Hundley leads UCLA over Colorado
PASADENA, Calif. -- UCLA proved the last two weeks that it's not yet among the elite teams in the Pac-12 Conference.
But in Brett Hundley, the Bruins certainly have someone they can comfortably insert into the conversation for the league's best quarterback.
And that might just be enough to help them win the Pac-12 South Division.
That's a quest for another day, but thanks to Hundley, the No. 17 Bruins got back on the winning track Saturday with a 45-23 victory over Colorado.
Hundley accounted for 344 yards, 272 of which came through the air on 19-of-24 passing and two touchdowns as UCLA (6-2, 3-2) rebounded from back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon.
"Just a huge threat," Colorado safety Parker Orms said of Hundley. "He's a great player out there, one of the best I've played against."
Colorado (3-5, 0-5) remains winless in the Pac-12, although the Buffaloes did push the Bruins in the first half before Hundley and UCLA ran away from them with two third-quarter touchdowns to go ahead 35-13.
"We're making a lot of progress," Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau said. "A lot of guys are showing more heart. We're playing more like a team rather than individuals, which is great."
But too much Hundley doomed them.
And for the reeling Bruins, it was exactly what they needed after the two emotional losses.
"The confidence was never lost," Hundley said. "Obviously, we know and I know at the end of the day we didn't execute plays. But two weeks isn't going to kill a team or a player."
Hundley's 1-yard run made it 28-13. Damien Thigpen followed with a 5-yard touchdown run that boosted the lead to 35-13.
A 5-yard run by Colorado's Tony Jones narrowed the margin to 35-20 early in the fourth quarter, but the Buffaloes could manage only a 37-yard field goal by Will Oliver beyond that.
Meanwhile, the Bruins added an 8-yard touchdown run by Devin Fuller to increase the lead to 45-23.
After sloughing through a sluggish first quarter in which they fell behind 3-0, the Bruins unleashed Hundley and the result was a 77-yard touchdown pass to Fuller on which Hundley shook off an open pattern underneath to go long to Fuller to make it 7-0.
"I think there was no better receipe for him than that 76-yard play," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "It was like, pew. OK. The kid has looked burdened the last two weeks. He didn't look burdened tonight."
Still, Colorado (3-5, 0-5) answered with a 10- play, 73-yard drive capped by a a 7-yard pass from Sefo Liufau to Paul Richardson to put Colorado up 10-7.
Once again, Hundley had a solution.
And this time it was the catalyst for a decisive punch by the Bruins.
First, Hundley engineered an eight-play, 61-yard drive in which he ran for 11 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-10. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, Colorado's Ryan Severson fumbled and UCLA's Jayon Brown fell on it at the Colorado 14.
That set the stage for an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hundley to Fuller to make it 21-10.
Hundley finished with 72 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
"It's just maturing as a football player and a quarterback and experiencing things and learning and growing from them," Mora said. "He's still a young quarterback. We ask him to do a lot of things out here. He does everything that you could ask of him for preparation. He comes in early, he stays late and he works hard on the field."
Liufau finished with 247 yards on 25-of-36 passing.
"We've been in a lot of games," Liufau said. "It's just a game here and a play there."
But that didn't happen against a Bruins team that desperately needed to get back on the winning track.
"It wasn't pretty, but we got the win," UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr said. "And any time you win, it's good."
NOTES: Colorado has dropped 13 straight Pac-12 games and 13 straight games to ranked teams. ... The last Colorado win in conference play came against Washington State to open conference play last season. ... UCLA is 4-0 at home for the first time since 2006, and under Jim Mora the Bruins are 10-2 at home. ... Mora and the Bruins are now 10-5 in conference play in the last two seasons.