Brett Hundley knew when he committed to UCLA three years ago that a day like Saturday would come.
The former Chandler High School football star will lead the Bruins against Arizona State at the Rose Bowl in a matchup that was circled many months ago.
Hundley already ruined the Sun Devils’ homecoming a year ago by staging his own party in leading UCLA to a come-from-behind win as time expired at Sun Devil Stadium.
The stakes are even higher this time around: An ASU win secures the Pac-12 South title for the Sun Devils, while a UCLA victory keeps alive the Bruins’ title hopes with next week’s rivalry game against Southern Cal still looming.
“That’s huge for this game,” Hundley said Monday in a conference call with Arizona reporters. “They’re No. 1 (in the Pac-12 South) and we’re No. 2. But we control our own destiny.”
Hundley was aware during his senior season at Chandler that as he whittled his college choices down to two, UCLA and Washington, he would one day take the field against either school from his home state and the stakes would be this high.
“The Arizona games are always fun to me,” said Hundley, who threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another score in UCLA’s win at Arizona two weeks ago.
Hundley was a four-star recruit in 2010-11 who has played every bit to that level since taking the starting job last season as a redshirt freshman.
Hundley is 17-7 as a starter and came into the season with some hype behind him as a Heisman Trophy contender. Such notions have faded — Hundley didn’t fare well last month in back-to-back losses to Stanford and Oregon that left even UCLA coach Jim Mora questioning the quarterback’s confidence — but Hundley’s future still forecasts to be very bright.
The dynamic dual-threat Hundley is eligible to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He has not hinted one way or the other as to whether he will return for his junior season or not, but many experts expect him to leave and Hundley is projected at this early stage to go anywhere from No. 4 overall to early in the second round.
Hundley’s “representatives” also were reported to have met recently with Roc Nation Sports, the agency headed by rapper/mogul Jay-Z. Hundley’s father, Brett Sr., refuted that report, but it doesn’t take away from the fact his son is thought of very highly in those circles.
The focus of the younger Hundley this week is squarely on the Sun Devils and what a win in front of a crowd that should approach 95,000 people could mean.
“They do a lot of things well, very sound and a great front seven,” Hundley said of the Sun Devils. “It’s a great challenge but it should be a fun game, too. Being at the Rose Bowl, it will be a great atmosphere. It’s going to be a challenge but as long as we do what we’re coached to do and take care of what we need to do, we can put up points.
“... I’m tired of the label that UCLA teams are soft and can’t play in the big games. It’s nice to have the nation take notice in what we’re doing at UCLA. We’re doing big things; we’re 8-2 right now. We wanted to be 10-0 right now but at the end of the day those two weeks were hard. But we’re still in control of our own destiny.”
Hundley has accounted for 2,886 yards and 27 touchdowns in what he called a more mature sophomore season.
“I’m developing as a quarterback this year, making reads and running when I have to,” he said. “When I first got to California. It was a big change. At the end of the day I’m here to play football and go to school and I have to take care of business.”
Hundley won’t be the only Chandler High alumnus to welcome his hometown team to L.A. Running back Paul Perkins will line up alongside Hundley.
A redshirt freshman, Perkins is second on the team to Hundley with 476 rushing yards. Perkins, who was not made available to Arizona media this week, took over as the starter in mid-October.
“We’re friends back there, calming each other down when things are going south, mellowing each other out,” Perkins told the L.A. Times earlier this season.
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