Published September 13, 2015
Since Brett Hundley has been sacked more than any other FBS quarterback over the last three seasons, it seems logical for opposing defenses to throw wave after wave of blitzes at No. 25 UCLA's signal-caller.
"They dropped guys deep and basically made us take underneath stuff the whole game, which we were fine with," Hundley said, revisiting the Bruins' 36-34 win at California. "I thought the offense actually played well. We marched down the field every drive, actually."
The Golden Bears copied much of the defensive approach that Oregon took the week before, having defensive backs play well off the line of scrimmage with linebackers joining them in coverage as soon as Hundley dropped back to pass.
"I think the whole stadium saw that. They were playing about 10 yards off the whole game," receiver Jordan Payton said.
That forced Hundley to rely on underneath routes instead. He responded by completing 31 of 42 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns, maintaining his 72.5 completion percentage to lead the nation.
"Teams are going to make us take the 5- or 6-yard throws to go down the field, and that's what we have seen a lot," Hundley said.
But Hundley threw his only interception of the game by trying to force the ball down the field in the fourth quarter, giving Cal the ball at the UCLA 32 to set up a touchdown that gave the Bears the lead with 6:50 remaining.
It continued a trend of Hundley mistakes resulting in seven points for the opposition. Seven of Hundley's eight turnovers have led to touchdowns, including a pair of pick-sixes.
It doesn't come as a shock considering where opponents are coming up with those takeaways, as three of Hundley's four turnovers against the Ducks and Bears put the ball inside the red zone.
"Obviously we don't like turnovers in the first place, but when they happen we'd rather have them happen at the far end (of the field)," Hundley said.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks said the defense has to find ways to not allow touchdowns in sudden change situations no matter where they happen, noting that allowing a field goal can be a victory.
"Things like that are going to happen in football, turnovers are going to happen, so we got to respond as a defense and do better," Kendricks said.
Eliminating those costly plays is the main priority for the offense heading into UCLA's road trip to Colorado on Saturday, but the success of the screen passing game can minimize the risk.
Paul Perkins scored on a 49-yard screen with 13 seconds left in the second quarter, taking advantage of the soft coverage to put the breakout sophomore running back in the open field.
"To be able to dish the ball down to Paul and have two blockers in front of him, it creates seams for him," Hundley said.
Hundley said he must continue to punish defenses in every way possible when they go into a shell, be it with short passes, screens, handing it off to Perkins, or taking off with the ball himself.
"When they drop eight, you have to figure out where your windows are and have to learn how to check it down and just take what the defense gives you," Hundley said.