Brett Hundley (Jr., 6-3, 226) has not looked like a Heisman candidate, but he has still been an above average Pac-12 quarterback. He has completed 191 of 269 pass attempts (71%) for 2245 yards, 15 TDs, and only 4 INTs. He's also run for an impressive 546 yards (considering that sack yardage is subtracted from QB rushing totals in college) and 5 additional TDs.
Perhaps people expected a huge step forward, but Hundley's 2014 campaign has actually been a slight statistical improvement upon the 2013 that earned him so much praise. In terms of yards per attempt, Hundley's 8.3 this season is identical to the 8.3ypa he managed last year. His completion percentage has improved almost 5%, and while his touchdowns are slightly down (on pace for around 22 instead of 24 in '13), he's also on pace to throw fewer interceptions.
He's accurate, very mobile, and even when the offense struggles, he can still be counted on to complete at least 65% of his passes and throw more touchdowns than interceptions.
However, he does have one major weakness...
These guys! Despite Hundley's above average running talent, this line has still allowed him to be sacked 29 times, by far the most sacks allowed in the conference. For context, Washington's much-maligned line has only given up 19 sacks.
Injuries definitely contributed to the early-season incompetence, but Saturday's win over Arizona was the 3rd straight week with the same starting five lineman, and the Wildcats still sacked Hundley four times. Considering that Washington has tallied 37 total sacks compared to Arizona's 22, Kikaha and the rest of the Husky defensive front should eat.
As far as I can tell, this is the starting five that will take the field Saturday: LT Conor McDermott (6-9. 295), LG Malcolm Bunche (Sr., 6-6, 310), C Jake Brendel (Jr., 6-4, 290), RG Scott Quessenberry (So., 6-4, 308), RT Caleb Benenoch (Jr., 6-5, 305).
Pass protections issues aside, the run game has been extremely productive. I haven't watched enough tape to assign responsibility for that success more to the skill of the running backs or the run-blocking prowess of the line, but it's safe the say the big uglies deserve a fair share of the credit.
Paul Perkins (So., 5-11, 198) is the feature back. He has carried the ball 171 times for 1074 yards (6.28ypc) and 6 TDs. Hundley, as we've already discussed, is 2nd on the team with over 500 yards rushing. Jordan James (Sr., 5-9, 193) is listed as the backup, but he has only carried the ball five times in the last two games. Nate Starks (Fr., 5-11, 205) may have stolen his job, as he carried 5 times to James' 1 in Saturday's game.
We all know about Myles Jack the two-way threat. He's mostly stuck to defense this season with the exception of some short-yardage work. He's scored 3 TDs, but has averaged only 3.23 yards per carry on a mere 22 carries. He did carry the ball a season-high six times against Arizona, but he managed only 13 total yards.
Unless Mora decides to change up his offensive game-plan in order to feed into the LB-turned-RB narrative, Shaq should be the only defender making a consistent impact on offense.
Jordan Payton (Jr., 6-1, 213), who some of you may remember for committing to both Cal and Washington, has developed into Hundley's primary target with 53 catches, 783 yards, and 7 TDs. His production has been very steady throughout the year. His season low in yards and catches came early against Texas, and he still caught 4 balls for 64 yards and a touchdown. He is fresh off of his 2nd best game of the year, with 6 catches, 119 yards, and a score in the narrow win over Arizona.
Thomas Duarte (So., 6-3, 223) was also a UW target once upon a time. He has been the team's 2nd most productive receiver, with 18 catches, 329 yards, and 2 TDs. Eldridge Massington (RSFr., 6-3, 210), another big body, is right behind him with 21 catches for 323 yards and 2 TDs. Devin Fuller (Jr, 6-0, 195) is actually the third starter over Massington. He is 4th on the team with 299 yards, but his 39 catches are second only to Payton.
A quarterback that will be playing on Sundays soon, a back that has already cracked 1,000 yards on the year while averaging over six yards per carry, and a solid corps of big-bodied receivers. It is the offensive line that holds this offense back from being something really special. As is, the Bruins are the 6th best scoring offense in the conference (33ppg) and the 4th best in terms of yards per play (6.21).
Hundley will complete a high percentage of his passes, and the run game will always be a threat. It's been mostly unavoidable. Peters continues to play at an All-Conference level, but we've seen opposing quarterbacks find some success against young defensive backs like Sidney Jones and Budda Baker, and that's unlikely to change in this contest.The key will be to force Hundley to settle for short and intermediate completions, and to limit yards after the catch by tackling well (something Washington did not do against Colorado).
On the ground, Perkins is the type of runner that keeps a defense very honest. If Washington fails to play fundamentally sound defense against the run, he will make them pay. If Washington misses tackles like last week, he could have a monster day. Especially with Shaq focusing on the offensive side of the ball, guys like Timu, Littleton and Feeney (who had a great game last week) really need to step up.
Washington is 2nd in the conference in sacks and 2nd in turnover margin (+11). That is the identity of this defense: sacks and turnovers. UCLA is 12th in sacks allowed and 11th in turnover margin (-1). I trust that UCLA will be able to sustain drives throughout the game. The key for Washington will be to kill those drives by pressuring the quarterback and manufacturing mayhem.