PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Brett Hundley realizes every win can't be suitable for framing. Instead of trying to make masterpieces every week, the freshman is fine with pounding out victories that keep UCLA moving up the Pac-12 standings.
Hundley passed for 183 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 68 yards and another score, and UCLA's defense largely shut down Utah in a 21-14 victory Saturday.
Johnathan Franklin rushed for 79 yards and a TD for the Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12), who bounced back solidly from a blowout loss to California that knocked them out of the Top 25 last weekend. UCLA did little to dazzle the Rose Bowl crowd, but also never got seriously threatened by a perennial bowl team.
"The offense is doing a great job of staying poised, even if we're only getting 3 yards a play," Hundley said. "We have the ability to keep grinding it out. Utah is an amazing defense, and they played their hearts out. This was big for us."
With its best start to a season since 2007, UCLA is just one win away from bowl eligibility for the second straight year. The Bruins thought their comprehensively solid effort against Utah suggested they can do even more.
"We're too good to be just bowl-eligible," said UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria, who caught three passes for 41 yards. "That's the old UCLA. We're trying to be a lot better than that. We took a big step today."
Hundley went 15 for 21 in another impressive performance against a strong defense, showing off his smarts and athleticism while leading several lengthy drives. The freshman also demonstrated toughness after tweaking his knee on the first snap of the game, gathering himself during a quick timeout and playing on.
"He is elusive," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We made him appear more elusive than he is, because we didn't maintain our discipline on the pass rush. We did a very poor job with that."
Shaq Evans caught a 64-yard TD pass as Hundley won a duel with Travis Wilson, Utah's freshman quarterback. Wilson passed for 220 yards in his first career start, but the Utes (2-4, 0-3) lost their third straight.
UCLA's defense shut out the Utah offense until Wilson led a 90-yard drive capped by Jon Hays' 1-yard TD pass to Dres Anderson with 3:16 to play. But Franklin picked up a crucial first down with 2 minutes left, and UCLA ran the clock down to its final seconds before Utah's last play went nowhere.
"It may not be beautiful, and not (have) great stats, but there is something to winning these gut-grinders, these tough ones," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "When you are trying to develop teams, it's about learning. Not every game is going to be a blowout. You have to learn how to win these."
Anderson, the son of former UCLA receiver Flipper Anderson, had nine catches for 70 yards for the Utes, who have never won at the Rose Bowl. Utah is off to another winless start in Pac-12 play after starting 0-4 last year before a strong finish.
Utah got its only points of the first three quarters when Ryan Lacy recovered a muffed punt return by UCLA's Steven Manfro in the end zone late in the first quarter.
"I don't think it feels any better, (but) we're more competitive, I can tell you that," Whittingham said. "We're a better football team than we were last year. I can say that without hesitation. Our record doesn't say that, but I feel like we're better prepared to compete in this conference."
After an unimpressive effort by Utah's offense last week against Southern California, Whittingham shook up his lineup by giving the start to Wilson, a product of Orange County's San Clemente High School who had played in every game this season as a backup. Hays had started the Utes' past three games since they lost Jordan Wynn to a career-ending shoulder injury.
"Overall, I think we did all right," said Wilson, who had known he would start since midweek. "But there's a lot of things we need to do better. We've still got a lot of areas to improve, and they're a tough defense."
But Andrew Abbott intercepted a tipped pass by Wilson on the freshman's opening drive, and UCLA mounted a 13-play scoring march capped by Hundley's expert ball fake on a 12-yard TD run up the middle.
After UCLA opened the second half by stopping Utah on fourth down at the Bruins 34, Hundley calmly engineered a 14-play scoring drive capped by Franklin's 3-yard TD run.
Utah finally got moving in the waning minutes, reaching the UCLA 3 with a trick play featuring receiver DeVonte Christopher throwing a 23-yard pass to Wilson.
Wilson then rushed inside the UCLA 1 on third down, but his helmet came off on the play, forcing Hays to take his first snap. The senior calmly hit Anderson, who stretched over the goal line for Utah's first offensive TD.