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UCLA Football Looks to Move on Past Last Week

The Bruins look to put last week’s debacle in their rearview mirror and head into Oklahoma looking to improve over last week’s performance.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at UCLA
Atonio Mafi didn’t find out he was starting last week’s game until the day before.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday morning, Chip Kelly met with the media for the final time before tomorrow’s game against Oklahoma. He had no update on Wilton Speight or the quarterback situation.

While Kelly offered no update, Ben Bolch of the LA Times did. Bolch writes:

UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight, recovering from a back injury sustained in the opener, threw several short warmup passes in practice Wednesday before watching his counterparts roll out and throw as part of a drill.

It was the first time this week that Speight had thrown during the portion of practice open to reporters, but Dorian Thompson-Robinson continued to take the first-team quarterback repetitions.

He was asked about Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Kelly said. He continued:

Obviously, he was a very, very high pick in the Baseball Draft and you can see his athleticism. I’d hate to have to get him in a run-down if I was baseball player because I don’t think you could. He can really move. But he also throws the ball very, very well. He’s not just a runner back there. He can beat you with his arm and he’s got a bunch of talent around him. He’s as good of an athlete as we’ll face at the quarterback spot.

Switching sides of the ball, Kelly offered his thoughts on the Sooners’ defense:

They’re sound. Mike’s always done a really good job. He’s a defensive coach. I faced him a lot when he was at Arizona as a head coach He does an outstanding job and they’ve got a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. Their linebackers are active. They’re big and stout across the defensive line and they’ve got some secondary guys that can really cover. So, they’re not going to give you anything. You’re not going to get any unforced errors out of them. They’re going to make sure that they’re sound in their approach and they’re covered down. You’re not going to get any gimmes where you can, “Hey, we can do this and sneak somebody by them.” You’re not going to do that. It’s a really, really well-coached team that’s really athletic.

Thanks to Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online for sharing all of today’s interviews including Chip Kelly’s interview.

After practice, Jaelan Phillips spoke about the defense against Cincinnati.

“I thought that, overall, we looked really good,” Phillips said. “I thought we played with great energy. I thought we flew around to the ball. Obviously, there are some things that we need to clean up, but, overall, I was really happy with how we played.”

Phillips continued, “Coach Azz definitely stressed to us all throughout fall camp and in practices, emphasizing that we need to run to the ball and that we need to fly around. I think everyone kind of took in that mentality and definitely embraced that. So, that was good.”

Phillips also discussed the halftime adjustments that were made in Saturday’s game against Cincinnati. “I just think we needed to refocus a little bit.” he said. “I think, as the game goes on, you can kind of lose sense of what you’re doing. So, you get the opportunity to go back in there, discuss what was going on, discuss what the plan was and go out there and execute it.”

They just let us know what exactly we did wrong, what we need to fix, but I think, for the most part, we’ve been playing a long enough where you kind of self-adjust almost, but like I said, just refocusing and getting back out there and getting back into the swing of things.”

Thanks again to Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online for sharing Jaelan Phillips interview.

Freshman Atonio Mafi played in his first game on Saturday. He mentioned that he found out he’d be starting the day before the Cincinnati game. Mafi spoke about what the defense needs to do to be successful against Oklahoma. “We just have to read our keys, definitely, and just listen to Coach Azz and his play calls, and, especially, just tackle better this week,” he said. “But if we just trust in the coaches and just do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine. It’s just the crowd and the stadium, obviously, but it’s just another 11 bodies on the field. So it’s just 11-on-11.”

Mafi’s interview is also courtesy of Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online.

Caleb Wilson met with the media after practice on Tuesday and discussed what it was like to be back at the Rose Bowl and how the team can get better. “We can definitely be more efficient in tempo and execution and a lot of different things,” he said. “So, I think it’ll get better as we progress and continue to learn and get accustomed to the offense, I think it’ll get better and better.”

Thanks again to Bruin Report Online’s Matt Joye for sharing Caleb Wilson’s interview.

Also after practice on Tuesday, Christaphany Murray gave his first interview as a Bruin. He focused on the experience of not just his first college game, but also his first start. Murray didn’t know he would be starting until gameday.

“When coach told me before the game, you know, I knew that he had faith in me to play and lead the line,” Murray said. “Throughout the week, me and Sweeney were in competition, going head to head. Both playing well. Both playing great. It went all the way up to the beginning of the game. Coach told me that I’m going to go out with the first team. I was just excited. That’s like a one-time-in-life experience. I was just glad that he had faith in me and I’m glad that he thought that I could do what I needed to do.”

He also spoke about his transition to center and how UCLA Bruins alum and Mater Dei line coach Chris Ward worked with him before he came to Westwood. “The biggest transition was just having the ball in my hand,” he said.

Murray spoke about what he learned from his first game. He said:

Some of the things I learned...come out...come out faster...come out way faster. As a freshman in my first game, I was trying to come in and feel stuff out, but there’s no time for feeling out. So first play, I’ve just got to come out and smack. Another thing is just knowing I’ve got to the left and to the right veterans. So, just look to them for any help that I need. I’ve got Justin Murphy to the right of me and I’ve got Mike Alves. Both have played in plenty of games. So I can always go to them if I need any help.

While many Bruin fans may not be very optimistic about UCLA’s chances this week, Murray sounded optimistic when he spoke about the Oklahoma Sooners. “They’re another good team, another physical, upfront team,” he said. “We’re going to come with a good game plan this week and come out fast...a fast tempo. The coaches are going to have us prepared for this game.”

Well, all Bruin fans certainly hope so.

Thanks one more time to Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online for sharing Christaphany Murray’s interview.

Tomorrow, we’ll get to find out how good of a job the coaches have done preparing this team to face the Sooners.

Go Bruins!