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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