Coach Mora's Thursday post-practice presser started with a rapid fire of stupid questioning from Chris Foster who had nothing smart or substantive to ask Mora. Instead he brought up silly, superficial questions which had nothing about the game.
When other reporters finally got to ask him questions it was about the "hoopla" around Saturday's game. Mora navigated those questions well and offered up general comments about "managing emotions." He did acknowledge the "buzz" out there about the game but at least in public he is not showing any signs of being phased by it. I like his demeanor so far and hopefully it will pay off for him in the biggest regular season game of his career. WATCH:
There was one football specific question about how both teams being able to rush the QBs. Here were Mora's take on keys to rushing Barkley (rough transcript from the video):
The key to being able to rush the passer is getting into situations where you got them in passing situations. We got to win on first down. Get it second and long. On second down, keep it third and long, and have a chance to rush. But if it's always 3rd and 3 & he can take a 3-step and get rid of it, it doesn't matter how well you rush the passer because you don't have a chance to get there.
Something to keep in mind while we are watching on Saturday. Hopefully our front-7 is going to be able to generate the kind of pass rush needed to throw Barkley off rhythm early in the game.
I also liked his response to the last question when a reporter try to trap him by asking a question about whether he thinks UCLA has an advantage against Southern Cal. His response was (rough transcript):
I haven't thought of what advantage we have and what advantage they have. Think it always comes back to getting yourself in the right frame & going out and executing & playing hard and taking care of the football. Doing the things you're trained to do. Managing the environment. It's going to be intense in there. Having the maturity to be able to handle that. It's going to be chaotic during the game at times.
Of course reporters like Peter Yoon are completely missing the point while interpreting Mora's demeanor calling perspective on the rivalry "naïve." It's amusing because Yoon also dismissed the issue regarding the Trojan clown stabbing our logo as "minor" which indicates he doesn't really have any clue about the intensity of rivalry between the fanbases. Anyway, Yoon on one hand reports how players are talking about Mora getting them to focus this week:
"He taught us to focus," safety Dalton Hilliard said. "Not only have we not talked about this game at all this year before this week but there hasn't been any discussion of Southern Cal at all. It's amazing that this man has been able to keep us focused every week on that opponent only. We haven't looked ahead at all this year."
While on the other he takes it as if Mora is not preparing for this game with a different mindset. Anyone, who has been associated with this program for a while and has followed this program on a day-to-day basis for last couple of decades, knows in the background Mora is going to have our guys fired up. Someone needs to show Yoon this video and ask him if thinks Mora is not fired up:
The entire Bruin Nation knows the success in Mora's first year depends on Saturday and without a victory on Saturday this season will be a disappointment.
There weren't any updates on our injury issues. If anyone stumbles into that info, please share them in the comment threads. ICYMI Chris Foster did write a decent piece on Jerry Neuheisel who has been playing the role of scout team QB this season. The following grafs on the relationship between Mora and Neuheisel were pretty cool:
"I told Jerry, 'You and I are the same guy,'" Mora said. "We're both coaches' kids. I know how personal it can become when your father is asked to leave a place or loses his dream job."
The talk helped.
"You'd rather it would happen to you than your dad," Neuheisel said. "I know my dad is the biggest supporter of UCLA football, even today."
The relationship between coach and the son of the ex-coach has grown. Mora has been impressed with how players gravitate to Neuheisel.
"When the guys were throwing the ball around on Saturdays in the spring, I could go watch," Mora said. "When they put music on, it would be Jerry's, stuff like Fleetwood Mac, and all of them liked it. Most of those guys don't listen to Fleetwood Mac."
Fleetwood Mac? Well I never cared about "Tusk" but I do like this:
That will be buzzing in our heads all day on Friday.