They play really physical. I think the staple of their defense, the staple of their program, is that they come every week for a fistfight. The corners look extremely athletic. It's going to be another fistfight for us. We have to come ready to go. —UCLA receiver Jordan Payton
PASADENA, Calif. — Even before Oregon's unbeaten season ended in spectacular fashion Thursday, No. 8 UCLA had no intention of looking past Utah to next week's showdown with the Ducks.
Although the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have met every challenge so far this season, they haven't played well enough to think they can take anything for granted — particularly not the latest visit from the always-competitive Utes on Saturday.
"We've done a good job taking it one game at a time," UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley said. "A trap game is just a blown opportunity, and for us, every opportunity means the same as the next one down the road. We're going to take this game just as we did Virginia, Memphis, Texas, and (Arizona State)."
Hundley found top form last week after a fairly quiet start to his junior season, passing for 355 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 72 more yards in a rout of the Sun Devils. The UCLA offense finally resembled the powerhouse it was supposed to be this season, and the defense shut down a versatile attack in impressive fashion.
The Bruins tried to keep those good feelings during their extra-long week of preparation for just their second home game of the season — without looking ahead to the Ducks, of course.
Even after beating its last 11 unranked opponents by an average of nearly 19 points per game, UCLA is appropriately wary of Utah (3-1, 0-1), which is still smarting from blowing a 21-point lead in last week's embarrassing loss to Washington State.
After sweating out seven-point victories over the Utes in each of the previous two season, UCLA receiver Jordan Payton and his teammates know what to expect from the Utes.
"They play really physical," Payton said. "I think the staple of their defense, the staple of their program, is that they come every week for a fistfight. The corners look extremely athletic. It's going to be another fistfight for us. We have to come ready to go."
Here are some things to watch at the Rose Bowl:
WILSON'S REDEMPTION: Utah quarterback Travis Wilson returns to the site of his first career start, and he hopes it goes better than his first two games against UCLA. Wilson threw six interceptions against the Bruins last season, crushing the Utes' upset hopes in a 34-27 UCLA victory in Salt Lake City. Wilson has yet to throw an interception this year, but backup Kendal Thompson also is likely to play.
TURNOVER BONANZA: UCLA has forced seven turnovers this season — and four of them were turned into touchdowns, including Ishmael Adams' interception return for a score last week. While some stats are unimpressive for the UCLA defense, including those 450.8 yards per game by its opponents, that knack for finding the opposite end zone can't be underestimated by the Utes. "That's what we harp on as a defense — stripping the ball and getting interceptions," UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "Those are key to winning games, so as long as we do that, we have a good chance."
BIG-GAME CLAY: Utah's top playmaker just might be kick returner Kaelin Clay, who has taken back three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns already this season. UCLA's punt-coverage team has allowed zero yards in returns this season, setting up a meeting of strengths when — or if — the Bruins have to punt the ball.
TWO-WAY JACK: Will this be the week when UCLA coach Jim Mora finally unleashes linebacker Myles Jack in his moonlighting role as a tailback? The Pac-12's offensive and defensive freshman of the year has just 10 carries for 23 yards and a touchdown as a tailback this season.
HOMECOMING GAME: The Utes will be amply motivated to answer their home collapse against Washington State, but a big chunk of the roster will also have the motivation of friends and family in the stands. The Utes have 31 players from the southern end of California, including Wilson.