First, the stories that appear in today’s edition of the Los Angeles Daily News:
– UCLA breaks its four-game losing streak in Tucson with a superlative two-way effort from freshman Myles Jack.
– Columnist Vinny Bonsignore, with a look at quarterback Brett Hundley’s performance.
More notes and quotes from the wild 31-26 win at Arizona Stadium, which kept the Bruins in control of their own postseason destiny:
– A lot has been and will be written about Jack, so for now, let’s stick with a roundup of comments from coaches and teammates.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez had high praise too: “The guy is a great athlete, a great player. He’ll be a first-round pick as a linebacker. We tried to recruit him as a running back.”
– The Wildcats have a pretty good back of their own, though. All-American Ka’Deem Carey rumbled for 149 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Since being held to 54 yards at the Rose Bowl last year, he is averaging 177.9 per game with 21 touchdowns.
“That Ka’Deem Carey is something else,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said.
Added Jack: “He’s the truth. He’s the real deal. He’s everything they say he is. … I had to hit him and, I felt like I felt more of it than he did.”
Quarterback B.J. Denker was also very effective on the ground, and looks like the most improved player in the conference. He wasn’t very accurate on longer throws, but rolled out 82 yards on 16 carries.
– Carey did fumble on a goal-line leap in the third quarter, turning the ball over at the end of an 11-play, 78-yard drive — Arizona’s second-longest of the night. Had he scored a touchdown, the Wildcats would have cut UCLA’s lead to 24-17 and taken back the momentum.
Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt watched the play on his phone right after the game, and talked about it effusively with reporters.
Mora pointed out that Zumwalt is often the forgotten man, overshadowed in a very talented linebackers corps.
“He’s all over the field,” Mora said of the senior. “He’s like our Energizer bunny. He’s like the spark that keeps it going. He has fun. He’s dancing around out there on kickoff return. Last week, we were at the Rose Bowl, I look out, and he’s leading an eight-clap during the timeout.
“He just loves to play the game, and I think it’s infectious.”
– Junior Eric Kendricks also had a strong game, playing through various injuries to lead the team with 13 tackles while chipping in a pass breakup. He set the tone early for the defense, making four tackles on Arizona’s first drive.
– UCLA’s offensive package for Jack also used a pair of defenders as blockers in sort of a flipped wishbone formation dubbed “PAC”. On one variation, freshmen defensive linemen Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark would slide in. On the other, Zumwalt and defensive end Keenan Graham would be featured.
“Noel is kind of a mad scientist,” Mora said. “It might be five minutes before we take the practice field and he’s up on the board drawing something up.”
He noted that the package still hasn’t been officially added to UCLA’s playbooks yet.
– Mora took responsibility for the UCLA’s failed fake punt, which he said “probably screwed with our momentum.”
Punter Sean Covington had Jack wide open, but overthrew him on what should have been an easy first-down conversion. Regardless, several Bruins ran too far downfield; the Wildcats declined what would’ve been an illegal formation penalty.
“We saw something there,” Mora said. “We had it, but we just didn’t execute it very well.”
– As usual, Mora said his relatively calm exterior during the game masked some inner turmoil.
“I was about to vomit the whole game,” he said. “That didn’t sound so good. At one point in the game, I thought, is there an ulcer growing in there.
“That’s how it is for football coaches. You try not to let on to your players. … I’ll tell you what. It can eat you up.”
– Mora also had a message regarding Friday night’s game against Washington: “If you are a UCLA fan, and you’re seeing this or you’re reading this: Take the day off, buy something black, and get out to the Rose Bowl. Because it’s going to be an environment you won’t want to miss.
“The way our fans have been supporting us lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if that place is full to the brim.”