Holiday Bowl: Running score

FINAL – Baylor 49, UCLA 26: RS Freshman Logan Sweet got his first career touchdown on a 34-yard grab that probably wouldn’t have stood a video review, but stayed on the board nonetheless. It got some sideline staff pretty excited, and did end up giving the Bruins their most single-season point total ever.

Baylor 49, UCLA 19 – 7:46, fourth quarter: Another UCLA turnover on downs gave Baylor the ball 31 yards from the end zone. The Bears ran the ball for seven straight plays to take 3:20 off the clock, with Nick Florence getting the score on the keeper.

Baylor 42, UCLA 19 – 12:25, fourth quarter: Owamagbe Odighizuwa forces a fumble on Glasco Martin, and UCLA takes advantage on the ensuing drive with Brett Hundley’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans. A cornerback tripping on the play helped the Bruins out. UCLA couldn’t convert on two points, and its ensuing onside kick failed as well.

Baylor 42, UCLA 13 – 1:52, third quarter: Glasco Martin punches in a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal, one that likely sealed the game for the Bears. The score sent plenty of UCLA fans heading to the exit. Baylor had a short field to work with after the Bruins turned the ball over on downs. With just 41 yards to go, the Bears’ drive mostly involved handing the ball to Martin.

Baylor 35, UCLA 13 – 8:18, third quarter: The Bruins’ longest drive of the game ends with a 40-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn. Brett Hundley was able to connect for big gains to Shaq Evans and Devin Fuller on the 58-yard drive, but — facing pressure — overthrew an open Fuller in the end zone on third down.

That the drive took 2:55 isn’t particularly encouraging for UCLA, which needs to score quickly to have a chance at closing the gap. It does look much better against the Bears’ defensive pressure, although Hundley did take his sixth sack of the game.

Baylor 35, UCLA 10 – 0:07, second quarter: UCLA settles for the 30-yard field goal on fourth-and-10. Some Bruins fans were clearly unhappy with the decision, raining light boos down as Ka’imi Fairbairn lined up for the try. It was surprisingly conservative choice on a gutsy drive by the Bruins, one that was extended when Jeff Locked scrambled for eight yards and a first down on a fake punt. Continue reading

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Holiday Bowl: How do UCLA and Baylor match up?

UCLA offense vs. Baylor defense: Although they give up more yards than every team in the country except Louisiana Tech, the Bears aren’t the second-worst defense in the college football. Baylor has won four of its past five games because it suddenly discovered the ability to force turnovers. In that span, the Bears grabbed 11 of their 18 interceptions on the season. (Meanwhile, quarterback Nick Florence threw just two picks.) However, this still doesn’t mean that Baylor is a particularly good defense. Only two teams in the Big 12 give up more yards per play than the Bears, which partly negates the argument that their numbers are bad due to the offenses they face.

Though Brett Hundley has thrown a pick in three of this past four games, he is still just 60 yards away from Cade McNown’s single-season passing record and could crack that by the end of the first quarter. Johnathan Franklin could conceivably get 300 yards to hit 2,000 on the season. (Great stat, courtesy of ESPN: Franklin averages 4 yards after contact on fourth-quarter rushes. He averages just 2.1 per carry in the first three quarters.) Edge: UCLA

Baylor offense vs. UCLA defense: Florence isn’t the superstar Robert Griffin III was Continue reading

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Mora reaffirms desire to stay UCLA

Now that Jim Mora has become one of the country’s hottest coaching commodities, he’ll probably have to get used to questions about other vacancies — whether or not those vacancies actually exist just yet. On Wednesday, he was asked about his interest in a potential Chargers job.

He quickly deferred to staying focused on Baylor, adding that he didn’t want to comment on a position still filled by Norv Turner.

Mora has talked at length this year about coaching in college. When the Seattle Seahawks fired him in 2010 after one season, he had doubts about his coaching future. Now he’s embraced more of a father-figure position coaching younger players, something he enjoys tremendously.

From Wednesday: “When I sat out those years (after getting fired), those couple years, I had a chance to go back in the NFL. There was nothing that pulled me there. There was something that pulled me to UCLA. Whatever it was that pulled me there, I’m thankful it did. That’s the best year of coaching I’ve ever had. I’m not talking about on the field, wins and losses. I’m just talking about the satisfaction of working with these young men and the environment at UCLA. …

“I guess it comes down to this. You’re able to have an impact on their lives. The concrete hasn’t hardened on who they are as individuals. They still need you. That’s a good thing. We all want to be needed. I like it when a kid comes into my office and is able to share either something great that’s happened in his life or needs my help with something. That’s a satisfying feeling. I’ve got 108 of those guys that I’ve made a commitment to and to their parents, to help them become the men that their families want them to be. I take it very seriously. It’s just been very rewarding. There’s a purity, there’s a passion. There’s an enthusiasm at this level that’s very unique.”

