Do you beat Oregon?
That's why we play the games. We'll find out.
Jim Mora met the media after Thursday's practice and there wasn't much new from the head coach. Given the relative ups and downs of the season, we're hearing the coaching staff go further into coach speak lately and we aren't getting as much of the insight as we have in the past during the days in San Bernardino or when things were going as expected. I don't know if that means the staff is more insecure in answering things or they're just more focused on internal issues and aren't sharing as much with the public, but here's a look at today's questions and answers after practice.
This stuck out to me.
Reporter: You were pretty emotional after last year's loss to Oregon in saying that UCLA needs to turn the page and get those kinds of wins. Is that still the place that these kind of high profile games stand in your mind?
Mora: I don't remember last year how I felt, how I reacted, I remember how I felt.
Well, I remember. Here, let me help jog everyone's memory.
Thanks again to Ed Lewis and BSR TV for the video. You can watch the whole thing, or you can just skip ahead to 3:11
We're so close but it doesn't matter. We're not after being close. Heck with being close! Losers can be close! We wanna win those games. The coulda, the woulda, the shoulda, all that cra... we don't want that. I'm tired of that. It's time for UCLA to turn the frickin page. And be something different. And win those games. That's what it's time to be.
Coach Mora pounded the table as he passionately reacted with frustration and disappointment that the Bruins hadn't reached the lofty expectations that he himself set for this program.
Disclaimer: I recognize I'm not exactly comparing apples to apples here. It's not entirely fair to compare an emotional post game presser from last year with the tedium of a post practice interview today. But just taken on the surface, which of those videos gives you more faith that things will fixed and our football program will finally take the next step? Utah was a real punch in the gut, but if the Bruins can take actually take that next step and beat Oregon this weekend and win out the rest of the season, which would include beating Stanford and the teams we will be expected to beat, then we can look at the Utes as our one flub on the season, and even great teams will have that.
But my worry is that the coach may be scaling back his goals. Last year, losing to Oregon wasn't good enough. But if you take today's comments for anything, it sounds a bit to me like the bar is being lowered.
We've won a lot of high profile games. We beat Nebraska twice. We went on the road and beat Texas. We've beaten Southern Cal twice. So for people to say we haven't won high profile games, I would absolutely dispute that. We've won a lot of high profile games. But this is another one that we're going to go try to win.
Gone is the implication that we've moved past the Nebraskas and Texases and Southern Cals and that our sights are now set on a higher target like Oregon and Stanford, the two perennially successful conference teams that Mora hasn't beaten, or really hasn't even come close to by the end of those games.
Maybe I'm just reading too much into Mora's comments today. But being a fan, that's my only cue right now, and it's not inspiring a lot of confidence this afternoon.
Mora said Alex Redmond is still a game time decision, but he still seems a longshot to make it back. Kenny Lacy actually played pretty well in his absence as noted by IEAngel in his incredible analysis of last week's game. I'm really gonna miss IE when he gets a coaching job somewhere soon. I'd offer do the Eye Test in his place, but I lack both the eyesight (geezerdom coming) and intellect (geezerdom arrived) to adequately fill those shoes. But no matter whose eyes we're talking about, there will be a plenty of them aimed at the U.C.L.A. offensive line this week after last Saturday's disaster.
Speaking of bad offensive lines, Hello, Oregon! The Ducks have given up a measly 12 sacks in their last 2 games and have been starting a walk-on at each tackle position for I believe at least a couple weeks, so, like Brett Hundley, their embattled Heisman candidate QB Marcus Mariota hasn't had an easy go this season. Ryan Kartje with the OC Register had a very good, or very ugly, or both, look at the two OLines going into this game. There may be some light for the Ducks as Kartje retweeted this just a bit ago:
I'm told #Oregon LT Jake Fisher will be a game-time decision Saturday at UCLA. The Ducks have allowed 12 sacks last two games w/o him— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 9, 2014
Mora gave the usual well deserved platitudes to Mariota today, and noted that while the Bruins need to be able to successfully bring pressure against the patchwork Oregon OL, it's even more critical to keep Mariota contained in the pocket.
The key thing to do is keep him in the pocket and not let him extend the play, because he is so great at extending the play when he gets out of the pocket. He's tremendous and one of the best we'll see at doing that.
Mora complimented Mariota's leadership, arm strength, and mobility, and we all saw both his toughness and competitive spirit last season when he took a big hit from LB Jordan Zumwalt right on the sideline and just said "Play on!". I have enjoyed and respected the young man's play as he has torched Pac-12 defenses for what seems like about 5 years now, but now the Bruins will get one more chance at keeping him in check and it would be nice to see them step up and do it.
Mora finished today by talking about the great contribution from CB/S Anthony Jefferson, praising his ability to fight through a series of injuries to become a leader and valuable player at either safety or corner this season. Jefferson will need to be at his best this weekend, because a struggling Oregon offense is still an Oregon offense. We saw how the defense has struggled against the likes of Mike Bercovici and Kendal Thompson the last two weeks. Enter Marcus Mariota. Our DB's are going to have to be tight and the front 7 absolutely positively have to stay responsible to their assignments. If they continue to run themselves too far upfield or overrun their assigned gaps, then Mariota and the Ducks receivers and running backs will be running and running plenty on their own. We know the talent is there. Let's see if the players' discipline and the Bruins coaching schemes get things right this weekend.