Heading into what was supposed to be a season for the ages, UCLA head coach Jim Mora often talked about striving for great rather than settling for good. But after a 31-10 loss to Stanford on Friday ended their shot at a Pac-12 Championship, the Bruins are again sitting closer to the latter.
“We’re not there yet,” Mora said. “We’re not playing in the Pac-12 Championship game. We’re good. We’re pretty good and we’re getting better. Like I’ve said many times, we’re on the right path.”
He continued by talking about the accomplishments of this senior class, including three straight nine-win seasons and three straight wins over USC: “All that gets overshadowed when you go out and play like this in a big game like this.”
With a spot in the Pac-12 Championship on the line, UCLA will try to get its first win against Stanford since 2008. A few things to watch, plus a score prediction …
How will Stanford’s offense fare without Ty Montgomery? First guess is not well. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is the quintessential game manager, one that was more than sufficient for the Cardinal when it had a powerful run game to lean on. Stanford is on track to finish with a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2007; losing its most explosive player to a shoulder injury is only going to limit the offense even further.
Montgomery was Hogan’s most reliable target, and the recipient of more than a quarter of the team’s total receptions. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he would have been a load to bring down once he got into the secondary.
Can UCLA’s defense maintain pressure? Hogan only threw at least 20 passes in seven games last season. This year, he’s already hit that mark in nine games, at topped 30 passes in three straight games in October. Not coincidentally, Stanford lost two of those games, beating only lowly Washington State. Continue reading
UCLA has just one more chance to leave the Battle 4 Atlantis with a win.
The No. 22 Bruins opened the tournament in the Bahamas with double-digit losses to Oklahoma and No. 5 North Carolina, looking nothing like a team that should be ranked in the Associated Press poll. After a 78-56 dismantling at the hands of the Tar Heels, UCLA now falls the the seventh-place game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, which tips off Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT on AXS TV.
The 22-point margin of victory was UNC’s largest against a ranked opponent since 2008. An even uglier milestone was marked by the Bruins’ own carelessness with the ball: they coughed up 23 turnovers against seven assists, the team’s worst single-game ratio since 1996. Continue reading
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In today’s Daily News, I put together a list of what UCLA football has to be thankful for this season. Hope you all have a great holiday.
On to the Q&A …
Q: If Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota swapped teams, who do you think would be more successful? Where do you suppose UCLA and Oregon would be ranked?
A: I’d go with the team that has the likely Heisman winner, and swap UCLA and Oregon in the rankings.
Q: How much of an impact has running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu had on Paul Perkins becoming the league’s leading rusher?
A: Multiple people have said that Polamalu’s biggest effect on the running back corps has been their pass blocking, which I think has allowed Perkins to stay on the field much more — even if he’s not getting the carry. That was the edge that Jordon James had through the offseason, and the reason I thought the senior would get every chance to win the starting spot. Perkins looked like he would beat out Jordon James for the starting spot at some point this season; I just didn’t expect it to happen so early, and for James to look so poor through the first two games.
(It’s also worth mentioning that Perkins’ conference lead is very slim, and he isn’t facing as much competition for the rushing title as recent backs.)
Q: What is the nature of receiver Thomas Duarte’s leg injury suffered in practice on Tuesday?
A: He looked like he tweaked his hamstring, which has given him trouble since training camp in San Bernardino. Duarte’s limp was barely noticeable on Wednesday, though, so he should be good to go by Friday.
Q: Do you think Brett Hundley’s comment about “achieving everything I wanted to at UCLA” will cause distraction this Friday against the Cardinal, or is the media making a non-story a story?
A: No. I have no clue why this is a story. He literally said in January that this would be his last season, but I guess everyone forgot/didn’t care. Continue reading