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Mora on Bruins’ discipline, penalties

After Art Briles praised UCLA as a very disciplined team during Wednesday’s press conference, Jim Mora was asked what was key to shaping his team.

He chalked it up generally to the demands he and his staff put on the players, but made clear that fall camp in San Bernardino laid the foundation for everything the Bruins have become, allowing them to be isolated from distractions with the added bonus of extreme heat. Mora said he wants to have the team go back every year.

“They’re still young men,” he said. “They’re developing. They still think they have limits and we need to push them beyond those limits.”

Somewhat unprompted, he dismissed the idea that UCLA’s nation-leading 123 penalties is evidence against discipline — taking a dig at conference officials along the way.

“Some of those penalties are discipline penalties,” Mora said. “Some of those are, we play hard, we play violent and we play through the echo of the whistle. Some of them are horrible calls. We all know the Pac-12 has the reputation for being a little over the top in throwing that flag.”

Pac-12 teams make up four of the five most-penalized squads in the country, so this wasn’t exactly a guarded secret. Still, it was one of the few times this season Mora has commented on it so explicitly.

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Art Briles, on Jim Mora

From today’s press conference, what the Baylor coach knew about Jim Mora before starting Holiday Bowl prep:

“Playoffs?! I knew about his daddy. Playoffs? That’s one of the classics. That’s instant credibility. You know right there. And then when you get to looking at his past and what he’s done — like I said, I did not know him personally — it’s very impressive. I’m little ol’ West Texas country boy fightin’ to hang on to a high school job and he’s coaching the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. There’s a lot of difference in the paths to where we’re at. He’s done a tremendous job. He’s known as a good disciplinarian and a player’s coach. … He’s a good man. He’s a family man.”

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Q&A with Waco Tribune-Herald

Here are some answers from Baylor beat writer John Werner.

1. What were expectations like for this team post-RG3? Has this exceeded even the best-case scenario?

I think 7-5 was the best most people thought Baylor could finish. Baylor coach Art Briles was never worried about Nick Florence following RG3. But there were big questions about the defense, and those worries came to fruition when Baylor lost its first four Big 12 games. Continue reading

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Christmas at Sea World

Merry Christmas, everyone. Hope you’re all spending time with family.

UCLA took a trip to Sea World today, one of the highlights of bowl week activities that also included a visit to the San Diego Zoo, the U.S.S. Boxer and Rady Children’s Hospital.

A quick story about that: The last time Joseph Fauria tried to see the orcas, he ended up in the on-site medical clinic. When the tight end was around 12 years old, he sat on the rope that designated the exhibit line. He dangled a little too far back, fell into a backflip, and hit his head on a two-by-four. He needed around five staples to close the wound.

“I’m hoping I stay a little safer this time,” he said.

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Catching up with Dietrich Riley

After a scary neck injury last season, safety Dietrich Riley underwent single-level fusion surgery in April. In a procedure to what Peyton Manning had, doctors took bone for his hip and used it to fuse two vertebrae. The junior was cleared for non-contact in October and hopes to be full-go by spring.

How have you been feeling through practices?
I’m feeling great. It’s coming along. Being involved more. They’re just getting me prepared going into spring ball. Things are going well. My body’s feeling amazing and all my hard work is finally coming along. I’m just waiting for my time to come.

Is there a mental block you have to get over once you get back to full contact?
It’s just all about correcting my technique when I go to make a tackle. Keeping my head up, taking the extra step. I don’t even think about it. I put that behind me. I’m just moving forward. … Once I begin to practice more, get involved in contact, I’ll be able to get my confidence back and just work.

Was your family worried about letting you even return to football?
I know my mom was concerned a bit, but she knows how much I love this game. It can’t be taken away from me. It was my decision, honestly. My family said it was my decision. I’m just thankful to have that support from Bruin Nation, my coaches, the doctors here. I’m just thankful of them letting me come out here and play.

Does the fear of another major injury still lurk in the back of your head?
Even before the injury, you never know. It’s always a risk playing the game of football. But no. My neck is much stronger. I needed the surgery because my neck was taking so much contact, so much damage and stuff. My neck is actually much better than even before the injury. I just have to build my whole body up from scratch again. Build my core strength. Get my shoulder stability much stronger and my core and everything. It all starts in the weight room.

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