LOS ANGELES (AP) –– Brett Hundley knows what’s going on in the Pac-12 South standings. His fellow UCLA students have told him all about it in the past two days since the Bruins climbed over Southern California to get on top.
But the freshman quarterback has been around Los Angeles long enough to know the crosstown rivalry shouldn’t consume him. Even after No. 17 UCLA vaulted past the Trojans in the AP Top 25, the BCS rankings and the division standings, he’s only thinking about what’s in front of him — a trip to ice-cold Washington State this Saturday.
“Yeah, there has been a lot of people just talking about the SC game,” Hundley said. “But I try to remind everybody, they have an opponent who’s not us this week. They play, I think, (Arizona State) this week, and we have Washington State this week. That shouldn’t even be coming into our heads, and it hasn’t. We’re preparing for Washington State, and we’ll play SC next week, and then we’ll focus on SC.”
Hundley and his Bruins (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12) are basking in good feelings in Westwood after they routed Arizona 66-10 last weekend for their third straight win, racking up their best record through nine games since 2005. UCLA has risen quickly in Jim Mora’s first season, earning bowl eligibility in October and surging ahead of USC (6-3, 4-3) at the latest point in a season for at least a decade.
But the coach says there’s no danger of the Bruins overlooking struggling Washington State (2-7, 0-6). After three months of steady progress, Mora is confident his players won’t get caught leaping ahead to the city rivalry game that might decide the division title, their season-ending matchup with Stanford — or even their pending postseason plans.
“Well, they haven’t been distracted up to this point,” Mora said. “They’ve done a tremendous job of focusing on the here-and-now, the goal that’s directly in front of them — and the goal that’s directly in front of us now is the Washington State Cougars. That’s what we think about.”
UCLA could be excused for lingering on last week’s win a bit longer, considering it was the school’s highest-scoring performance in 15 years. The 56-point blowout of a ranked opponent was among the sweetest moments in the Bruins’ mediocre recent history, all the way down to the navy-blue uniforms they debuted to widespread acclaim among the players and fans.
Those special uniforms aren’t the only new identity being developed by the Bruins this season. Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have built a balanced, tough team that plays up-tempo, versatile football — and it’s been enough to get the Bruins into first place.
“I was pleased with it,” Mora said of the blowout. “I wouldn’t say that I was surprised by it, though. These guys, ever since we got here, have worked extremely hard. When you start to experience some success, I think you get anxious to get out there and do it again, and I felt that through the week. The effort was good, but the effort is expected to be good. That’s what we’re trying to establish as our standard.”
The Bruins have seven regular-season victories for the first time since 2006, and they’re in control of their fate for a second straight appearance in the Pac-12 title game. A return would be much better than last season’s trip, since UCLA only got that opportunity to get blown out by Oregon because of postseason ineligibility for USC, which beat the Bruins 50-0 and finished two games ahead in the standings.
But first, UCLA must survive probable temperatures in the 20s on the Palouse. Mora is no stranger to frigid Washington winters, but he sees no reason why it will affect his sizzling team or its sunny future.
“That stuff doesn’t matter to us,” Mora said. “Once you let temperature, environment and the psyche of another team bother you, you’ve got issues. We don’t address it. It doesn’t matter to us. It’s not in our orbit. We don’t care. We’re worried about the UCLA Bruins.”