LOS ANGELES -- Quarterback Brett Hundley has been all the UCLA Bruins could ask for so far in his first season as signal-caller, but there are still some things he needs to work on.
Sliding, for instance.
Hundley, while trying to avoid contact during open-field runs, has tried to slide several times and many of them have turned into awkward falls. It first happened Sept. 8 against Nebraska, when Hundley rolled his ankle and had to come out of the game for several plays. The injury clearly hampered him the next weeks as he ran for minus-2 yards against Houston, but the awkward slides cropped up again during UCLA's 42-14 victory over Colorado.
Coach Jim Mora said he's trying to get Hundley to dive instead of slide at the end of runs. Mora said he learned from Steve Young during his days as a San Francisco 49ers assistant that diving is more effective at protecting the ball and your body, and Mora also coached Michael Vick to do the same thing when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.
Hundley rushed for two touchdowns against Colorado and now has 165 yards and four touchdowns rushing this season. He's also No. 10 in the nation with 1,470 yards passing and has looked so impressive that it's easy to forget he's still in his first season.
"I don’t want anyone to lose track of the fact that he’s played five games now in college football and he’s done a remarkable job and he’s just going to keep getting better and better with experience," Mora said.
At a loss: UCLA had a season-high 12 tackles for a loss against Colorado and now ranks No. 16 in the nation in tackles for loss with an average of eight per game. The Bruins' 40 tackles for a loss are more than twice the 17 they had through five games last season and are a significant factor in why the Bruins are 4-1 as opposed to the 2-3 they were at this point a year ago.
"If we can get third-and-long situations because we can create negative plays on first and second downs, then it’s just going to help you get off the field," Mora said. "We try to play a penetrating, attacking style of defense. That doesn’t necessarily mean a blitzing defense, just a penetrating, attacking style, and so when you see those kinds of numbers for tackles for loss it’s encouraging."
Moving McCarthy: Ellis McCarthy, one of UCLA's top freshman recruits, played on the offensive line Saturday after playing exclusively on defense the first four games.
McCarthy, 6-5, 330 pounds, was a two-way standout in high school. Mora said McCarthy was originally supposed to play offense in short-yardage packages, but he started working at guard more when Jeff Baca's status became uncertain. Baca played and the need for the short-yardage package never came up, so with the game in hand in the fourth quarter, McCarthy played on both sides.
"We thought 'lets get him some snaps, let’s get him some repetitions there and see how he does, see how he looks and see how he likes it,'" Mora said. "I don’t know where we go from here. We haven’t talked about it yet. We haven’t talked about if we’re going to get him more reps on offense or leave him on defense, but that’s something we’ll decide tomorrow when we decide our game planning."
Third down, miles to go: UCLA converted seven of 15 third downs against Colorado, a season high in terms of percentage and a vast improvement over the two of 15 the Bruins converted a week earlier against Oregon State.
The Bruins, who were No. 115 in the nation in third-down percentage going into last week, moved up to No. 103 after Saturday.
"I’d be happier with 15 of 15, but seven of 15 is an improvement," Mora said. "We’re just still looking for ways to improve and stay on the field."
Mora said more manageable third downs helped. Of the seven UCLA converted, four of them were three yards or fewer. Still, the Bruins also converted a third-and-10 and a third-and-12 and scored a touchdown on a third-and-seven play.
"Better execution, good protection, good decisions by Brett," Mora said.
Still, he said, nobody is satisfied with how they played.
"When you look at the film really critically like we always do, we just left a lot out there," Mora said. "And you see our potential and what we’re trying to do as staff and as a team. ... It’s just about trying to create a sense of urgency to reach our potential as quickly as we can. And then play at our potential as often as we can.