Published November 02, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. – Brett Hundley's father was a running back at Arizona in the 1980s, and his son grew up a huge Wildcats fan.
So what happened to all of that Wildcats gear when the quarterback committed to UCLA?
"Everything I used to do sort of went in the trash," Hundley said with a grin.
Hundley has been looking forward to Arizona's visit to the Rose Bowl on Saturday for his own reasons, but the elevated stakes make it even more enticing.
No. 25 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) hosts the 24th-ranked Wildcats (5-3, 2-3) in a key game for two programs with first-year head coaches hoping to keep their rebuilding projects ahead of schedule. UCLA coach Jim Mora's defense will have a compelling matchup with Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, matching strength against strength for two teams looking to burnish their national reputations after thrilling victories last week.
"We just need to keep winning," Arizona quarterback Matt Scott said. "We can lose respect really easy by losing a couple games here or there, so we just want to keep going, keep fighting, and try to get W's. If we can do that, we'll keep getting respect."
Arizona has won five straight over UCLA, but both teams say there are no lingering hard feelings from the Wildcats' 48-12 win last season in Tucson. That game featured a bench-clearing brawl that led to multiple Bruins suspensions and precipitated coach Rick Neuheisel's departure.
It's all forgotten now for Arizona and UCLA as they build on strong starts. While the Wildcats ride momentum from last week's win over Southern California, the Bruins are bowl-eligible with designs on a Pac-12 South title run after beating Arizona State on a field goal at the gun, extending the school's best start since 2005.
What's more, UCLA is breaking out special "night uniforms" for the game, abandoning their traditional baby blue jerseys for a darker look.
"There's implications down the road, and they understand that," Mora said of the game's importance to his Bruins. "It's not something you talk about, but they're excited about being in this position. They've done a good job putting themselves here, and I think they're going to do all they can to take advantage of it."
Arizona is among the nation's top offenses with 553 yards per game, and Scott is expected to play after getting rocked by the Trojans' defense last week. With receiver Austin Hill and tailback Ka'Deem Carey, the Wildcats have enough offensive playmakers to cause trouble for Mora's defense, which gave up 43 points in two of its last three games.
Yet UCLA's offense might be able to match that production. Arizona's defense has yielded 197 points in the last five games, and the Bruins' freshman quarterback has his offense moving with a fluidity UCLA hasn't possessed in years.
"I remember when he came out of high school," said Rodriguez, who was between Michigan and Arizona when Hundley left his Phoenix-area high school in 2011. "He is an Arizona native, and people know about him. I knew this guy was going to have great success no matter where he went. They have a system that suits him well."
Hundley looks more comfortable each week at the controls of coordinator Noel Mazzone's schemes, but he isn't the Bruins' only offensive star. Tailback Johnathan Franklin is likely to make history Saturday, needing just 21 yards to surpass Gaston Green as UCLA's career rushing leader.
"He's one of the best backs in the country, definitely in the Pac-12," Arizona defensive lineman Tevin Hood said. "He's a hard runner. With the (offense) they run, we need to focus on keeping up with him and Hundley. We can't have any holes in the defense."
The Wildcats have yet to win a road game under Rodriguez, and they'll likely need to put yet another big number on the scoreboard to match the Bruins. Scott is confident Arizona can do it, but Hundley sounds equally ready for a West Coast shootout under the late-night lights.
"I like winning, so if that's what it comes down to, let it be," Hundley said. "If we have to (win a high-scoring shootout) every game, that's fine. But it doesn't matter to me. The offense has the defense's back, and the defense has the offense's back. We all play for each other."