All eyes will be on UCLA's Hundley

Discipline will be crucial for the California defense as they look to limit UCLA dual-threat quarterback Brett Hundley.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Outside linebacker Chris McCain was like everyone else on The Opening Thursday night of the college football season, watching those first few games when UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley introduced himself in spectacular fashion with a 72-yard touchdown run on the Bruins' first offensive play at Rice.

"I can't remember where I was, but I was watching that game," McCain said. "He hit the sideline and he was out."

On Saturday evening, the sophomore and the entire California defense get to introduce themselves to Hundley, hopefully making a better impression than they have against the three other spread offenses they have faced this season.

The Golden Bears have surrendered an average of 31 points and 423.67 yards to Nevada, Ohio State, and Arizona State.

More troubling, they have demonstrated no ability to disrupt the dual-threat signal-callers operating these schemes. Cody Fajardo, Braxton Miller, and Taylor Kelly have combined for 939 yards rushing and receiving, with nine touchdowns against one takeaway.

But Hundley, the 6-foot-3, 223-pound redshirt freshman from Chandler (Ariz.), might be the most dangerous yet.

"He's right in there with them," Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said. "He is a big, physical guy and has enough speed to make plays. In the pass game, he is accurate throwing the ball and does a good job of putting the ball on guys. He's very comfortable in their system."

Hundley has completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns against three interceptions. His three 300-yard passing performances in his first five games is already tied for seventh-most by a UCLA quarterback, while adding four rushing touchdowns.

Cal faced elements of this same offense last season in a 47-38 win at Arizona State, where UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone held the same position. While the quick passing game, relying on precision timing and plenty of swing passes to the running backs, made the move from Tempe to Westwood, Hundley offers an extra dimension by running the option.

"It's pretty similar, but at the same time, he is at a different place with different kind of players," safety Michael Lowe said of Mazzone. "We're willing to adjust."

"UCLA is more of a true spread attack," Tedford said. "These guys are a little bit more zone-read type stuff. If you take the giveaway, they are going to pull it."

That increases the need for discipline from the defense, something they have struggled with, such as in their first run-in with Nevada's Pistol in 2010 and the 31-14 loss to UCLA last season, where they were punished by the quarterback as a runner in the option.

McCain knows the challenge it will entail to stay home against the zone-read and play-action that will come off it.

"Everyone has got to keep their eyes and their keys," McCain said. "As a whole, we get caught up looking in the backfield as a D. Not one person specifically.

"It's always been at times where we look in the backfield to see what the quarterback is doing we lose our man and get beat deep. We'll be looking at the running back and the quarterback will get to the outside, like what happened against Nevada. I was too far inside and the Nevada quarterback beat me to the edge. We can't lose track of focus."

If they do lose focus, the only thing McCain and Cal will see will be the back of a UCLA uniform headed to the end zone.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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