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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

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

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Why didn’t Jim Mora want to shake Bill Snyder’s hand?

SAN ANTONIO — Brace yourself for a flurry of embeds, because this is a story that could not be a story without the existence of social media.

After UCLA’s 40-35 win over Kansas State in Friday’s Alamo Bowl, Jim Mora walked toward Wildcat coach Bill Snyder and reached out for a customary postgame handshake. But almost as soon as their hands touched, Mora turned away and shook his loose.

Here it is:

Yeah, that’s not a good look for Mora. At this point, you could probably talk yourself into arguing that Mora didn’t mean to snub Snyder — that perhaps he was called away to the trophy podium or something like that. But that was a fairly forceful shake, and it didn’t take long for the footage to spread and outrage K-State fans. Mora didn’t do himself any favors with the way he handled questions about the exchange afterward. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA 40, Kansas State 35: Jim Mora, Bruins talk after Alamo Bowl

UCLA head coach Jim Mora and the Bruins spoke to the media following a 40-35 win over Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl, one that clinched a second straight 10-win season. During the press conference, Mora grew testy when asked about the team’s inability to close out games — as well as when asked about what appeared to be a handshake snub with K-State coach Bill Snyder.

Also on the podium were quarterback Brett Hundley, linebacker Eric Kendricks, linebacker Myles Jack, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and running back Paul Perkins.

Kendricks and Perkins were named Alamo Bowl MVPs on their respective sides of the ball.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

What to watch in Alamo Bowl: No. 14 UCLA vs. No. 11 Kansas State

This is it. The final game of UCLA’s season has arrived, with the Bruins set to close their third campaign under Jim Mora by hitting 10 wins for the second straight year. The Alamo Bowl matchup against Kansas State will pit Mora against Bill Snyder, who has led a very different career arc, and also be a goodbye tour for quarterback Brett Hundley, and seniors such as linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa.

A few things to watch for in today’s 3:45 p.m. PT kickoff at the Alamodome:

Can UCLA limit Jake Waters as a running threat? It’s no secret that the Bruin defense has been stretched a bit this season when faced with dual-threat quarterbacks, but the team will probably be better prepared given the month-long layoff since it last played.

Waters is a bit of a different runner than most Pac-12 runners. He’s not as physically imposing at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and he readily admitted that this week. But he runs tough and deliberate, though those scampers are usually more built into K-State’s offensive playcalling rather than pure, freelance scrambling.

The Wildcats are undefeated this season when Waters runs for at least one score, although he’s found the end zone with his legs just once in his last six games. UCLA’s defense will need to be careful not to overpursue to keep that number down.

Will any K-State skill players not named Tyler Lockett stand out? The 5-foot-11 wideout is the Wildcats’ all-time leading receiver and arguably its best pro prospect, but even big games by the All-American don’t necessarily guarantee wins for his team. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

VIDEO: Jim Mora, Bill Snyder preview Alamo Bowl

UCLA coach Jim Mora and Kansas State coach Bill Snyder talk to reporters before the Alamo Bowl, fielding questions on their respective (non-)interest in the San Francisco 49ers job opening and potential retirement date.

RELATED:
» A look back at the ups and downs of Brett Hundley’s UCLA career.
» The upcoming quarterback competition this spring boils down to either incoming freshman Josh Rosen or current backup Jerry Neuheisel — and smart money’s on the former.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Mora: Alamo Bowl won’t override Brett Hundley’s body of work

UCLA had barely touched down in San Antonio on Sunday afternoon when the NFL draft again reared its head.

Shortly after the Bruins were welcomed at their team hotel by a three-man mariachi band, someone asked a question that will no doubt pop up again this week: Will the Alamo Bowl be quarterback Brett Hundley’s last chance to audition for the pros?

Head coach Jim Mora said emphasized that NFL scouts likely wouldn’t weigh one game more heavily than the 39 others that the third-year starter has played at UCLA.

“You look at the body of work,” Mora said. “Now, you’re also looking for patterns. What gives a guy trouble or where he excels. In that respect, one game can start to predict a pattern. But I think if you’re an instant evaluator, if you go off one game or one throw or one tackle or one quarter, that’s where you run into failings. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Linebacker Zach Whitley has not been practicing with UCLA

UCLA linebacker Zach Whitley has not practiced with the team for the last week, but head coach Jim Mora said the true freshman is still on the team.

Mora did not disclose the reason for Whitley’s absence. Earlier this month, the coach refuted reports that he had dismissed the former four-star prospect, rated a top-100 recruit nationally this past spring.

Whitley enrolled at UCLA in January after decommitting from Alabama and performed well in camp, but suffered a concussion in August that may have stunted his development. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound defender played in nine games this season and made one tackle.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email