To get an accurate measure of how this season went for UCLA, there’s no better person to turn to than Jim Mora himself.
“We’re not trying to be average,” the head coach told his players back during training camp in San Bernardino. “We’re not after good. Nobody in here is going to be satisfied when, at the end of the year, people say, ‘Oh, they’re a good football team.’
“Great. Every single day, everything we do, that’s got to be our focus: great.”
By that standard, UCLA’s third year under Mora was a tremendous disappointment. There’s no masking that after a 31-10 loss to Stanford ended the Bruins’ chance at a Pac-12 Championship, though the team deserves some credit for not letting the season spiral out of control after losses to Utah and Oregon. At midseason, the Bruins were teetering. The way the team looked after ugly wins at Cal and Colorado, a nine-win season looked optimistic.
But in notching impressive wins over Arizona, Washington and USC, UCLA pushed the bar back up. Expectations rose again to a “New Year’s Six” bowl, or even the College Football Playoff.
The Cardinal ended those dreams, shaping into the Bruins’ schematic Kryptonite even in a down season. It was an outcome that should have seen Mora shouldering more blame, something I recall him emphatically doing only once this year. Continue reading