When is Monday like a Wednesday? When you play on a Thursday. So today is sort of like an early hump day for the Bruins football team, which would make the Geico camel (dromedary) go berserk.
To add to that altered schedule, Coach Mora altered his own schedule and didn't meet with the press today, but both Coach Mazzone and Coach Spanos took time afterward to discuss the upcoming matchup against Utah. Utah has been a notoriously tough place to play, but I think that speaks more to the Utah team as opposed to altitude and weather and stuff like that. Interestingly, Utah is going with the blackout theme this Thursday for the national audience. Let's hope it works for the Utes like Nebraska's did them.
On the offensive side, OC Noel Mazzone noted he's been facing Utah and their coaching staff for a while so he is familiar with how well prepared the Utes are for every opponent. From Jack Wang at InsideUCLA:
Head coach Kyle Whittingham has kept defensive coordinator Kalani Fifita Sitake on his staff for all nine of his years in Salt Lake City, though the latter spent the first four as linebackers coach.
Mazzone's offensive preparation last year really had to concern itself with addressing the Utes' great defensive lineman Star Lotulelei. Now with Lotulelei gone, he thinks their front four might be even better as a group this year, which adds to the challenge of playing against them. He complimented the Utes for always being well coached and playing tough, and we have seen that in our previous meetings with them. Nothing has been easy and sometimes it has been downright ugly. The Bruins offense is really going to need to be sharp and efficient this Thursday.
An interesting moment came up in the interview when Mazzone was asked what the Bruins need to do to start more quickly on their opening drives compared to how they come out in the third quarter. Mazzone seemed a little surprised and asked if our first drives haven't been very good. He then pointed out that the offense has only punted 3 times, but then added that the coaching staff does focus on the importance of coming out fast. I wonder if Mazzone will just ignore that interaction as the writers looking for an angle (which it is, in part), or if he'll consider that there may be something to that concern (which there is, in part).
I think it's been pretty evident in each game that our team got stronger as the game progressed, and that may be due to the offense and defense coming out in base packages for the first few series and then adapting as the game progresses, especially after halftime. Personally, I'm pretty comfortable with our offensive approach. While it can be a bit frustrating or nerve wracking for the first quarter or two, as long as we win going away, I'm not going to complain too much about the time frame of it, with the caveat that getting down to Nebraska or being close with Nevada in the first half won't be good enough against Oregon or Stanford. Or maybe even Utah. So we'll see.
Here is the entire interview with Coach Mazzone below. Thanks as always go to Ed Lewis with Bruin Sports Report for the coverage.
The defensive side of the ball has me more concerned right now, and that is not a comment on our team as much as it is on Utah's. The Utes have the country's 16th best offense and have faced 3 good teams so far (Utah St, Oregon St, BYU) while we have only played a still undefined Nebraska team, so their numbers are legitimate. Also, like U.C.L.A., Utah had a bye last week so they have had the same amount of time to look at us as we have at them (another reason I think our play calling was intentionally bland against New Mexico State).
DC Lou Spanos noted first off that the Utes have a good offensive line, which you know resonates with me. The O line play has allowed a lot of room for QB Travis Wilson to be very effective through the air and on the ground. Spanos noted that Wilson is a different type of runner from Nevada's Cody Fajardo and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, but his maturity and development since last year is paying off for his decision making and execution. The Utes' scheme has not changed fundamentally but it has "expanded" since last season and made them a more "explosive team". Sounds like there will be a premium on the play of the front 7 to control the line of scrimmage and keep Wilson contained and under pressure.
The entire interview with Coach Spanos is pretty short and the video is below. Thanks again go to Ed Lewis with Bruin Sports Report for the coverage.
Staying onthe defensive side, Chris Foster at the LAT had a few notes on stud freshman linebacker Myles Jack who has earned himself . While Jack has proven that he can play with the big boys already, he also has the advantage of being surrounded by some pretty good players to help him develop
The Bruins have two seniors, Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt, and one junior, Eric Kendricks, at the other starting linebacker spots.
"Their experiences, what they have been through, really help me," Jack said. "AB leads by example. I try to emulate him the best I can. Eric gives me a lot of advice, like where to line up in pass packages. Jordan tells me what not to do."
I've always thought of the LB crew in '87 with Chance Johnson, Carnell Lake, Ken Norton Jr., and Melvin Jackson as being the best Bruin LB corps I can think of, but this current LB crew certainly has it in them to be better than that.