UCLA earns first top-10 finish in Associated Press poll since 1998

For the first time in 16 years, UCLA has finished the season as a top-10 team.

The Bruins earned a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, released a few hours after Monday night’s conclusion to the first-ever College Football Playoff. It marks UCLA’s highest year-end placement since its No. 8 ranking following the 1998 season.

That campaign ended in a Rose Bowl loss, and since then, the Bruins have been left out of all but three final AP polls. They finished No. 16 after both the 2005 and 2013 seasons.

You can see the complete final 2014 rankings below: Continue reading

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Anthony Jefferson, Malcolm Bunche to play in NFLPA Bowl

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson and offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche have agreed to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, one of the many postseason all-star events for draft-eligible players.

The game will be played on Jan. 17 at 1 p.m., and be broadcast on ESPN.

Jefferson was the most experienced and versatile member of the Bruins’ secondary, capable of playing both cornerback and safety. He finished third on the team with 72 tackles, and also had an interception and eight pass breakups. Bunche, a graduate transfer from Miami, began the season as UCLA’s starting left tackle — but was later shifted to left guard and eventually benched entirely. He did not travel with the Bruins to the Alamo Bowl due to academics.

Former UCLA defensive linemen Keenan Graham and Seali’i Epenesa played in last year’s NFLPA Bowl, but neither was drafted.

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Linebacker Zach Whitley leaves UCLA after month of uncertainty

Linebacker Zach Whitley has left UCLA for good.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Houston-area native withdrew from school on Monday, ending a short stint for a prospect that had once looked like one of the gems of the Bruins’ 2014 recruiting class. He played in nine games as a true freshman and recorded one tackle.

A month ago, Whitley had reportedly been dismissed from the team — but head coach Jim Mora soon insisted that nothing had ever changed in the player’s status. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: ‘I have not made any overtures towards any NFL teams’

In what has seemingly become an annual tradition, Jim Mora has again dismissed talk that he might leave his position as UCLA head coach.

This time, Mora squashed speculation that he had any intention of leaving the Bruins to return to the NFL — with the most recent reports indicating that he had agreed to an interview with the New York Jets. On Tuesday morning, he reaffirmed his commitment to UCLA during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show. (The relevant segment starts at around 7:10 in the above video.)

“I think it’s always a compliment to your program and the success that your program is having, when other people mention you — whether it’s real or fabricated,” Mora said. “I’ve never wavered from saying that I’m very happy at UCLA. I love college football, and I love coaching the UCLA Bruins. I have not made any overtures towards any NFL teams. My agent hasn’t. Continue reading

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Alamo Bowl notes: UCLA ends 10-win season with new milestones

» With its 40-35 win over Kansas State in Friday’s Alamo Bowl, UCLA has now reached 10 wins for the ninth time in school history. The Bruins are now riding just their third-ever streak of back-to-back 10-win seasons, with the first two coming in 1997-98 and 1987-88.

Including K-State, UCLA played 10 teams that earned bowl berths, tying them for second-most in the country. The only exceptions were Virginia, Cal and Colorado.

» In his career finale, quarterback Brett Hundley didn’t have his best passing game, finishing 12 of 24 for 136 yards and a touchdown. He started the game 10-of-12 before a run of seven straight incompletions. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said afterward that Hundley’s right hand was still a bit sore from the finger injury that forced him out of UCLA’s loss to Stanford in November.

But Hundley did plenty of damage with his legs, running 11 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The Bruins followed the blueprint that TCU used to beat K-State, 41-20, on Nov. 8. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin also only threw for one touchdown, but ran for three scores and 123 yards. Boykin’s proficiency on the ground also helped open up lanes for tailback Aaron Green, who had 171 yards.

“Brett went to town with his legs, for sure,” said receiver Jordan Payton.

Hundley improved his UCLA career records to 75 touchdown passes and 11,713 total offensive yards.

» Paul Perkins ran for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries, including a 67-yard scoring run with 2:20 left in the game that gave UCLA a 40-28 lead. His rushing total was the third-most in Alamo Bowl history, and earned him the game’s offensive MVP award. Continue reading

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