Meet Brett Hundley, the Man Who Turned UCLA Football Around

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIISeptember 12, 2013

Once he stepped on the field, Brett Hundley didn't waste any time becoming the savior of the UCLA football program.

The Bruins had only finished better than 8-5 once since the turn of the century and lost to rival USC in 12 of the last 13 games. But it didn't take long for Hundley to show that he was going to change all of that.

In UCLA's 2012 opener and on the first play of his collegiate career, the 6'3", 222-pound quarterback broke away for a 72-yard touchdown run. 

That electrifying score came in a 49-24 road win against Rice, but Hundley would soon return home and make his name known to those on the west side of Los Angeles.

The next week, he was already tasked with taking on his first ranked opponent, as No. 16 Nebraska traveled to Westwood. The Cornhuskers had no idea what they were in for when they took the field on Sept. 8 as the favorites at the Rose Bowl.

Hundley exploded for 305 passing yards and four touchdowns, including the game-deciding touchdown pass to running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth quarter of a monumental 36-30 upset victory.

It is no surprise that Nebraska wasn't quite ready for Hundley. A few weeks prior, Hundley was just a redshirt freshman competing for a starting job with a pair of seniors, Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince, who were heavy on experience but light on talent.

The Bruins had struggled through consecutive eight-loss seasons, so it made sense for first-year head coach Jim Mora to hand the reins to the former 247Sports composite 4-star and high school All-American and launch their new era together.

Hundley sat out 2011 after having surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee, but once he earned the job, it was clear that he was destined to turn around Bruins football.

His first season wasn't without its road bumps, however. The Chandler, Ariz., native was outdueled by Oregon State's Sean Mannion in a 27-20 defeat, his first loss as a starter. Two weeks later, he struggled through a 43-17 road loss to California, throwing four interceptions. 

That disappointing performance seemed to be a turning point for Hundley. UCLA won its next five games—a string that reached its climax when the Bruins hosted rival USC. 

The quarterback who tossed four interceptions against Cal was gone. He was replaced by a more confident and efficient Hundley, who completed 22-of-30 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown, while also running for a pair of scores to best the Trojans and quarterback Matt Barkley.

The 38-28 win snapped the Bruins' five-game losing streak to USC and sewed up a spot in the Pac-12 Conference championship game.

While UCLA went on to lose the Pac-12 title game to Stanford, Hundley's freshman season was already a success. The 9-5 finish gave the Bruins more victories than in any of the previous six seasons. 

Individually, Hundley had broken three UCLA single-season records with 318 completions, 3,740 passing yards and 4,095 yards of total offense.

Tall, confident, mobile and accurate, Hundley was tabbed as the No. 2 quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL draft by ESPN's Todd McShay.

Now in his second season, the UCLA signal-caller will look to improve that draft status and continue to cement his own legacy while also aiming to take to Bruins to the next level in the Pac-12.

The Bruins are the favorites to win the Pac-12 South once again, but will face a daunting road to the title. UCLA will travel to take on Pac-12 North favorites and national title hopefuls Stanford and Oregon in consecutive weeks in October.

But before he can take on the conference juggernauts, Hundley's journey will circle back through the same Nebraska team he made his name against in 2012.

Six days shy of one year later, the story couldn't be more different.

After entering last season's game unranked and unknown, the Bruins will take a No. 16 ranking to Lincoln, Neb.

And this time around, the Huskers will know exactly what they're dealing with in Hundley.