Finally, we're back in a normal football schedule, and Coach Jim Mora has his weekly press conference on a Monday. No fashion statements this time, as Coach Mora is wearing a basic black UCLA shirt, but I would love it if someone would get the reporters a microphone when they ask questions so that I'm not blasting my speakers to hear the questions.
Coach Mora's opening statement:
We're preparing for Houston, and preparations are going well. They're pretty explosive on offense. They do a lot of the same things we do offensively. A couple of their staff members played for and worked for Noel and there is a lot of similar in formations, and motions and play structures. They are a pretty dynamic offensive. I'd like to see us come out and start a little faster on defense, especially on quarterback runs than we have in the last two weeks. Offensively, they going to play a four down front, and mostly a nickel scheme, and a lot of zone, and I'm sure they'll be fired out to come out and play us. It'll be a good game.
Is Houston's QB similar to the types of QBs UCLA has played so far?
No they'll throw it more. They're more similar to us offensively than the last two teams we played. That's been an issue for us the first two games, the quarterback getting free on runs, and so we have to make sure we address that. You would assume going into any game if you have trouble with anything the next team is going to mimic it.
When asked if the defensive and offensive coaches will work together this week to scheme for Houston:
We've worked together and we've had a lot of practices together. We've seen this offense a lot on our practice field. It'll be different, because every coach has idiosyncrasies in their game plan but Noel will be busy trying to get our offense going.
When asked about our pass defense:
Good pass defense is a function of all eleven, not just the four, five or six defensive backs, and we approach it that way.
How is the player rotation going?
The hope going into any game is they don't have 77 plays against us. They (Houston) certainly showed last week the ability to stay on the field. Our guys are in shape and well trained.
One reporter observed that it seemed like the team pressured more in the four man rush at the start of the game and then adjusted the rest of the game.
We like to pressure, and get our kids feet going early in a game. If you can apply pressure on the QB and affect him as a passer with four man rush and drop seven back in coverage, you're always better off in coverage. We felt like we've been able to do that but we've also had to dial back on pressure because we've been gashed on some runs. When you're playing a mobile quarterback like the last two we've played, when you pressure, you overload a side, you attack a gap with multiple players, you vacate a gap as well and when the QB finds that vacated gap it could be a big one.
About Anthony Barr, my new favorite player on defense:
After two games he's doing well and he's still got a lot to work on. In this defensive style we play those two outside pass rushers are your primary point of pressure on the QB and both he and Jordan have done a good job.
Coming into the season, there were concerns about the offensive line and secondary. What are your concerns now?
Depth on the offensive line and depth in the secondary. (editor's note: har dee har.) It's only been two weeks and there are concerns all over the place. The offensive line so far has played well, the secondary so far has played well. It's good to see Randall Goforth get a lot of time, Ishmael Adams getting a lot of time, it's good to see Stan McKay and Dalton getting a lot of time. That's four essentially what you'd call backups so any time you can get snaps and gain experience that'll help you.
Coach Mora was then asked about what he saw in Randall Goforth:
You saw it really in his high school film, and when we got to know him on his recruiting visit there's a certain fearlessness to him. He's able to put a bad play behind him and focus on the next play. He's got the confidence because he prepares well. if you've watched him practice he practices well and he's serious in how he practices. He played well. You saw the two dropped interceptions, and that's pretty uncharacteristic of Randall, he has very good hands. He had a chance to start the game and end the it with the interception and they bounced off his hands. I don't think that'll happen again.
Are there areas that Goforth could grow?
I saw what I thought I was going to see - a kid that played consistently and with confidence and overcame his mistakes and came back and made good plays.
About Simon Goines:
He's done a good job, and still needs to work on a lot of things, as does everyone on our team, but what you see out of Simon is more the way he works during the week that makes the impression on you. He's very focused in practice He is working hard and he's learning all the details of his position and it has manifested itself in the first two weeks with good solid play in the games.
When pressed about Brett Hundley:
He's good and fine. He's upgraded to fine. He is not in a boot.
With the rankings, does it make it harder to guard against a let down this week?
That's the spirit!
We'd like to take this opportunity to yet again congratulate Johnathan Franklin on being named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second week in a row. Franklin decimated the Nebraska defense, setting a career high in rushing yards with 217 while also bringing in 59 yards receiving. He has surpassed the 3,000 yard mark in his UCLA career and is currently the leading rusher in the country.
For perspective on how big of a deal this is for UCLA, consider this tidbit from the main site:
Franklin becomes UCLA's first back-to-back Pac-12 weekly award winner since 1997, when kicker Chris Sailer was named Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week (Oct. 4 and Oct. 11). UCLA has not had the same player earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of Week honors in multiple weeks. UCLA last had back-to-back Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week selections in 1995 - Johnathan Ogden on Sept. 2 and Karim Abdul-Jabbar on Sept. 9.
It has been a long, long time. Are we starting to come out of the abyss? I hope so.