundley also said that the Bruins should be able to dictate the flow of the game, as the team does not tend to structure its offensive strategy around the opposition.
While Hundley pointed out that tempo and balance are important to the UCLA offense, he failed to mention the rugged offensive identity stressed by primary running back James.
“People may think that we’re a spread team, a finesse team, but we’re smash-mouth. We love to hit people in the mouth,” James said. “(Offensive linemen) like to hit people in the mouth, receivers block their butts off, and the running backs block their butts off too, so … we’re just a tough team.”
Mora feels for ousted Kiffin
After Sunday’s practice, Mora empathized with former USC coach Lane Kiffin. The firing of Kiffin came off the heels of the Trojans losing 62-41 to the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday night. Kiffin’s firing occured early Sunday morning, a few hours after his squad surrendered 42 second-half points.
“I certainly feel for him on a personal basis. I’ve known him for a long time, and it’s disappointing … you never want to see anyone lose their job,” Mora said. “He’s a good person. I wish the best for him.”
According to USC athletic director Pat Haden, who spoke to media during an afternoon conference on Sunday, Kiffin “battled” with him until the very end to keep the job.