So far, UCLA redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has shown a strong arm, fast feet, the ability to keep plays alive and accuracy.
Now we can add super-clutch to his resume. Hundley took a big step forward last week in UCLA's 45-43 win at Arizona State -- leading the Bruins on a 12-play, 60-yard drive in the final 1:33 that led to a game-clinching Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal. That was the cherry on his four-touchdown sundae that capped a 19-of-29 performance.
"I think we all have a lot of confidence in Brett because of what he's showed us in practice," said UCLA head coach Jim Mora. "We haven't seen him in that situation in a game. But in practice he's very poised, and whenever we do a 2-minute drill or put him in pressure-type situation, he handles it very well. But a lot of things need to go right to have a drive like that. First off all we were playing against an outstanding defense. We had to do a good job with protection. They brought some pressure and we were able to pick it up and have some success running the ball, and Brett was able to elude the rush a little bit and our receivers found a way to get open late in the downs.
"It was a function of all of us doing a great job. But Brett is the guy handling the snap every time, and it was great to see him take that step in his career. It was a brand new situation for him at this level and he handled it well."
But it wasn't just a huge moment for Hundley. The entire Bruins' squad took a step forward in confidence and maturity with the victory. After falling behind the 14-0 early, the defense stepped up and made enough plays when it had to. And, of course, there was Fairbairn's clutch 33-yard field goal that was a dead-center game-winner.
"I think it was really good for our team at this point in our development, especially with as many young guys as we have playing on offense," Mora said. "Arizona State has a very good defense, and they were missing some guys. But still, they are a very good defense. Knowing that you've done it once gives you the confidence to believe you can do it again. But you have to continue to work at it.
"It's only significant if that bump in confidence results in improved play down the line. You can't just say 'hey, we got it, good win, we feel confident.' No. You have to continue to do the work. You've got to continue to stay focused, and you have to continue to work hard to execute."
There isn't much time for back-slapping with a sizzling-hot Arizona squad coming to the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Wildcats, ranked 22nd, are coming off of back-to-back wins against Washington and USC, and are playing as confidently as any team in the conference. The stakes are high with both squads still very much in contention for the Pac-12 South title. And the Wildcats are going to see a UCLA team that is also brimming with confidence. Not surprising, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has also been impressed with Hundley.
“I remember him coming out of high school, and that’s what you want them to look like. He looks like one of those tight ends we are playing against all the time -- big, strong, physical athlete. I don’t know if I've ever had a quarterback that big.”
"They have a system that suits him well. They have a great running back, another athletic tight end and some skill players. They play with confidence. They've always been good athletes and players, but now they’re playing in a system they feel comfortable with, and they’re also playing with a lot of confidence.”