Marcus Rios’ interception a product of resilience, strategy

The most remarkable part of what Marcus Rios did on Saturday happened long before the ball fell into his hands with 51 seconds left in UCLA’s 36-34 win at Cal.

It’s been well-reported, but worth mentioning again: Back in spring of 2013, the cornerback spent months at UCLA Medical Center battling a life-threatening fungal infection. Even after he returned to the practice field last season, he looked underweight and far from playing in an actual game.

And yet, there he was at Memorial Stadium, pulling in an interception that sealed the Bruins’ first win in Berkeley since 1998.

“A year ago, this kid was battling for his life,” said UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. “That’s no exaggeration. I remember when he had just gotten out of the hospital and he was 135, 140 pounds. To think how far he’s come and for him to have an opportunity to seal this win for us, that was just really cool.”

Rios received the game ball afterward, the first one handed out since head coach Jim Mora was hired. “It just made sense,” Mora said.

Less discussed has been exactly what happened on that play. Down two points, Cal was threatening to enter field goal range with another first down. With a kicker who was 7-of-10 on field goal attempts this season — and a long of 47 — all the Bears needed was another run or a short pass.

But they opted to take another shot at the end zone. Continue reading “Marcus Rios’ interception a product of resilience, strategy” »

Jim Mora announces UCLA’s six captains for 2014

» UCLA voted on team captains last Thursday, and Jim Mora announced the picks Tuesday morning. Not a lot of surprises: on offense, quarterback Brett Hundley and center Jake Brendel; on defense, linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa; on special teams, linebacker Ryan Hofmeister and fullback Taylor Lagace.

» Mora was confident that Brendel, who is recovering from an MCL injury, will be ready to play in the Bruins’ Aug. 30 season opener at Virginia.

Cornerback Marcus Rios (migraines) is seeing a specialist today. He missed a number of practices in San Bernardino before returning late in the week for sideline work. Continue reading “Jim Mora announces UCLA’s six captains for 2014” »

LT Simon Goines, LB Eric Kendricks practice lightly

Wrecked by injuries, UCLA started three true freshmen on its offensive line in a 42-14 loss at Oregon.

Reinforcements are working back. Sophomore Simon Goines (knee) and Conor McDermott (shoulder) both practiced Tuesday, albeit without pads. Goines, who started at right tackle before moving to left, was still limping and had his right knee wrapped.

(Starting left tackle Torian White’s season ended on Oct. 3 when he broke a bone and tore a ligament near his ankle.)

“They develop a sense of urgency to get back,” head coach Jim Mora said. “I feel that with a lot of guys. You look at our injury report and it’s pretty vast. You see a bunch of guys that want to get back out here and do whatever they can, whatever they can.”

Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who played through a back bruise with the help of an anesthetic shot on Saturday, was at practice without pads. Continue reading “LT Simon Goines, LB Eric Kendricks practice lightly” »