PASADENA, Calif. – Now comes the heavy lifting.
UCLA scraped off California on Saturday night. It took a little more effort than many thought would be necessary, and the Bruins went through some sluggish gyrations.
In the end, quarterback Brett Hundley and the Bruins did enough good things to overcome the bad in a 37-10 victory at the Rose Bowl.
Now all roads will lead upward for the Bruins … or they are going to smack their skulls on the Pac-12 Conference’s glass ceiling.
UCLA plays at Stanford, currently ranked No. 5, on Saturday and at No. 2 Oregon on Oct. 26. Those two games could provide a defining moment for the Bruins, and their quarterback. And Oregon has been among the college football elite.
“Now this gets fun,” linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said. “I can’t wait for it.”
“I embrace these games,” Hundley said. “I have always said, to be the best you have to beat the best.”
The No. 11 Bruins (5-0 overall, 2-0 Pac-12) could be a top-10 team by today. Stanford might not be. The Cardinal was upset by Utah 27-21 on Saturday.
Still, these are important rungs in climbing the Pac-12 ladder. Stanford is the defending conference champion, having beaten the Bruins in the Pac-12 title game last year.
“It’s a big two weeks for us,” Hundley said. “Big-time games, big-time opponents. But big-time players make big-time plays in big-time situations. These games coming up show a lot.”
UCLA prepped for them with a less-than big-time performance. The Bears’ defense has earned a reputation for rolling over paws-up this season. Yet, the Bruins struggled to put away a California team that allowed Washington State to gain 643 yards a week earlier.
UCLA outgained the Bears (1-5, 0-3), 488 yards to 320. Hundley was hardly sharp, but he didn’t need to be. He completed 31 of 41 passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns.
He took the Bruins 97 yards to their last touchdown in the fourth quarter, finishing it with a 22-yard pass to Shaquelle Evans to massage the score.