VIDEO: Jim Mora on advantage of UCLA starting season at home

When UCLA steps into the Rose Bowl this Saturday against Virginia, it will mark just the second time in six seasons that the Bruins have opened the season at home.

From 2010-12, the team traveled to Kansas State, Houston, and Rice to start the fall. They finally hosted Nevada the year after that, before traveling to Charlottesville to face the Cavaliers last season.

That the Bruins don’t have to deal with a cross-country flight should only help a team that is already a 19.5-point favorite for the 12:30 p.m. kickoff.

“You don’t have to travel, and I don’t mean that facetiously” said head coach Jim Mora. “Last year, we had to go out two days early because it was a long flight and it was a long bus ride. It knocks you off your routine a little bit. We’re all about our routine as we get closer to the game.”

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Five questions: Daily Progress’ Andrew Ramspacher on Virginia

UCLA is just two days away from its season opener, which means it’s time to check in with opposing beat writers again for some perspective on the Bruins’ opponents. First up is Andrew Ramspacher of the Daily Progress, who gives his take on a Virginia team that is coming off a 5-7 season.

(Also, here are the questions I answered for the Daily Progress about UCLA.)

1. It seems like Mike London’s job security is perennially under scrutiny. Is this finally the do-or-die season for the sixth-year head coach, or is the seat at about the same temperature it was last fall?

A buzzword around UVa and Mike London’s situation entering 2014 was “improvement.” What did London have to do to stick around for 2015? Show great improvement from the dismal 2-10 campaign. And, well, that’s kind of exactly what the Cavaliers did last season. Sure, they went 5-7, but five of those losses came by eight points or less. With a more appropriate schedule, they’re easily into a bowl game.

As for this season, I think it’s more than safe to say it’s finally do or die. London has two years left on his contract. A popular thought is he either does enough to stay and Virginia extends him or he falls short and is let go. (It would be REALLY hard to recruit with one year left on a contract). What’s a reasonable expectation to have him back in 2016? A bowl game appearance in the least. Something else to consider is attendance. Virginia had a 15 percent decrease in Scott Stadium seat fillers last year. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech coming to Charlottesville should give this year’s numbers a decent bump, but it’ll be interesting to see how administration factors everything in.

2. London said in spring that the quarterback competition wasn’t close, but Greyson Lambert is now the starter at Georgia. Is Matt Johns really that much better, or is there any thought that UVa picked the wrong guy?

Lambert, although he wasn’t always healthy, had a full season to prove he was the right guy for Virginia in 2014. His numbers — 10 touchdowns to 11 interceptions — proved Johns, who made occasional appearances last year, still had a chance in the competition.

Coaches were adamant they charted all of the QB throws in spring practice and, as London noted, Johns beat out Lambert by a significant margin. On the flip-side, Virginia offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said the QB battle was a “fluid situation” and the post-spring depth chart simply reflected if the Cavaliers were playing a game that day. That head coach-offensive coordinator disconnect perhaps is symbolic of the way Virginia’s handled quarterbacks since London’s hire. It’s been a non-stop carousel that’s directly related to London’s 23-38 record. Continue reading

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What does UCLA think of Virginia quarterback Matt Johns?

A year ago, UCLA’s defense was on pace to shut the Virginia offense out of the end zone completely — until Matt Johns subbed in at quarterback.

After three defensive touchdowns gave the Bruins a 21-3 lead, it was Johns who led back-to-back touchdown drives in his first career appearance, bringing his team to within four points in the third quarter.

“I grabbed him by the arm and asked him, ‘Are you ready for this?'” Cavaliers coach Mike London recalled. “And he grabbed me by my arm and he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life.'”

Johns finished 13 of 22 for 154 yards and two scores, while then-starter Greyson Lambert had 112 yards and two interceptions on 16-of-23 passing. The pair split time through the rest of the season, but Lambert eventually transferred to Georgia and won the starting job there.

UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, outside linebacker Deon Hollins, and safety Randall Goforth each share their thoughts on Johns in the video above.

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Center Jake Brendel returns as one of UCLA’s six captains in 2015

UCLA has announced its team captains for the 2015 season, and unsurprisingly, center Jake Brendel is one of the six.

The redshirt senior was a captain in each of the past two seasons, and has started in 39 of 40 possible games in his career — only missing the 2014 season opener at Virginia with a sprained knee. Offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch called Brendel “the glue that holds not just the offensive line, but the whole offense together.”

Running back Paul Perkins was voted by his teammates as a captain for the first time, as were cornerback Fabian Moreau, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, and linebacker Cameron Judge.

Fullback Taylor Lagace is serving as a captain for the second straight season.

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