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Are the Bruins Back? UCLA Busts Out in Dominating Sun Bowl Win

Duke Keith

It was a beautiful day for football but, sadly, Virginia Tech’s game was like the winter weather they left — cold and icy. Try as they might, the Hokies’ offense could never get the traction it needed to support a solid defensive effort, while UCLA dominated the final three quarters for a 42-12 win in the 80th Hyundai Sun Bowl.

So, the questions begin. Has Frank Beamer lost his touch in Hokie-land? Is UCLA ready to  return to the Rose Bowl In 2014?

The jury is out on Beamer for now, but Florida State’s dominance in an increasingly-crowded ACC isn’t helping the Beamerball brand in Blacksburg.

As for the Bruins, it was a slow start, but UCLA looked good on both sides of the ball. The Bruins should be contenders in the Pac-12 South next season. Provided the team stays intact, it looks to have enough juice to deal with the Arizona’s young guns and a USC squad that will want to perform for the returning Steve Sarkisian, who coordinated the Trojans’ offense in their glory years.

Arizona State? Please. UCLA may have lost to ASU this season, but the Sun Devils will need a better effort against a middle-of-the-pack Big XII team to be taken seriously.

UCLA certainly looked much better than Virginia Tech on New Year’s Eve. Wins like this do a lot to replace questions with statements going into future campaigns, although it took a bit for things to gel for the Bruins in El Paso Tuesday afternoon.

Murky in the early going for both teams, the Suns of Westwood eventually burst through, courtesy of a stellar performance from sophomore QB Brett Hundley who finished with 387 yards of total offense, including 161 yards rushing — a new Sun Bowl record for quarterbacks.

The clouds began to clear for the Bruins just over five minutes into the second quarter when Hundley broke free for an 86-yard touchdown run. The run snapped a 7-7 tie and UCLA never looked back.

Hundley’s performance earned him co-MVP honors along with LB Jordan Zumwalt, who had 10 tackles and an interception. It also prompted this question to Hundley in the post-game press conference: is he primed to go pro?

Hundley told the media to check out his Twitter feed for the answer. Somehow, I’m not seeing a crush of followers to come.

As dominating as his performance was, Hundley picked up 59 of his 226 passing yards with a garbage-time touchdown pass to Shaq Evans.

The rest was fine for a game against an increasingly dispirited Hokies team, but just over 50 percent (16-of-29) passing is hardly stellar. Depending on who else comes out, he could be the fifth or sixth QB on Mel Kiper’s Big Board.

As for the team on the other end of that 30-point margin, Virginia Tech’s best chance to bang with the Bruins probably ended with the second quarter injury to Hokies’ starting signal caller Logan Thomas.

Three plays after an incredible 25-yard scramble where he seemed to carry the entire Bruins’ defense at different points in the run, Thomas was laid out by Zumwalt with a forearm that landed just under Thomas’ chin.

Zumwalt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but the damage to Virginia Tech’s offense outweighed the 15-yard gain. Junior quarterback Mark Leal never looked comfortable as Thomas’ replacement and the Hokies’ offense never looked like a threat again.

Hundley’s touchdown run came right after Va. Tech’s drive sputtered to a halt with its starting QB on the sideline taking a concussion test.

Despite playing for just over a quarter, Thomas finished as the Hokies’ leading rusher with 49 yards.

That said, The Bruins earned their 10th victory of the season, their first with double-digit wins since their last Sun Bowl appearance, a 50-38 win over Northwestern in 2005. It caps an impressive season for second-year coach Jim Mora, Jr., and finishing on a high note sets a high standard for a program eager to return to glory.

It’s been a long time since UCLA played a bowl game in their Pasadena home; but everyone knows — to grow Roses, you need some Sun.

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