This Saturday night will be the last time the UCLA seniors run out of the tunnel at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
"You get really, really close to these guys. You get incredibly close to them," Jim Mora said to reporters on Wednesday. "They’re your kids. They’re your family. So it gets emotional. Senior Day every year for me has gotten more emotional, more in depth, as I’ve gotten to know these guys more, and this will be the toughest one yet."
Among those running onto the field as Bruins in their last home game will be the 5th-year senior quarterbacking the offense. Mike Fafaul, who stuck it out at UCLA despite the option to transfer as a graduate student, is trying not to let the emotions of the rivalry game, and his last home game, get to him.
"I’m just treating it like every other week," Fafaul said. "Obviously there’s a heightened sense of anxiety for this game because of the weight that is has, but I’m pretty excited, and I think I’ll do pretty well."
The Bruins’ stout defensive line has a senior of its own, hoping to clog the running lanes of the athletic backs from Southern Cal on Saturday night, Eddie Vanderdoes.
"It’s surreal. Especially against a rival team like SC, so it means a lot going into this game for everybody, especially fifth year guys and stuff," Vanderdoes said. "It hasn’t really hit me yet. It’ll hit me once I hit the field right before the game."
"I love ‘em, I mean they’re my guys," Mora said. "I’ve been with those guys for five years, I met ‘em six years ago. Been watching them develop on the field and off the field, and I’ll miss them dearly."
A History of Backups Beating SC
I was not yet a Bruin in 1992, so I had to educate myself on the story of John Barnes.
"They made a movie about Rudy," Donahue continued, referring to "Rudy," the 1993 biopic about an undersized Notre Dame walk-on who played two plays in the final game of his senior season. "Rudy? Give me a break, give me a break. This is much more of a miracle."
But by 2006, I was in the Rose Bowl when Pat Cowan, helped by Bruce Davis and the UCLA defense, did just enough to knock off a Trojan team that seemed destined to play in the BCS Championship Game.
The backup, even the walk-on, has won this rivalry game as an underdog before. Can Fafaul add his own chapter to the story on Saturday night?
Mora doesn’t shy away from using history to inspire his Bruin squad.
"If you can find something, anywhere, anything that you can use to, like I said, focus, motivate, and inspire your team, you use it," Mora said. "If that means going back into the archives and finding a particular play, or a particular player, at any point in time we absolutely do that."
Fafaul said he hasn’t talked to Pat Cowan, he’s just trying to set aside the history and any distractions to focus on the game.
"I’m just trying to take it like every other game, and just go out there and prepare, and not get too caught up in the mess of everything that’s going on right now, and just focus on what I have to do," Fafaul said.
Check out more from Coach Mora, Angus McClure, Bolu Olorunfunmi, Mike Fafaul, and Eddie Vanderdoes below. Videos are courtesy of Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News.
HC Jim Mora:
DL Coach Angus McClure:
RB Bolu Olorunfunmi:
QB Mike Fafaul:
DL Eddie Vanderdoes: