Most bye weeks are quiet, a rare respite from the weekly grind of the college football season. But the silence this week might only make for some anxious UCLA fans.
On Sunday night, head coach Jim Mora refused to offer any details on the status of star quarterback Brett Hundley’s injured left elbow — vowing not to “tell anybody anything until kickoff versus Arizona State.”
The good news for the fans is that Hundley is right-handed, and that he reportedly suffered a slight hyperextension that shouldn’t keep him out for the Sept. 25 trip to Tempe.
So what’s next for the Bruins (3-0), who remain undefeated heading into Pac-12 Conference play despite uneven play?
They can have more faith in their backup. On Monday, Jerry Neuheisel earned something that’s eluded even Hundley this season: Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
The redshirt sophomore was voted the conference’s top performer after lifting the Bruins to a 20-17 win over Texas with his unlikely heroics, throwing a 33-yard touchdown to Jordan Payton with three minutes left. Neuheisel finished the 20-17 win with 178 yards and two scores on 23-of-30 passing.
Cornerback Ishmael Adams, who set up Neuheisel’s touchdown pass with a 45-yard punt return, was voted Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week. He totaled 62 yards on three punt returns and also returned a kickoff for 14 yards.
But more encouraging — particularly if Hundley returns — is that the Bruins established a consistent run game for the first time this season. Redshirt sophomore Paul Perkins has grown into a clear-cut No. 1 option, rushing for a career-high 126 yards against Texas to go along with his 69 receiving yards.
Perkins isn’t the most explosive runner, but he helped UCLA to 4.6 yards per carry, easily the team’s highest single-game average of the season.
“We kept sticking with the run game because we were getting so many yards,” Neuheisel said Saturday. “I know it doesn’t look big, and it’s not a big explosive play, but 4 or 5 yards in the run game is churning it up. It’s kind of like a body shot when you’re a boxer. … It just kind of takes their wind out.”
Part of that has to do with an offensive line that’s becoming more cohesive. Mora said Saturday that UCLA’s play up front was one of the more underrated aspects of the Bruins’ win at AT&T Stadium.
“I’m feeling a little bit of a success here,” center Jake Brendel said. “We still have things to work on and we still have some missed assignments we have to correct — but at the same time, yeah, I feel like as an offensive line and in the run game we were pretty successful.”
However, there’s injury concern there too. Left tackle Malcolm Bunche injured his left leg/foot against the Longhorns. The senior reentered the game, but was seen on crutches afterward. Mora said Sunday that he did not have a report on his status.
Coming up Rosen
UCLA announced on Monday that it has officially signed five-star quarterback Josh Rosen, immediately laying the foundation for its 2015 recruiting class.
Rosen is Rivals.com’s No. 1 quarterback as well as the second-best national prospect at any position. He led Bellflower St. John Bosco to the CIF state title last season.
He will graduate early and enroll for UCLA’s winter quarter, which begins Jan. 5. The 6-foot-4, 206-pound quarterback will likely compete with Neuheisel and current redshirt sophomore Asiantii Woulard for the starting spot.
The Bruins also announced the signing of JC transfer defensive end Takkarist McKinley, who is eligible to play immediately.
When asked generally about Pac-12 quarterbacks last month, Mora took the time to point out one of his favorite players in the conference.
“Taylor Kelly, the kid at Arizona State,” he said. “That’s a big-time player that no one ever talks about. That kid is something else. I love him. I don’t like playing against him, but I love him. He gives me headaches.”
The defensive-minded UCLA coach should have less to worry about on that side of the ball. Multiple reports indicate that the senior will sit out the Sept. 25 contest against the Bruins with a right foot injury, and could potentially miss the Sun Devils’ Oct. 4 team against USC as well.
Kelly was an All-Pac-12 second-team selection last season, throwing for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns — both of are the third-best single-season marks in Arizona State history.
©2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)
Visit the Daily News (Los Angeles) at www.dailynews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services