1. Let’s focus on the game first. How did you feel the team played against the Trojans?
AnteatersandBruins: They at least appeared to be playing for something. Since there’s a decent chance we won’t have a post season, or at least one with any meaning, this meant more to fans than any bowl game and I think the team knew it. One punt gone the wrong way and a field goal gives us the win.
Markybcool: Again, another week of them actually playing hard. I still just cannot understand our inability to catch the football though.
Dimitri Dorlis: This was maybe the best game from an effort standpoint. It’s just unfortunate that inattention to detail by the coaching staff cost this team another game. The only good news is that it finally caught up to them.
Joe Piechowski: I think it was the best defensive game of the season. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t score enough and the breakdown on that punt really hurt us.
2. The big storyline, beyond the rivalry, was Josh Rosen versus Sam Darnold. Was this as decisive a Rosen victory as it appeared to be?
AnteatersandBruins: Darnold definitely didn’t look like the Golden Boy I’ve been hearing about all season. Don’t know if it was the rivalry situation, but I expected more from him at home. Ronald Jones III had more to do with their success on offense than he did. And I’m sorry, but that ladder and sword thing at the end of the game just makes me sick.
Markybcool: I’ve said it since day one, Josh Rosen will be the first QB taken in this year’s draft. If he had people that could make plays, his numbers would have been unreal/
Dimitri Dorlis: Yeah, Rosen absolutely looked like the most NFL-ready of the two. You do have to love NFL draft scouts who continually rate and eventually draft guys high because of things like “potential” instead of getting the guy most ready to contribute right away, as though NFL teams can afford to redshirt people or something.
Joe Piechowski: Rosen looked very well-prepared. Now, Jordan Lasley gets a lot of credit for making Rosen look good because Lasley had such a great game. But, Rosen most certainly shone brighter than Darnold.
3. The defense had their best game of the season from a statistical outlook, especially against a vaunted USC rushing attack. How would you rate their performance?
AnteatersandBruins: I’d give them a B+/A-. They held the #11 team in the country to 28 points, and one of those touchdowns was a gift from our special teams.
Markybcool: I thought the defense did a good job. They actually put UCLA in a position to win the game. For most of the year the only position the defense has put us in is bent over getting spanked by opposing teams.
Dimitri Dorlis: I think UCLA was absolutely helped by some poor play calling on the part of USC, but they did hold up on the defensive line relatively well, and did a good job of keeping Sam Darnold in the pocket where he traditionally does less damage. So overall, one of the finer efforts from the defense all year.
Joe Piechowski: The defense definitely had their best game of the season to date. I agree with Mark that the defense put UCLA in a position to win the game. Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t score enough points to overcome the huge special teams blunder.
4. Alright, let’s get to the big news. How do you feel about Jim Mora being relieved of his duties?
AnteatersandBruins: I think I feel about the same as I did when CRN was fired--you really wanted it to work because he was such a great guy, but it didn’t play out on the field. He did a lot for the program that pushed UCLA into the right direction, so now we need someone who can get us more points in the W column.
Markybcool: I wrote at the start of the year that this was a make or break year for UCLA Football, and I will toot my own horn, because it ended up being a break year. Mora and his coaches needed to do more with less. Yes, they had the best QB in the Pac-12, but the defense was not going to be a high level defense based on the losses it absorbed. Therefore, the coaches had to coach-up the talent that they had, and even before the injuries, that did not happen. I have been an ardent supporter of Coach Mora because coaching college football is so much more than wins and losses, although that is what you get measured by. Mora was a good person, that brought the program about as far as he could take it, change was needed.
Dimitri Dorlis: I think I’ll always be a bit sad that it didn’t work out, because Jim Mora did all the right things when it came to protecting the players and doing the right thing. Bruin fans will always be in debt to him for how he handled the Nick Pasquale situation, or how he was the driving force behind the Wasserman Football Facility. It just became clear that he wasn’t the coach to take this team to the next level. The good news is that the cupboard isn’t bare, and with the upgraded facilities UCLA should be set up so that the next coach can have success quickly.
Joe Piechowski: Some of our readers may expect me to be filled with glee, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I really wish things worked out with Jim. I think he set a very good example for his players and he handled things off the field the right way. But, it’s wins and losses that matter when coaches are hired and fired and he was not able to win enough. As a result, a change was necessary and has been necessary.
5. Of course, I’ll also throw this out there: who do you want as the next coach for UCLA and why?
AnteatersandBruins: Nick Saban. What? A girl can dream. Seriously, I know there’s a lot of buzz around Chip Kelly, who I think can get the wins we want, but I honestly prefer Scott Frost. Rumors have him going to Nebraska, but you never know.
Markybcool: I had my qualms at first about Chip Kelly, but now I am 100% in on the Chip Train for a number of reasons. First, UCLA needs a win, and this would be a win. It is clear that UCLA fans want Chip. It is also clear that Florida fan wants Chip. Who will win? If UCLA loses the Chip lottery, it just continues the narrative that NOBODY wants to coach at UCLA, and we have to settle for the coaches that do want to come here. I also think that Chip would bring that “something” to the sidelines at UCLA. He will put butts in the seats, at least initially, because everybody will want to see what he can do.
Dimitri Dorlis: ALL ABOARD THE CHIP KELLY HYPE TRAIN! CHOO CHOOOOOOOOO!
Joe Piechowski: I’m not on board the train like Dimitri, but I also realize that Kelly is the top choice out there. If he gets hired, I’m not going to protest it like we protested the hiring of Steve Alford. But, I am seriously concerned about Kelly’s ethics after the Oregon “show-cause” order and, if he is hired and commits a serious NCAA violation, I will certainly say “See? I told you so.”
That said, if he ends up in Westwood, I would definitely welcome him and appreciate the commitment to winning the administration would have finally shown.
If he isn’t hired or opts to go elsewhere, I still believe that UCLA needs to consider some of the young up-and-coming coaches like Mike Norvell, Matt Campbell, Scott Frost and some of the others I’ve already mentioned.
6. The Extra Point - Sound off!
AnteatersandBruins: I’m tired of saying, “at least it wasn’t a blow out”. I want to beat these guys next year. I want to beat Stanford as well. The coaching move we make next is more important than ever, especially since we have recruits dropping like flies.
Markybcool: I thought I was excited about UCLA basketball starting to take my mind off this abysmal football season; I was wrong.
Dimitri Dorlis: One thing you can never say about Jim Mora is that the players didn’t respect him. The outpouring of support from the team in the aftermath of the firing showed that Jim Mora was more than just a coach to these players, and I expect they’ll play extra-hard on Friday for him. I also wouldn’t be opposed to letting Mora congratulate the seniors on the field, but I understand the optics of why this would be a bad idea.
Joe Piechowski: I’m just glad that it looks like I won’t have to decide if I want to give up my season tickets. I was seriously doubting whether I would renew them if Mora was still employed, but, as long as the Athletic Department chooses the right guy, that won’t be a question. However, if we end up with a Mike Riley, Jeff Tedford, Kevin Sumlin or someone like those three, I will be right back there.