Noel Mazzone on Damien Thigpen’s expanding role


Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talked about running back Damien Thigpen’s potential to stretch out opposing defenses — with the ability to turn a 4-yard run into 20 yards.

Also used as a slot receiver and returner while Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, Thigpen has a chance now to become more of a featured back.

“(Last year), we sneaked Thiggy around the field to get the ball to him,” Mazzone said. “Now, he’s a guy who can step in and be more of a focal point in the running game.

“Instead of the side dish, he can maybe be the true entree.”

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UCLA shakes slow start to beat Buffaloes 45-23

Despite letting Colorado stick around for the better part of the first half, UCLA finally started taking some shots downfield for its third conference win.

Our coverage from Saturday night’s 45-23 decision, running in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Daily News and other LANG papers:

– My story on Brett Hundley’s good-not-great showing against Colorado.
– Vinny Bonsignore called the Colorado game a trap for UCLA, one it wiggled out of following hyped-up visits to Stanford and Oregon.
– Jill Painter pointed out UCLA’s seven first-half penalties, leading Jim Mora to indirectly call her a “Debbie Downer.”
– A notebook on UCLA’s success in using true freshmen, including Cameron Judge’s big forced fumble.

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UCLA 45, Colorado 23: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone


With two three-and-outs to start the game, UCLA offensive coordinator did little to quiet his critics. On its first six plays, the Bruins ran five times, with just one rush of over two yards.

“After the first two series, I was looking at my Uber app on my phone to see if they could get an SUV to come pick me up,” he said.

Finally, he said, he gave up on trying to establish the run game and let Brett Hundley air it out. He threw a 76-yard touchdown to Devin Fuller.

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Noel Mazzone defends swing pass-heavy playbook


UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has heard the criticism. His single-back spread stretches sideline to sideline much more than it does downfield.

The Bruins have been no more than middling in long pass plays this season: their 81 passes of at least 10 yards ranks sixth in the Pac-12, and their eight passes of at least 30 yards ranks 11th. Continue reading

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UCLA offensive line likely to start three true freshmen


With three days left until a visit from UCLA, No. 2 Oregon’s defense may already be salivating.

Two weeks ago, the No. 12 Bruins started two true freshmen on the offensive line for the first time in school history. This Wednesday, Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said true freshman Scott Quessenberry will likely join the mix at left guard.

Primarily a center, Quessenberry played some guard in fall camp, but was redshirting this season until the line’s recent rash of injuries. He has practiced there this week after the loss of left tackle Simon Goines, who injured his MCL in a 24-10 loss at Stanford. Protecting quarterback Brett Hundley’s blind side now falls to All-American Xavier Su’a-Filo, who shifts over from left guard. Continue reading

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Stanford 24, UCLA 10: Takeaways from the Bruins’ first loss

No. 9 UCLA was one of five top-10 teams to lose on Saturday, its 24-10 loss at Stanford dropping the Bruins for the first time this season. You can see read the game story here, but here are a few thoughts from the game that knocked Jim Mora’s surging squad down a peg.

1. The offensive line is in trouble. Already without left tackle Torian White (broken ankle), UCLA also lost tackle Simon Goines (MCL) and backup Conor McDermott (dislocated shoulder) in the third quarter. The severity of their injuries is not yet certain, but Goines returned for a few snaps and couldn’t get into his stance properly. He had his left knee wrapped after the game and was on crutches. In fall camp, it was his right knee that was hyperextended.

Xavier Su’a-Filo would likely be the team’s best left tackle if he spent all his practice reps there, and will likely start getting more regardless of what happens with Goines and McDermott. If the pair are out for any extended amount of time, then the All-American guard will move out to protect Brett Hundley’s blind side. Continue reading

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UCLA 37, Cal 10: Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone


UCLA’s offense put up 37 points against Cal Saturday night, but could have easily cleared 50 had it not stuttered in the red zone. The Bruins converted all five opportunities for points, but only two turned into touchdowns.

“He missed a couple of throws down there in the goal line that just changed the whole game around,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said of quarterback Brett Hundley. “Three of them down there where we had to settle for field goals. I kind of got out of sync a little bit on our third-and-short (play calls).”

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Noel Mazzone references children’s lit in describing freshman linemen


A few days after offensive line coach Adrian Klemm referenced Pokemon cards to describe Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch’s youth, another UCLA assistant found a useful cultural marker.

“They’re still on the ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ book right now,” Noel Mazzone said Thursday. “Dr. Seuss reading. We haven’t progressed enough.”

The Bruins’ offensive coordinator also talked about the need to eliminate “self-imposed wounds” — i.e. penalties — and to build consistency.

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