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 Bovada.lv, 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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Jim Mora: Lack of clarity on Brett Hundley doesn’t give UCLA edge

As he has for most of the past week, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley practiced on Tuesday with a brace covering his left elbow — the one he injured in a 20-17 win against Texas 10 days ago.

And as he has for most of the past week, UCLA head coach Jim Mora didn’t offer many details: “He’s been limited. He’s done a few things. He’s worked a little bit.” He said again that he is relying on the team’s medical staff to determine if Hundley is ready — a decision that could stretch, naturally, as late as Thursday evening.

Mora added that the lack of clarity surrounding his star quarterback’s health doesn’t give UCLA any sort of tactical advantage heading into Thursday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Arizona State, particularly given who the Sun Devils’ head coach is. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: If doctors clear Brett Hundley, he’ll play at Arizona State

Brett Hundley’s status remains unclear for UCLA’s Thursday night game at Arizona State, but the star quarterback appears to be making some progress.

The redshirt junior dressed for practice again on Sunday. He entered without anything covering his injured left elbow, but was spotted with a brace over it later.

After vowing not to reveal any injury updates until the 7 p.m. kickoff in Tempe, head coach Jim Mora deferred to the team’s medical staff when asked about Hundley.

“All of our players that are out, what we try to do is try to make the best decision for them based on the knowledge that we have,” Mora said. “We depend on our doctors to give us good information. We’ve got the best doctors in America, in my opinion.”

“If they clear him and they say that he can play, just like everybody else, we’ll play him.”

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