Arizona-UCLA Preview

The last time UCLA dropped three straight home games, it was 43 years ago at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Avoiding a repeat of that scenario would provide it with a crucial win in the tight race for the Pac-12 South Division lead.

Brett Hundley and the 25th-ranked Bruins are in fifth place but one game out of first, and they can leapfrog one of the teams they’re chasing when they face No. 14 Arizona at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.

The Bruins (6-2, 3-2) haven’t lost three in a row at home since going 0-5 at the Coliseum in 1971. They moved their home games to Pasadena permanently in 1982.

"We’ve struggled a little bit at home as everyone knows so this is going to be a great test," coach Jim Mora said.

UCLA look to make it three straight wins overall after pulling out two tight road victories, 36-34 over California on Oct. 18 and 40-37 in double overtime over Colorado last Saturday.

Hundley, second in the nation in completion percentage at 70.8, still views the Bruins as contenders.

”There have been tight games, but we have pulled through in a lot of them, and (we) understand that we still have the opportunity to do what we need to do and to get to where we want to go, which is the Pac-12 championship,” he said. ”We can still do it.”

One game separates the top five teams in the six-team division, with Arizona (6-1, 3-1) tied for second with No. 18 Utah.

UCLA dropped five straight in this series before Hundley joined the program two years ago. He has thrown for 515 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions with a 77.4 completion percentage in two consecutive wins over the Wildcats.

Hundley has also rushed 24 times for 72 yards and two scores in those games. That’s a major point of emphasis for Arizona this week.

"The biggest difference preparing for him is his willingness to run, and when he does run, he is fast," Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He is a big guy that breaks a lot of tackles. You will see a lot of times that someone thinks they’ve got him pinned up or tackled, but he will break through an arm tackle."

Hundley leads all quarterbacks in the conference with 415 rushing yards. Arizona’s Anu Solomon is third at 191.

The Bruins will get their first look at Solomon, third in the Pac-12 with 2,430 passing yards with 20 touchdowns to four interceptions. Solomon turned in his first five-touchdown effort with 294 yards and no interceptions in last Saturday’s 59-37 win at Washington State.

Rodriguez has been impressed with the maturity of the redshirt freshman.

"We call plays and approach the offense like he is a veteran, and we really have since he started in the first game," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes I have to sit back and remember that this is first time he has seen some of these defensive plays or situations."

The Bruins were concerned about their poor defensive play last weekend against the Buffaloes, the worst team in the South Division. UCLA allowed an opponent to rush for more than 200 yards for the third time in four games.

That didn’t sit well with linebacker Myles Jack, who knows that the Bruins cannot afford a similar effort against the high-powered Wildcats.

”We can’t have a lapse against them, or it is going to be a high-scoring game and we’re going to be very embarrassed at the end,” Jack said. ”We are going to have to come out guns blazing and maintain that throughout the whole game.”

The multi-dimensional Jack rushed for 120 yards on six carries with a touchdown in a 31-26 victory at Arizona on Nov. 9.

The Wildcats feature a rushing tandem of Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby that has totaled 1,018 yards. UCLA boasts the Pac-12’s second-leading rusher in Paul Perkins, who is four yards shy of 1,000.

Arizona won two straight meetings at the Rose Bowl before a 66-10 defeat two years ago that was UCLA’s biggest win in 15 years.

"We beat them the last two years so I am sure that’s on their minds," Mora said. "And we see that they’re ranked No. 14 and that’s well deserved so that’s on our mind."