VIDEO: Jim Mora says UCLA won’t make ‘wholesale changes’

Back-to-back losses against Utah and Oregon have knocked UCLA out of the AP poll for the first time in nearly two years, but head coach Jim Mora said Tuesday that the Bruins don’t need to hit the reset button.

“When you believe in what you’re doing, you don’t make wholesale changes,” Mora said. “I believe in what this program has become. I think anyone that looks at this program — where it was and what it has become, objectively — would say, ‘Why would you make wholesale changes?’

“Now, it doesn’t matter if you win, or you’re losing. You’re always tweaking things. If you panic, you perish. We’re not about to panic. There’s no reason to panic.”

What does he need to tweak? “We tweak everything. … That’s why we meet so long. To tweak things.”

Mora also talked about the Bruins’ heavy use of nickel formations, the health of tackle Conor McDermott and his growing role on the offensive line, and how college kickers compare to pros.

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Jim Mora asks media to blame him for UCLA’s struggles

UCLA head coach Jim Mora, late in the second half the Bruins' 42-30 loss to Oregon at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA head coach Jim Mora, late in the second half the Bruins’ 42-30 loss to Oregon at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

This is not the season UCLA had expected.

Popularly touted as a national title contender through most of the summer, the Bruins no longer even look like a conference contender. They started the season by stumbling through three unconvincing nonconference wins, getting by with timely plays despite some lackluster overall numbers. After a bye week, UCLA briefly found itself — storming out to a 62-27 rout at then-No. 15 Arizona State and bouncing back into the top 10 of the AP poll.

Reality hit a week later. Utah gashed the Bruins on the ground and won 30-28 at the Rose Bowl. On Saturday, Oregon followed that with a 42-30 victory over UCLA that never felt close.

Now unranked with even a Pac-12 South division title far from guaranteed, Bruin head coach Jim Mora told the media who to blame.

“Just remember whenever you write anything, that the guy that should get all the blame is me,” he said Sunday. Continue reading

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UCLA unranked in AP poll for first time since Jim Mora’s first season

This is a strange time for the Pac-12.

Stanford, the back-to-back conference champion, has two losses and is ranked No. 23. Arizona and Utah — which entered the season unranked since 2012 and 2010, respectively — are 16th and 20th.

And then there’s UCLA, which just two weeks ago was still a top-ten team.

For the first time since third-year head coach Jim Mora’s debut season, the Bruins have fallen out of the Associated Press completely. A 42-30 loss to Oregon on national television — one in which the Ducks led by as much as 32 — dispelled what little hope UCLA had left for making the inaugural College Football Playoff, dropping the Bruins from No. 18 to “receiving votes.”

They now sit one spot outside the top-25 rankings, with 110 points to No. 25 Marshall’s 148.

UCLA hadn’t been absent from the AP poll since Jan. 8, 2013, the final set of rankings following the 2012 season. The Bruins ended that year with a 49-26 loss to Baylor in the Holiday Bowl and dropped out from No. 17.

The full rankings below: Continue reading

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UCLA’s 42-30 loss to Oregon adds more questions to season outlook

UCLA bench looks toward the scoreboard during the second half of a 42-30 loss to No. 12 Oregon at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

» UCLA’s season is at a crossroad after a 42-30 decision against Oregon dealt the team back-to-back losses.
» Vinny Bonsignore’s column on Jeff Ulbrich’s mid-game outburst, and how it turned into a learning experience for the 37-year-old defensive coordinator.
» Larry Scott said the Pac-12 will review the punch Eddie Vanderdoes threw during the second quarter, one that did not result in an ejection.

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UCLA coach Jim Mora downplays his argument with Jeff Ulbrich

If someone makes a big deal out of a sideline argument between two coaches, that person doesn’t understand sports.

At least, that’s what UCLA head coach Jim Mora said after cameras caught him arguing with with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in the second quarter — after Oregon scored its second touchdown in an eventual 42-30 win at the Rose Bowl.

Ulbrich walked toward Mora and followed him, then handed over his playcard and removed his headset.

