Thursday saw UCLA participate in a morning practice that Coach Mora called "one of the better practices so far this year." For those of you keeping track at home, that would be #8 on the "best practice of the year" list so far for Mora, who at least admitted that he "sounds like a broken record."
But it is nice to see that UCLA is apparently focusing on fixing the small details. Small details like the penalty monster that has plagued UCLA under Mora. As Mora stated during his interview:
I think it is hard to tell until you get in the game. We’ve had the officials in I think 4 times now and I’ve asked them to call things extremely tight. I said "let’s go overboard"; anything that’s even close, it’s been very ticky-tack, and we haven’t had a lot of flags when the officials have been here.
Well, now I feel at ease, knowing the refs have been at practice to explain what is and isn’t a penalty. Hopefully, they continue to explain these subtle variances during the games when the rules can apparently change on a whim.
Later in that same interview, Mora stated:
And there’s some penalties that are going to happen in football, and there’s ones that you really need to make sure that you hone in on and avoid. The red zone penalties have been an Achilles heel for us, we have to make sure we’re doing a better job there. Some of the aggressive penalties, sometimes they happen. That doesn’t mean you say it’s ok, but you have to classify what type of penalty it is and why it happened. Always address it and understand that sometimes they’re going to happen, but don’t accept it.
So, there you have it. The answer to what Mora writes in his little notebook during the games. No, he wasn’t trying to answer a sudoku puzzle like some may have thought, but he’s classifying and registering all the penalties that UCLA accrues.
In all seriousness, though, it is hard to take Mora’s words here at face value. The penalty issue isn’t a recent phenomena, but rather a constant presence in the Jim Mora era and, much like beating Stanford, the Bruins have reached the "show, don’t tell" stage of the conversation. Of course, an opening day tilt against Texas A&M would be the perfect opportunity to debut these new, more disciplined Bruins.
Writers love when they can tie things together thematically and luckily for me the UCLA players were willing to oblige me on that front by sticking to the script on detail-oriented play. Soso Jamabo talked in his interview about the little things he’s been working on with the help of Coach Polamalu and how he’s become "more physical". Nate Iese discussed his focus on blocking, specifically getting more physical to help out the offensive line, and on the importance of "repetition, repetition, and technique". Ishmael Adams discussed his study of the playbook, and how his focus on the defensive end translated to learning the offense.
The big bit of news yesterday was that UCLA started trying out the new uniforms. The offense got the chance to wear the new road uniforms for the year, with the defense getting the chance today. Please note that shoulder stripe, which Adidas finally managed to figure out in the final year of their deal. Hopefully, Under Armour can master the difficult techniques required to pull off this feat of apparel engineering faster than Adidas did.
Injury update: Coach Mora stated that Deon Hollins suffered a setback on Wednesday and was held out of practice today. UCLA still has a week before Texas A&M, so there’s still time to get healthy and close to 100% for that game.
#MiqueWatch Update: Nothing and will be nothing for the foreseeable future.
Thanks again to Edward Lewis for the videos.