Franklin, Locke named award semifinalists

Not much surprise here considering the seasons they’ve both had, but seniors Johnathan Franklin and Jeff Locke have been listed among the nation’s top 10 at their respective positions.

Franklin is a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. The other Pac-12 representatives are Oregon’s Kenjon Barner and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, tying the Big Ten with three players on the list. If any member of the trio takes the trophy, it would give the conference its third winner in four years. Alabama’s Trent Richardson won last year after LaMichael James (Oregon) and Toby Gerhart (Stanford). Continue reading

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Pac-12 apologizes for coin toss confusion

Conference officials called UCLA head coach Jim Mora Sunday morning at 8 a.m. to apologize for the confusion surrounding the coin toss before the Bruins kicked off at Arizona State.

To review, Mora had kept the captains in the locker room to rush out with the rest of the team, leaving punter Jeff Locke to take up coin toss duties in a pinch. Through some miscommunication, the officials understood Locke as saying that the Bruins wanted to “kick” rather than “defer” after winning the toss, thus leaving the Sun Devils to decide how to start out of halftime.

ASU scored a field goal on its first drive of the second half in the 45-43 loss. Mora declined to say exactly what the apology entailed, but said he was glad the Pac-12 took responsibility.

UPDATE: Doesn’t seem like a story worth making up, so I’m guessing the Pac-12 didn’t expect Mora to go public with this.

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UCLA vs. Arizona State: Halftime update

Story of two games so far. First an odd coin toss screw-up by Jeff Locke that gave ASU the ball to start both halves; he said he wanted to kickoff rather than defer, giving the Sun Devils the option after halftime. Arizona State took advantage of a muffed punt by Steven Manfro after the UCLA defense forced a three-and-out. The Sun Devils scored two plays later on a 7-yard pass to Kevin Ozier, then gashed the Bruins on a methodical run game to go up 14-0 early.

UCLA responded with an impressive drive of its own, built mostly on the efforts of tailback Johnathan Franklin. Brett Hundley connected with Devin Fuller in the end zone for the receiver’s first catch. UCLA then took advantage with a brilliant punt, heavy pass pressure, and a bad pass by Taylor Kelly. Snatched it for a TD return to go up 21-17. Continue reading

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Neuheisel On:

On the coaches job during tough practices:
“You’ve got to keep pushing, you’ve got to keep on them. I want the coaching staff to understand that’s what we’re doing here. We will reap the benefits when we start to freshen them up, which will be our job over the weekend. I like where we are, I like how we’re fighting, scratching and clawing. But we have to push through these tougher days as we go forward.”

On Jeff Locke’s availability if Kai Forbath went down:
“It’s a nice insurance policy, but Kai Forbath is one of the best in the country. We would miss Kai.”

On how UCLA is preparing for SDSU, particularly the Aztec coordinators’ experience with UCLA:
“You’re basically going on things of the past. It’s a little bit of an educated guess. We’ve gone back that far, absolutely. They may wax nostalgic being back in the Rose Bowl.”

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Four for Four with Frank Gansz, Jr.

After Saturday’s up-and-down performance on special teams, I figured I should catch up with Coach Gansz.

A brief recap: With Kai Forbath nursing a sore kicking leg, Jeff Locke stepped in and was excellent. Locke locked up (sorry, had to) the punting duties with several nice boots, including a coffin-corner kick that bounced out at the 1-yard line. Locke also added field goals of 53, 35 and 23 yards, and Gansz said he will help contribute on kickoffs, as well.

With two long touchdown returns – one by freshman Damien Thigpen and another by redshirt sophomore Courtney Viney – Gansz was excited by the possibility of added depth in the return game behind Terrence Austin.

On what he liked on Saturday:
“We were working against a look squad, but I was excited that our return game did big things. We expect it; we’re faster, we’ve got guys who know what they’re doing, we’re much more detailed with our work. We’re going to have those plays. We expect them.”

On the decision to redshirt Thigpen or use him:
“That won’t be my decision, that’ll be a staff decision, but he’s an explosive athlete. We saw that when we recruited him. It didn’t surprise me. We see it on the practice field all the time. He’s explosive and instinctive and very impressive.”

On Austin’s role in the return game:
“Terrence is the guy right now. But you’re going to need to have, as it bears out with most teams, a lot of depth. This gives us that. Terrence is definitely our guy, but obviously when you have a lot of guys who can run, it gives you some options to do different things with those guys.”

On Locke’s performance and the possibility of more playing time for the redshirt freshman:
“You need to have Plan B guys. He gives you that. He gives you another guy who can get it done if you need him. Jeff’s a talented guy. We feel good about him. That’s when you become good, when you start to have multiple guys who can step in and get it done.”

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Report Card – K

Kickers

Grade: B+/A-
High Marks: Kai Forbath sat out and, surprisingly, his absence was not truly felt until two missed PATs. Filling in, Jeff Locke was fantastic, hitting field goals of 53, 35 and 23 yards, respectively.

Low Marks: Two missed PATs. Ouch.

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