Dear Mr. Football: How did UCLA shut down Ka’Deem Carey last year?
A: In his first rush during a 66-10 loss at UCLA, Carey gained 2 yards. By the time he got the ball again, the Bruins led 21-0. Game plan junked. Game over.
When the Bruins led 45-3 in the third quarter, Carey had gained 21 yards. He did not carry the ball in the final 22 minutes. I’m guessing that Bruins coach Jim Mora didn’t jot down Carey’s name on his All-Pac-12 ballot.
Carey leads the league in YUM and YAC. That’s yards-up-the-middle and yards-after-contact. Against Mora’s defense last year, he was YIP. Yards-im-possible.
Dear Mr. Football: Does UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley have a chance to break his father’s college records?
A: On letter-of-intent day 1982, Brett Hundley Sr. was subject of the most intense recruiting battle at Arizona. The track/football star from Denver couldn’t say “no.” He told Arizona coach Larry Smith he wanted to play for the Wildcats. He also told new Colorado coach Bill McCartney he wanted to be a Buffalo.
A day later, Hundley chose Arizona. He was a headliner, a 10.6 sprinter with size who went by the nickname “Sonic.” (You might wish to refer to his son as “Super Sonic.”)
Over the next five years, Hundley didn’t gain a yard at Arizona. Didn’t make a tackle. Didn’t catch a pass. Didn’t start a game. He ultimately became lost in the shuffle in a remarkable Class of ‘82 group that included game-changers David Adams, Byron Evans, Alfred Jenkins, Max Zendejas, Jon Horton and Allan Durden.
Hundley ultimately became an agent for Zendejas, helping him negotiate a contract with the Green Bay Packers. Such are the uncertainties of recruiting.
Dear Mr. Football: Was last year’s 66-10 loss at UCLA an eternal blow to Rich Rodriguez’s ego?
A: Before Arizona players charge onto the turf at Arizona Stadium, the last motivational banner they see is “Flip the Switch.” RichRod, a switch-flipper, moves on.
“I don’t believe in feeling sorry for yourself,” he says. “I don’t believe in being down in the dumps. I don’t have a lot of Dr. Phil moments with our guys. Shoot, gimme a break, you’ll be all right.”
A week after that 56-point humbling in Pasadena, Arizona beat Colorado 56-31.
Dear Mr. Football: Is UCLA’s linebacker crew the best in Pac-12 history?
A: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack have combined for 162 tackles. The fourth guy, who gets lost in the bound-for-the-NFL star search, Jordan Zumwalt, has 56 tackles.
Nobody in college football has a linebacking group like that. Not Alabama. Not Stanford.
“You assign guys to block ‘em, but they simply out-athlete ‘em,” Rodriguez says. “They make a move and the next thing you know your big guys whiff at air, and the wide receivers can’t block ‘em.”
It is not humanly (or inhumanly) possible to accurately call any linebacking unit the best in Pac-12 history, or even UCLA’s top-ever group of LBs. No chance.
In 1987, first-team all-conference linebackers Carnell Lake and Ken Norton Jr. and Chance Johnson, a 1988 first-team All-Pac-10 linebacker, led the Bruins to a 10-2 season.
It was an era of such superb linebacking that two years later, 1989, USC probably matched the ‘87 Bruins. The Trojans deployed Junior Seau and first-team all-conference LB Scott Ross, with Delmar Chesley and Michael Williams, both honorable-mention linebackers.
My vote would go to the ‘79 USC linebacking unit of all-conference players Riki (Gray) Ellison, Chip Banks and Dennis Johnson. Three. Flat-out. Stars. This UCLA group is in the same ballpark.
Dear Mr. Football: Is UCLA’s Noel Mazzone a celebrity offensive coordinator?
A: In early January 2004, Mazzone asked new Arizona coach Mike Stoops if he could call plays and design the new offense at Arizona. Mazzone was then at North Carolina State.
Stoops ultimately chose Mike Canales for the job, and Mazzone bounced around to Ole Miss and as a receivers coach with the New York Jets. He joined Dennis Erickson at ASU in 2010.
Now Mazzone, for the first time, is a coaching star. Thank you, Brett Hundley, although expectations have increased so dramatically that after the Bruins lost to Stanford last month, Mazzone told Los Angeles reporters “I want to give a shout out to my mom and my dog, because they’re the only two people that like me right now.”
Mazzone should forever send his thanks to Stoops, who made Canales the scapegoat of inferior offensive personnel inherited from John Mackovic, and fired him in 2006. No one was going to succeed in that Arizona role until Willie Tuitama grew up and Nick Foles came along.
The true star-bound assistant at UCLA is offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who has been labeled by several sources as the most powerful recruiter in Pac-12 football, in the same company with Washington defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi.
Klemm won’t be all smiles today: he is starting three true freshmen offensive linemen, guards Scott Quessenberry and Alex Redmond and tackle Caleb Benenoch.
All were elite-level, head-turning recruits Klemm wooed to UCLA. Have three true freshmen ever started on the same offensive line in Pac-12 history? Nobody has kept official records, but it is unlikely.
Dear Mr. Football: What is most telling about today’s celebration of the UA’s 1963 team on its 50th anniversary?
A: The 1963 game program at Arizona Stadium was sponsored by Viceroy cigarettes. A concert featuring The Brothers Four was held at the Student Union that week; admission was $1.50. The athletic department phone number was MA4-8181. And a feature in the game-day program on former UA distance runner George Young referred to him as “the greatest athlete the UA has ever turned out.”
But here’s what 50 years will do: season basketball tickets at old Bear Down Gym were $24, or $1.70 per game.
Dear Mr. Football: If Arizona and UCLA played a best-of-seven series at Arizona Stadium, who would win?
A: The Wildcats would likely win twice. If Hundley played effectively, maybe once.
RichRod’s description of last year’s 56-point loss at the Rose Bowl is as sobering as it is amusing. “They out-blocked us, they out-tackled us, out-ran us, out-threw us and out-coached us,” he says. “Anything and everything they could outdo, they outdid.”
RichRod’s post-game message is apt to be “flip the switch and concentrate on beating Washington State next week.” UCLA 42, Arizona 33.