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Mora on Tempo and Playing Cal & Other Notes From Thursday's Practice

Coach Mora's post practice presser: Zumwalt back, Holmes to start, and thoughts on tempo and playing Cal

Doug Pensinger - Getty Images

(from melendezsports via YouTube)

Coach Mora met with reporters after this morning's practice and here's the news...

First off, all you students and anyone else around Westwood on Friday, take note. The Bruins will have a meetings and a walkthrough Friday morning, then will get on the team buses at 12:30 to start the trip North. If you are around the Hill or along Bruin Walk tomorrow, head over to the Acosta Center and give our team a loud sendoff. Get this road trip started right.

Jordan Zumwalt is "ready to play" this weekend, but Damien Holmes will again get the start at OLB against Cal.

He practiced. He did everything. He had his helmet on. He felt good and he's ready to play on Saturday night. ...

We're gonna start Damien out there and, you know, we'll give Jordan some time. And then going forward we'll figure out the best way to play those guys to help us win football games and play good defense.

That likely means that Ryan Hofmeister will again fill Holmes ILB spot to start the game. Holmes had an excellent game against Colorado last weekend, so the Bruins aren't giving up much on the outside, and this allows Zumwalt an easier return to game speed by coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see if Zumwalt and Holmes just rotate through the OLB spot opposite Anthony Barr, or if Holmes slides right over to ILB when Zumwalt steps in. Whomever gets in there should be licking his chops. Cal currently leads the nation in sacks given up, so let's look for our corps of linebackers to pad the Bears' lead in that category this weekend.

Mora was asked if this game against Cal means anything extra. He admitted he was (understandably) surprised to find that some fans consider this game more seriously than other games on the schedule.

I've learned that it's a little bit more significant than people would think. We get a lot of emphasis on our game versus Southern Cal, but this game versus Cal is, I guess, pretty significant as well. We try as a team not to put any extra emphasis on any one game just because we're trying to develop a level of consistency, but there's certain things you just can't control, certain vibes that just happen. And that's one of the great things about college football, one of the things I love about college football, the passion of the fans towards their university and maybe against another university. So it's pretty neat

Like Mora, I'm always surprised to hear that some people think that this game carries any more significance than our other conference games, save the one versus *$c. To me, Cal is just another conference opponent. I'll bet a lot of the fuss over this game being more meaningful is a product of the attitude of Cal fans, rather than any big difference from U.C.L.A. fans themselves. As a fellow UC school, I root for Cal as often as anyone else in the conference except Colorado as long as it doesn't hurt us. I have developed a special dislike for Oregon and UW, however.

And I do love Mora's standard reference to "Southern Cal". I can't wait until he starts pronouncing it with an $.

Mora also praised Brett Hundley's control of the offensive tempo at Colorado

We were smoother in our operation and our tempo was more like we want it to be, and I think it was partially Brett. But I think it was also...that was our fifth game and into our fifth game and getting used to what we're trying to do. You want it to start and happen right from the get go and you want be at full throttle from the get go, but that's probably not realistic. It's a new program, a new system, new coaches, new terminology. It just takes you a little while to ramp up, and I think we're starting to hit our groove a little bit there.

I commented a few times this week that our offense looked much better last week. While we didn't have any home run plays that we saw early, we saw steady methodical drives for most of the day. The offense was pretty efficient, chipping off good positive yards on most plays, moving the chains, controlling the ball and clock, and converting in the red zone. The things that stopped our offense were turnovers and penalties, and those are things we can control. I'll be just fine if we get 6 more unspectacular workmanlike touchdown drives this weekend.

Elsewhere in the news world, Chris Foster at the LAT wrote an authorized piece about Ka'imi Fairbairn yesterday and the trials the young man is going through to become a reliable place kicker.

Fairbairn lined up for a 45-yard attempt in practice Tuesday, with the entire UCLA team surrounding him and screaming and assistant coach Angus McClure tossing water in his direction.

Fairbairn made the kick.

If Foster wasn't there, I'm not sure how he saw this, but that's not the point right now.

I do know a bit about kicking footballs, and I can definitely see that over the last 4 games, Faibairn's kicks have looked really good coming off his foot, save the first PAT last Saturday which he still converted. He has corrected the low slow takeoff we saw against Rice. Now he just needs to make a slight directional adjustment.

The hash marks in college, as opposed to the NFL, are quite a bit wider than the goal posts, so more directional adjustment is required. In the pros, aiming one degree toward the center of the goal posts and then kicking the ball straight works every time. That's not good enough in college.

Ka'imi's misses from longer range have actually been very good straight kicks. The ball isn't hooking or slicing, which is important. Fairbairn just needs to adjust the initial direction of the kick at takeoff, and this again is just a subtle adjustment in technique. Unlike his assclown colleague Teej, Foster managed to get some salient points Mora considers when planning 4th down

Coach Jim Mora said a lot goes into his decision about whether to go for a field goal or a first down.

"It's important that, in a game, I make the right decision as to when to go for it and when to put him out there to help him build his confidence," Mora said.

Confidence was what Mora was concerned about Wednesday.

"I told him [Fairbairn] that I have a feeling deep down inside that when we need him to win a game he's going to make a kick to win a game," Mora said.

Hope so.

Miguel Melendez also spent some time with our kicker to learn about his motivation and influences.

With a solid foundation built around teammates, Fairbairn continues head on despite some struggles.

"I just want to really work hard for my team," Fairbairn said. "My teammates work hard every day and I just try to show up every day for them. They have my back no matter what, and I thank them for that."

Perhaps no other teammate plays a more instrumental role than Jeff Locke, the senior who dazzles with every hanging punt and brute strength behind every kickoff.

It's no wonder, then, that Fairbairn sticks close by Locke.

"He's been a big part of it," Fairbairn said. "He's a veteran. He knows what the game is so he's trying to pass that knowledge to me."

Death, taxes, and Locke. And hopefully Fairbairn, too, pretty soon.

Once again, the team is boarding the buses and leaving Friday at 12:30. Get out there and send them off in style.

Go Bruins!