In one Arizona barbershop years ago, an important friendship, significant to UCLA football, was formed.
Brett Hundley met Donovan McNabb, McNabb was introduced to Hundley. One, of course, a former star in the NFL; the other, a highly-touted quarterback who’s been the face of UCLA football ever since he stepped on campus in 2011.
The two hit it off from the onset and have been close friends since. For Hundley, that relationship has helped him become one of college football’s most dangerous offensive threats.
“I like Donovan,” Hundley said Wednesday. “I talk to him at least once a week, he’s been a good mentor for me. I’ve sort of learned from him and sort of developed things.”
Hundley has certainly learned a lot from McNabb, just as he’s learned a lot in four years and 39 career starts with the Bruins. He’s evolved from a quarterback with a rock-solid arm and the ability to tuck-and-run into a true dual-threat quarterback that gives teams like K-State fits on a regular basis.
“They have an outstanding quarterback who is completing 70 percent of his passes,” K-State defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said Tuesday. “That’s a high number in modern-day football. He can throw it down the field, short and make you run all over the field and tackle in space. They spread you out a good bit.”
Hundley has done it all for UCLA once again this season, throwing for 3,019 yards and 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions. His 70-percent completion rate is third best in the country, and he’s driving defensive coordinators mad on the ground with nearly 800 yards on 148 carries.
The numbers are down compared Hundley’s first two seasons as the starting quarterback, but that’s been of no concern to those in and around the UCLA program. Hundley has stepped up as a leader according to multiple Bruin players, including those on the defense, and has done just fine on the field to lead his team to nine wins for the third-consecutive year.
Friday, Hundley will play his final game in a UCLA jersey. Bruins head coach Jim Mora confirmed earlier this month that the redshirt junior quarterback plans to make the jump to the NFL Draft following the 2015 Valero Alamo Bowl.
That means Hundley will look to close out his college career in style against the No. 11-ranked K-State Wildcats, who have been susceptible to giving up large chunks of yards to dual-threat quarterbacks like himself.
“He’s an athletic quarterback,” K-State senior defensive end Ryan Mueller said. “He can move around in the pocket. That’s something we’ve had trouble with. But next Friday presents an opportunity for us to capitalize and come away with a victory.”
The Wildcats will need a better performance from their defense against Hundley than they got against Trevone Boykin of TCU and Nick Marshall of Auburn earlier this season.
Boykin shredded the K-State defense for 342 yards of total offense (219 passing, 123 rushing) in TCU’s 41-20 win over the Wildcats in November. Marshall went for 277 yards in a more pass-heavy affair back in September when the Tigers escaped Manhattan with a 20-14 win.
How K-State plans to right the ship against Hundley and the Bruins offense remains to be seen. A conservative approach should be expected, but UCLA’s offense line has given up 38 sacks this season, leading some to believe Mueller and company will put their heads down and be aggressive.
But no matter the game plan, Hundley says he’s seen it all from defenses this season, including K-State’s style in Pac-12 foe Washington. Should the Wildcats stick to allowing underneath routs in favor of guarding against the deep ball, Hundley says he’ll be ready.
“I’ll take it,” he said. “We’ll march down the
field and I’ll take a 10-yard run all day.”