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UCLA’s backfield presents unique challenge to ASU defense

The ASU defense has passed nearly every challenge it’s faced this season.

But the Pac-12’s No. 1 defense will face a unique attack when it takes on UCLA Saturday.

Rather than facing a spread, air-it-out attack like they saw from Oregon State last week or a power-based run game similar to Stanford’s, ASU will need to find a way to slow down a diverse UCLA attack led by multitalented quarterback Brett Hundley and designed by Noel Mazzone — a name familiar to ASU fans after he spent two seasons as the Sun Devils’ offensive coordinator.

“I think he’s unlike any quarterback in our league,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “To stop him, it’s going to be hard. You just have to keep him contained. Where he hurts you is with his legs and throwing the ball over the top of you.”

Hundley, a redshirt sophomore from Chandler, Ariz., has thrown for almost 2,400 yards this season — completing passes at a 68 percent rate with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s also rushed for 502 yards, and the 6-foot-3, 222-pounder can be tough to bring down in the pocket.

UCLA ranks second in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency, and the Bruins’ 37 points per game are good for third in the conference — right behind ASU’s 42.3.

But Hundley isn’t the only threat that will be lining up in UCLA’s backfield. Freshman linebacker Myles Jack has stormed onto the national scene over the past two weeks, rushing for 180 yards and five touchdowns on just 19 carries.

Though he committed to UCLA as a linebacker, Jack — a 6-foot-1, 225-pounder — was also highly recruited as a running back by a number of schools across the country.

“We wanted him … I hosted him, actually, on his visit,” ASU safety Alden Darby said. “He’s a good guy, has good character. But we’ve got to do what we do best and welcome him to Division I football.”

But ASU has a chance to clinch the Pac-12 South title with a win over the Bruins, who have won the division each of the past two years, and Graham said individual performances can’t overshadow that opportunity, which the Sun Devils have strived for since he was hired two years ago.

“This is what we worked for,” Graham said. “It’s all about this week.”