UCLA wishing the best for OC Noel Mazzone after hospitalization

UCLA’s players are hoping for a quick recovery for offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who was hospitalized this week.

“Coach Mazzone’s a fantastic dude,” senior receiver Jordan Payton said Wednesday. “I love him to death. What he’s done here is unbelievable. Right now, it’s sad to see. I heard back yesterday that he was doing just fine. Today, I heard back again that he was doing great.”

The school has not provided an update on Mazzone, 58, since issuing a statement on Tuesday night saying that the assistant coach is “resting comfortably” and “in good spirits.” According to Bruin Report Online, Mazzone was admitted to an intensive care unit due to a blood clot in his lung.

Junior Thomas Duarte, who leads the team with 10 touchdown catches, said he expects Mazzone to return in time for the Bruins’ Dec. 26 finale against Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl — but added that he doesn’t want the coordinator to rush back either.

“We always want it to be soon,” Duarte said. “But we want him to take his time and really get well, get back to 100 percent.”

Added Payton: “Our coaches are holding it together. They’re doing a great job right now just patching things up, keeping the offense rolling.”

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UCLA’s Jordan Payton, Ka’imi Fairbairn picked for Senior Bowl

UCLA receiver Jordan Payton was one of two Bruins to accept invitations to the Senior Bowl. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA receiver Jordan Payton was one of two Bruins to accept invitations to the Senior Bowl. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA receiver Jordan Payton and kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn have both accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl.

The two Bruins will appear in arguably the top postseason all-star game on Jan. 30 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Payton is the school’s all-time receptions leader and its first 1,000-yard receiver since 2011, while Fairbairn is a Lou Groza Award winner and consensus All-American.

UCLA was represented in the 2015 Senior Bowl by defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa — an eventual third-round draft pick — and defensive back Anthony Jefferson.

Center Jake Brendel is slated to appear in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23, while receiver Devin Fuller and linebacker Aaron Wallace are set to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl the same day.

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Kenny Clark leads UCLA with All-Pac-12 first team selection

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) was the Bruins' lone representative on the All-Pac-12 first team. He also caught at touchdown pass in UCLA's season-opening 34-16 win against Virginia. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) was the Bruins’ lone representative on the All-Pac-12 first team. He also caught at touchdown pass in UCLA’s season-opening 34-16 win against Virginia. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Through most of the season, nose tackle Kenny Clark looked like UCLA’s best player. Pac-12 coaches agreed.

When the All-Pac-12 teams were announced Tuesday, Clark was the Bruins’ sole first-team representative on offense, defense, or special teams. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior was second on the team with seven tackles for loss, showed off his development as a pass rusher by notching his first five career sacks.

UCLA placed several more players on the second team. On offense, running back Paul Perkins, center Jake Brendel and left tackle Conor McDermott all earned spots. Linebacker Deon Hollins and defensive backs Randall Goforth and Jaleel Wadood filled in for the defense.

Receiver Jordan Payton, linebacker Aaron Wallace, and cornerback Marcus Rios were honorable mentions.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising part of the all-conference selections was Ka’imi Fairbairn settling for being a second-team specialist. The kicker became the Pac-12’s all-time leading scorer this season, hit a school-record 60-yard field goal, and is one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award. Throw in his respectable 20 of 23 conversion rate on field goals, and he seemed like a shoe-in on the first team.

Instead, Pac-12 coaches voted for Aidan Schneider. The Oregon sophomore was slightly more accurate at 20 of 22, but hadn’t attempted a field goal longer than 41 yards. Fairbairn’s three misses have come from 47, 49 and 50 yards.

See the full All-Pac-12 teams below: Continue reading

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USC 40, UCLA 21: Wide receiver Jordan Payton

UCLA receiver Jordan Payton talked about his team’s 40-21 loss to USC on Saturday, one in which the Bruin offense sputtered numerous times.

Asked if this loss stings more than the others in his career, the senior said: “I think it’s supposed to. I think to the outside world — it’s supposed to be the only game anybody knows about is this one.

“A loss is a loss. To be honest, they all hurt. I guess this one hurts more because I know all the guys over there. It does suck to lose in the Coliseum.”

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Five thoughts after UCLA’s win over Utah

In case you missed anything from UCLA’s 17-9 win at Utah, here’s our coverage from yesterday in Salt Lake City.

» The Bruins’ defense made key adjustments, and shut a team out of the end zone for the third time this season.
» Jordan Payton set a new UCLA record with his 194th career catch. He also became only the eighth Bruin to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season, and the first since Nelson Rosario in 2011.
» VIDEOS: Jim Mora, Tom Bradley, Josh Rosen / Paul Perkins, Deon Hollins, Jordan Payton, Takkarist McKinley, Jayon Brown

A few more thoughts on UCLA, and the road ahead …

1. The Bruins are in good position to win the Pac-12 South. Jim Mora has won three straight games against USC, taking the last two by more than two touchdowns. If a fourth is what stands between UCLA and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship, it’s very difficult to imagine this team letting up. As much as he’s struggled against Stanford, Mora has consistently prepared to against both USC and Arizona, going 7-0 with an average margin of almost 21 points. That’s not just happenstance.

While the Trojans have opened as 3.5-point favorites, that only feeds into UCLA’s preference for the underdog role. Even Josh Rosen has caught onto this.

“I hope we don’t get ranked after this game,” he said Saturday. “Because for some reason, we don’t like playing ahead. We like when people doubt us.”

That said, with the division at stake, this could easily go down to the wire.

2. The offensive line could have issues. Left tackle Conor McDermott injured his right knee on Saturday, and wasn’t able to walk off the field unassisted. Mora wouldn’t say much about his status, but coming back from something like that in one week seems unlikely. Continue reading

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