What to watch: No. 12 UCLA vs. Texas

If UCLA wants to finally back up all that preseason hype, today’s the day. The Bruins have a primetime 5 p.m. PT kickoff against Texas on FOX, and a strong de facto road win at AT&T Stadium will assuage some of the concerns about their uneven performance through two games.

Here’s how the teams stack up.

UCLA offense vs. Texas defense:

Charlie Strong is a former defensive coordinator who has a lot of experience working specifically with the line, so the fact that the Longhorns’ have size and depth up front fits well into his coaching philosophy.

Junior defensive tackle Malcom Brown stands at 6-foot-2, 320 pounds, and leads the team with 2.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Cedric Reed (6-5, 272) has started the season more quietly, but was a first-team All-Big-12 selection who racked up 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles a year ago. Starting defensive end Shiro Jackson, starting defensive tackle Desmond Jackson and reserve tackle Hassan Ridgeway have combined for 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss through two games.

Linebackers Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks are also threats, and have combined for 41 tackles — including five for loss.

So this game might prove a tougher night for Paul Perkins, who is coming off career highs of 23 carries, 98 yards and two touchdowns. Continue reading

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UCLA four-star forward Jonah Bolden declared ineligible

UCLA will enter its second season under Steve Alford without a promising freshman.

A school spokesperson confirmed that four-star forward Jonah Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, meaning that he must sit out the entire 2014-15 season. He will remain on scholarship.

According to ESPN, the problem was caused by the fact that Bolden moved from Australia to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas after his senior season had already started. Continue reading

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Mora planning strategic introduction to AT&T Stadium

Jim Mora saw enough of AT&T Stadium during his time coaching in the NFL to prompt a strategic introduction of the $1.15 billion facility to his players.

Mora plans to lead the Bruins on a thorough tour of the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium on Friday in an effort to limit it as a source of distraction on Saturday.

“It’s a pretty awe-inspiring place,” Mora said. “We’re going to try and get all the giddiness out of our system. You know, look at the scoreboard and go ‘Ooh, ahh, that’s cool.’ We’re going to walk through the bar, walk around the concourses and kind of take it all in so when we arrive there on Saturday, OK, we’ve done that.”

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Defensive end Takkarist McKinley picks UCLA, eligible immediately

Junior college defensive end Takkarist McKinley has enrolled at UCLA and will be immediately eligible to play, adding another piece to the Bruins’ already strong defensive line.

Expected to arrive on campus Monday, McKinley’s commitment was first reported by Scout.com’s Greg Biggins. Originally a three-star recruit who signed with Cal in 2013, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound lineman failed to qualify academically that summer and instead headed to Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif. However, according to Biggins, two of his summer school classes had been left off his high school transcript. Continue reading

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Goodman, Wadood probable replacements for Goforth

Asked about the UCLA defense’s surprising allowances to Memphis, head coach Jim Mora mentioned only one player by name during his halftime interview, lamenting the loss of safety Randall Goforth to a separated shoulder in the first half. The Bruins are preparing to play Texas on Saturday without the junior, whose injured right shoulder is such that Mora has all but declared him out.

“We’re leaning towards doubtful and teetering on out,” Mora said after Thursday’s practice. “We’re still waiting on a little information, but I think he’s very doubtful.”

Sophomore Tahaan Goodman is expected to start in place of Goforth, whose 78 tackles ranked fourth on the team last season. Goodman, a four-star recruit who saw some time in the secondary as a freshman last season, replaced Goforth in the second half against Memphis. Also expected to see action is Jaleel Wadood, a true freshman out of St. John Bosco High School ranked the No. 7 cornerback in the country by rivals.com.

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Punter Matt Mengel takes unorthodox path to UCLA

Matt Mengel punts during UCLA's 42-35 win over Memphis on Sept. 6, 2014.

Matt Mengel punts during UCLA’s 42-35 win over Memphis on Sept. 6, 2014.

After graduating from Pacific Lutheran High, Matt Mengel considered joining the military. Then he tried out as a wide receiver for Los Angeles Harbor College. Now, he’s UCLA’s starting punter.

Here’s the full story on Mengel’s unusual path to major college football, from Tyler Hendrickson.

Some of the other content in today’s Daily News:
– AT&T Stadium won’t be a distraction for UCLA, but it’s near the top of some Bruins’ must-play-at lists.
– Cornerback Fabian Moreau and the UCLA secondary haven’t played up to high preseason expectations.

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Weekly Q&A — 9/9/14 Answers

Q: You have been around more UCLA football over the past year than any of us. Has your perception or expectations for the team changed after watching the first two games, or are you not surprised by their performance?

A: Before the season started, I thought that the hype had gotten a little out of control. Sure it had talent, but I figured UCLA to be more of a top-15 team until it proved otherwise — most likely on the outside looking in once the College Football Playoff rolled around. But I certainly didn’t expect the Bruins to look as inconsistent as they have through two games.

I still think there’s plenty of time for the Bruins to find their groove (on both sides of the ball) and win the Pac-12 South. As for knocking off Oregon (presumably the Pac-12 North champ) for the outright conference title — that looks real tough right now.

Q: I know Virginia and Memphis aren’t top-25 caliber teams, but am I dumb for thinking that they appeared to at least be .500 teams this year?

A: No, I think that could be the ceiling for both those teams, and they’ll be helped by playing in the ACC and the AAC, respectively. But they could also end up at three wins each. It’s just difficult to say given the small sample size at this point. Continue reading

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Five questions: Austin American-Statesman’s Ryan Autullo talks Texas

In what was supposed to be its first marquee game of the season, UCLA heads to AT&T Stadium to face a Texas squad coming off a 41-7 beating by BYU. Ryan Autullo, who covers Texas for the Austin-American Statesman, answered five questions about the Longhorns.

1. What are the most significant ways that first-year head coach Charlie Strong has changed the program since he arrived?

Strong is trying to eliminate the culture of entitlement that ultimately signaled the downfall of his predecessor, Mack Brown. Under Brown, players rode an air-conditioned bus a half mile to practice. Now they walk. Until late in preseason camp, Strong forbade players from flashing the Horns hand sign. Additionally, the coach ordered the removal of the Longhorns logo from helmets. It’s all about getting tougher as a program and understanding the value of playing at Texas, Strong says.

2. Of all the players Strong has dismissed/suspended, which ones do the Longhorns miss the most?

Great question. I’d say suspensions to offensive tackles Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison hurt the most. Continue reading

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