UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn named consensus All-American

UCLA kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn (left) has become the Bruins' second consensus All-American of the Jim Mora era. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn (left) has become the Bruins’ second consensus All-American of the Jim Mora era. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

The postseason honors continue to roll in for UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn.

After winning the Lou Groza Award last Thursday as the top kicker in college football, the senior can now call himself a consensus All-American. He is the first Bruin to qualify since linebacker Anthony Barr in 2013.

Consensus All-American status is achieved when a player makes at least three of the five major teams. Fairbairn was picked by the Walter Camp Football Foundation last week, the Associated Press on Sunday, and the FWAA on Monday.

If the Hawaii native also makes the Sporting News and AFCA lists, he’ll become UCLA’s first unanimous All-American since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2005. Only 10 Bruins have ever been named unanimously, with linebacker Jerry Robinson and safety Kenny Easley earning two nods apiece.

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UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn wins Lou Groza Award

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UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn is officially the top kicker in college football.

The senior beat out Auburn’s Daniel Carlson and Memphis’ Jake Elliott on Thursday night, winning the Lou Groza Award during a ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. He received the honor after settling for All-Pac-12 second team, falling behind Oregon’s Aidan Schneider.

Fairbairn became the conference’s all-time leading scorer this fall, making 20 of 23 field goals and setting a school record with a 60-yarder against Cal — a booming kick that likely balanced out his misses from 49 and 47 yards to end the season. He had never made one from even 50 yards until this season. He is the first Bruin to win the Lou Groza Award since Kai Forbath in 2009.

“There is a quote by Sir Isaac Newton that says, “I see as far as I see, because I stand on the shoulders of giants,” Fairbairn said after winning his award. “It is because of the efforts of a great deal of others that I stand here today. These people are the foundation that have enabled me to succeed.”

He proceeded to thank a long list of people, including UCLA administrators, head coach Jim Mora, his teammates — in particular, backup quarterback/holder Jerry Neuheisel and longsnapper Chris Longo — and his parents, John and Rochelle.

The Hawaii native was also named to the Walter Camp All-America first team. Carlson and Elliott shared the second-team spot.

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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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UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn named a Lou Groza Award finalist

UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn was named one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award today, keeping him in the running to officially become college football’s top kicker.

Kai Forbath is the only Bruin to have won the award, doing so in 2009. If Fairbairn becomes the second, it’ll be a fitting finish to his remarkable turnaround as a senior. He’s competing with Auburn’s Daniel Carlson and Memphis’ Jake Elliott, with the winner to be announced on Dec. 7.

Here’s how the three stack up statistically:

Overall 1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Long
Fairbairn 20-22 0-0 7-7 9-9 2-3 2-3 60
Carlson 20-23 0-0 6-8 7-7 3-3 4-5 56
Elliott 22-26 0-0 6-6 7-10 8-9 1-1 52

Fairbairn arguably has the most impressive overall resume, one that features a school-record 60-yard field goal. Continue reading

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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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