It's game week folks! I don't know about you, but I am nervous with excitement. With all the improvement we saw last year with the team and the program in general, there are still way too many unknowns. We will find out a lot more about what kind of team, coach and program we have after this season. But as always, the goal is consistency of the good kind.
In any case, here is Coach Mora after practice today:
First and foremost, enjoy your first...and last injury report of the season:
- Johnny Johnson is out for the rest of the season after his planned shoulder surgery tomorrow. It's too bad because he was playing well enough to be involved this year, at a position where our depth and experience is limited (CB). We wish him a great recovery.
- John Lopez (OG), Luke Gane (FB), Aaron Porter (LB) and Ian Taubler (DE) all still show symptoms of concussion and will not play this week.
- Zach Vinci (DE) is nursing a hamstring injury, and Mike Carlson (S) will be having knee surgery.
Everyone else is available for Saturday. And yes, that means Anthony Barr is...fine! All in all, we can knock on wood that the team gets to start the season relatively healthy, despite these injuries and some medical retirements.
The practice today consisted entirely of preparations for the Nevada game. The team will do that again 2 or 3 more times this week.
The game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday was quite helpful. The team was able to get used to the routine by essentially going through the entire game day experience, from a night at the hotel to the chain gang on the field and the pumped in noise. Given the youth on the team, this could be quite helpful.
Some walk-on players earned scholarships recently:
- Malcolm Jones was praised for his hard work, his attitude and his humility in his comeback effort.
- Melvin Emesibe was characterized as the epitome of a college football player with a great attitude and a lot of selflessness (he scored a very popular TD against Arizona last year)
- Logan Sweet, who had a rough time before college and nearly left after last year, has not only worked himself back but has become a sort of role model.
- And finally, Tre' Hale, who is apparently one of the hardest workers on the team, on and off the field, in practice, in the weight room.
Very big congratulations to these guys, who more than anyone know the value of a scholarship. If anything, it is a great reward for their hard work and dedication. There is still one scholarship left to give away and the coaches have not yet decided to whom it will go.
As discussed heavily in our preseason analysis, a key to this season will be Brett Hundley avoiding sacks. He was sacked 52 times last year, nearly 4 times a game. Although part of it could be the number of plays UCLA runs, that is still a large number. Bring it down to 2-3 times a game would be quite significant, as a sack can have rather momentum-killing effects and changes the mindset of the offensive playcaller. Between what should be an improved offensive line and better decision-making from Brett, this seems quite achievable.
Not surprisingly, the big key on defense will be to avoid allowing big plays. Easier said than done with our young secondary, but what they lack in experience they make up for in talent. For all their experience, Hester and Price still made many mistakes last year. Reducing penalties will also be a key factor.
That is all for today folks. Feel that excitement brewing...it's almost Game Day!