“How many of you guys have ever been on the sidelines coaching a game at any level?” Mora said. “I go to my kid’s pee wee game, and coaches are “Arrgh!” — grinding. And it’s a game in front of 12 fans. Continue reading

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What to watch: No. 18 UCLA vs. No. 12 Oregon

No. 12 Oregon’s arrival at the Rose Bowl on Saturday could give UCLA a chance at a program-altering win it sorely needs right now — even if head coach Jim Mora was reluctant to acknowledge it this week.

What to watch heading into today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff:

UCLA offense vs. Oregon defense: For all the talent and skill that Brett Hundley possesses, he can’t do much once he’s dragged to the ground. And considering that the Bruins’ allowed 10 sacks in last week’s loss against Utah last week, it’s almost surprising that the final 30-28 margin wasn’t larger.

The offensive line isn’t completely to blame for all those sacks, but even the staff agreed that the protection on the edges were lacking. Starting tackles Malcolm Bunche and Caleb Benenoch are playing out of position after arriving at UCLA as guards, something that especially showed against Utah defensive ends last weekend. A significant part of the Bruins’ hopes for an upset will depend on if the unit up front can redeem itself — an opportunity that Bunche himself suggested earlier this week.

If Hundley has time to throw, he should be able to find holes in the Ducks’ defense. The redshirt junior has stretched the field in his final season at UCLA, and already has nine passes of at least 40 yards — just eight shy of his previous two-year total. Those nine passes rank him third in the country in that category, behind Cal’s Jared Goff and Washington State’s Connor Halliday.

After allowing fewer than 5.0 yards per play in five of the last six seasons, Oregon is giving up 5.73 this season. Continue reading

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UCLA still hoping for spot in College Football Playoff

Right before the college football season, UCLA looked like one of the better choices for the betting man.

Popularly thought of as a dark-horse national title contender, the Bruins drew 14-to-1 odds to win the championship — sixth-best in the country. Fast forward six weeks, and the team has fallen to 25-to-1 according to online sportsbook, good for a 13th-place tie with TCU.

A 30-28 loss to a then-unranked Utah last week exposed a UCLA squad that had looked flawed for most of the season. Naturally, that isn’t deterring the now 18th-ranked Bruins’ own hopes about earning a spot in the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

“Absolutely,” said UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson. “If we just do our job every week, and compete, play our butts off, I think we’ll have a great opportunity to make the playoffs.” Continue reading

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VIDEO: Jim Mora talks about UCLA’s play in big games

Last year’s loss to Oregon prompted one of Jim Mora’s most emotional postgame outbursts as UCLA head coach. Asked about the Bruins’ performance in high-profile games with the No. 12 Ducks again looming this weekend, he found a different tone.

“We’ve won a lot of high-profile games,” Mora said Thursday. “We’ve beat Nebraska twice. We went on the road and beat Texas. We beat Southern Cal twice. For people to say we haven’t won high-profile games, I would absolutely dispute that.”

Mora also talked about Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and the value of that senior defensive back Anthony Jefferson provides to the UCLA secondary.

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UCLA left tackle Malcolm Bunche: ‘It’s redemption time’

Coming off its first loss of the season, one particular set of UCLA players may particularly eager to hit the field again for Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s redemption time, man,” said Bruin left tackle Malcolm Bunche. “As an offense, we gave up what, 10 sacks? It’s time to redeem ourselves. And we know it.”

Them, and just about everyone else who saw Utah pull a 30-28 upset at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. The Utes unleashed 10 sacks, including three straight to snuff a fourth-quarter UCLA drive just inches in front of its own goal line.

Those 10 sacks, Utah’s highest single-game tally since 1983, again exposed an offensive line that had appeared to improve through its first four games. After allowing five sacks at Virginia in a performance that offensive line coach Adrian Klemm called “one of the sh–iest performances I’ve been a part of as a player or a coach,” the unit buckled down: four sacks given up to Memphis, three to Texas, one to Arizona State. Continue reading

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