TEMPE, Ariz. — There was a collective exhale that could be heard from UCLA fans from the desert to the sea.
Quarterback Brett Hundley looked fine. Ishmael Adams was finally able to catch his breath. The Bruins looked more like the team everyone was expecting this season in their Pac-12 opener.
All of which came packaged in a 62-27 victory over Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday.
The No. 11 Bruins had perplexed those who had gushed about them this summer. They carried hefty expectations into the season, and were chastised for winning three close games.
By the time UCLA (4-0, 1-0 in Pac-12) finished dismantling No. 15 Arizona State (3-1, 1-1) in the 90-degree heat, there were far fewer questions.
Important games lay ahead for the Bruins. But this was a big hurdle, coming on the road against the defending Pac-12 South champions.
Uncertainty surrounded Hundley, who had injured his left elbow against Texas on Sept. 13. It was unknown whether he would play Thursday, though Arizona State Coach Todd Graham was certain he would start.
Graham probably was never so unhappy to be right.
The Bruins spotted the Sun Devils a 17-6 lead, then scored 28 consecutive points in a big-play display that had to impress the national television audience.
Hundley completed 18 of 23 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns. Jordan Payton had five catches for 151 yards.
More important, Hundley displayed that hippy-hippy shake as a runner that gives opposing defensive coordinators night terrors.
Hundley tried to be careful, getting out of bounds and hitting the turf early at times. But he remained a reckless runner. He hurdled one would-be tackler on a six-yard run in the first half. He was just getting started. He left tacklers waving at air on 21-yard run to the three-yard line later in the half. He then danced and spun his way for 22 yards to the one in the third quarter.
Hundley finished with 72 yards rushing and scored the Bruins’ coup de grace with a one-yard run with 4:29 left.
It made for an easy diagnosis: The elbow is fine.
UCLA finished with 580 yards. Arizona State had 626 yards, but could not keep pace on the scoreboard, not with quarterback Taylor Kelly sidelined with a foot injury.
Mike Bercovici subbed for Kelly and had some quality moments. He completed 42 of 68 passes for 488 yards and three touchdowns. He also had two passes intercepted, the first throws picked off against the Sun Devils this season.
Arizona State, which had one turnover in the first three games, gave the ball away four times, leading to 17 UCLA points.
It’s not like the Bruins needed the help.
UCLA had eight plays of 40 or more yards, four of which went for touchdowns. Adams had three of the big plays.
The backbreaker was his interception in the second quarter. With Arizona State driving for a tying or go-ahead score, Adams lurked in the secondary, then stepped up to intercept a pass, returning it 95 yards, giving the Bruins a 27-17 halftime lead.
By the time Adams’ evening was done, he had to feel like he’d been at the Olympic Trials.
He fielded a third-quarter kickoff in the end zone and left the Arizona State coverage team choking on his vapor trail. Officially, it was a 100-yard return that left Adams on his back, breathing heavily. Adams also had a 44-yard kickoff return that led to a field goal in the first half.
The pace was brutal in the first half, with both teams trying to push the tempo. The highlights-at-11 moments accumulated, and after 30 minutes, the questions about Hundley had diminished.
With Arizona State leading, 17-6, Hundley connected on a short pass to Eldridge Massington, who turned it into an 80-yard touchdown play.
It was a desert bloom for the Bruins. They went on a 28-0 run for a 34-17 lead after the first play of the second half, an 80-yard touchdown strike from Hundley to Jordan Payton.
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