UCLA 59, New Mexico State 13: Noel Mazzone


Despite not looking seamless on offense, UCLA romped for a school-record 692 yards. The star quarterback had an uncharacteristically rough day, missing receivers and throwing two interceptions in the red zone. Tailback Jordon James also had a fumble at the five-yard line on the Bruins’ opening drive.

“Anytime you have three turnovers in the red zone, we had some penalties — holding penalties, some offsides — yeah, I’m not happy about that.” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “But (Hundley) made some good plays for us. To me, it was kind of an inconsistent night for us offensively.”

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UCLA revs up offense after slow start

LINCOLN, Neb. — After an abysmal first quarter, UCLA was lucky to be down just 11 points heading into halftime.

The Bruins had made crucial mistakes and gifted Nebraska short fields, whether by interception or bobbled punt. Memorial Stadium, known for hosting one of the toughest home crowds in college football, looked to be wearing down on the visitors.

But when the clock ran down, UCLA walked out with a 41-21 blowout, its small pockets of fans cheering loudly as players and coaches ran past them into the tunnel.

How did it happen, the shift from sluggish to superlative? The Bruins took a big breath.

“We came in at halftime, just told kids, ‘Hey relax. I’m just going to call base plays. Just do what you guys do,’” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “Our whole motto is play to the next play. We’re going to snap it once, play, forget about it, and just play the next one. Live in the moment of each play.” Continue reading

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Freshman Thomas Duarte a potential spark to Y-receiver corps


This was last year’s red-zone motto for UCLA: “Put it on the top shelf where the kids can’t get it.”

Easy to do when your target is 6-foot-7. Joseph Fauria led the Bruins with 12 touchdown catches, the most for any tight end in the country. When Brett Hundley needed a safety valve as a first-year starter, he most often looked to the Mackey Award semifinalist.

Entering head coach Jim Mora’s second season, UCLA’s tight ends – better termed as Y-receivers in the Bruins’ fast-paced offense – don’t stick out nearly as much. Seniors Darius Bell and Grayson Mazzone are 5-foot-11 and 5-foot-8, respectively. Nate Iese and Jordan Barrett both measure at least 6-foot-2, but will likely be used more as blockers.

The difference maker could be true freshman Thomas Duarte, a prized 6-foot-3 recruit out of Mater Dei High. Named the Orange County Register’s Player of the Year as well as to the MaxPreps all-state team, his No. 18 jersey was retired in March alongside former USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s. UCLA coaches and teammates already point out Duarte’s wide passing radius and smooth game. Continue reading

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Father’s Day: What makes a coach’s son?

For Father’s Day, a short read on what it’s like to grow up as a coach’s son — as it was first published in late November. (Taylor Mazzone has since been promoted to quarterbacks coach, after initially replacing Marques Tuiasosopo as Y receivers coach.)
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Taylor Mazzone has a vision. A beautiful home in a football- crazed town, a wife and kids, and a bit of job security.

Simple conditions, but difficult to come by when you’re vying to become a football coach. Mazzone, a UCLA graduate assistant, is no stranger to the profession’s winding path, the packing boxes and new ZIP Codes. After all, he’s a coach’s son. Continue reading

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UCLA misses on No. 1 QB Kyle Allen

UCLA put the full-court press on Kyle Allen, but couldn’t close the deal as the No. 1-rated pro-style quarterback picked Texas A&M. The Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, Ariz.) star also had Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma State.

The Bruins, thought to be the leaders for Allen, now face a tough task in landing a 2014 quarterback: Manny Wilkins and Brad Kaaya were the next targets on the list, but they’ve since verballed to Arizona State and Miami, respectively.

The top uncommitted pro-style quarterback according to Rivals.com rankings is now Palo Alto’s Keller Chryst, whose top four is Stanford, USC, Alabama and Pitt.

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UCLA football post-spring: Offense

Quarterback

Be happy that you have one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Brett Hundley isn’t flawless, but not many players in the country have the same level of tantalizing potential. (I don’t think he’ll leave, but if Hundley declares for the 2014 draft, SI already has him as the No. 8 pick.)

A superlative freshman campaign — 3,745 yards, 29 touchdowns against 11 picks — proved that the 6-foot-3 dual threat is the quarterback the Bruins have long sought. Perhaps the biggest knock on him was his decision-making, whether that meant not throwing the ball away when he needed to or not sliding at the right time. In spring, he looked like he corrected some of that, drawing cheers from his teammates once when he slid on a scramble.

He also took 52 sacks last season — second-most in college football, and something that did start to affect him later in the fall. Continue reading

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Wednesday practice notes: Evans besting Adams

Cornerback Ishmael Adams was one of UCLA’s week-one stars, but has struggled more recently. Shaq Evans, in particular, seems to have made it his mission to abuse Adams after giving the redshirt freshman an earful of trash talk last week. On Wednesday, Evans’ best play was a tipped pass to himself for a score.

Adams should still be fine, but his lack of size is showing. He has also spent all of spring in a red jersey, but defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin said Adams could play a game now if necessary.

Evans, meanwhile, should figure to be a bigger red-zone target this season. Receivers coach Eric Yarber also said this about the senior: “I need him to be one of the leaders of the team. Even last year, all these young kids looked up to Shaq. If Shaq wasn’t having a good day, it was almost like the whole group wasn’t having a good day.”

» Jordan Payton likely remains ahead of Devin Lucien on the receiver depth chart heading into summer camp. Payton made a nice catch on Wednesday while double-covered by Anthony Jefferson and Dietrich Riley. Riley was consistently beaten in pass coverage, which may or may not be due to injury rust.

» Eldridge Massington is still rehabbing his ACL tear. He had a minor setback last week, but the main obstacle will likely be more mental than physical. Continue reading

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Jim Mora: UCLA’s Devin Fuller in ‘mold of Percy Harvin’

At what point does hope trend into fantasy? Praise into hyperbole? On the topic of rising sophomore Devin Fuller, Jim Mora ventured this week into that hazy, indeterminate zone.

“I think I’ve said this before and it’s not fair to either guy, but I think he’s in the mold of a Percy Harvin,” the UCLA head coach said. “A guy that can play running back if you need him to, can play slot, can go outside.”

Fuller still has a ways to go before he reaches the same tier as Harvin — an eventual Pro Bowler who had over 3,500 all-purpose yards in three years at Florida — but the suggestion isn’t outlandish, ceiling-wise. Since arriving at UCLA as a quarterback who then turned into a 145-yard receiver, he has proved himself to be one of the most impressive Bruins in spring camp (This becomes especially true if you’re looking for someone that’s not an established star.) Continue reading

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Taylor Mazzone named Y receivers coach

Graduate assistant Taylor Mazzone will be promoted to the Y receivers coaching spot vacated by Marques Tuiasosopo. The news was first reported yesterday on Twitter by FootballScoop.

“A lot of excitement and anxiousness,” Mazzone said of his feelings upon hearing the news. “I’ve been waiting for quite a while. This is a great opportunity at a great university. Coaching in the Pac-12 for my first job is unbelievable.”

The son of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Taylor worked previously as a graduate assistant at Arizona State, where he helped groom quarterback Brock Osweiler. He has also worked with Tim Tebow and Christian Ponder; he and his father have been credited for helping the latter become the No. 12 overall pick in 2011 NFL Draft.

Head coach Jim Mora told Mazzone after the Holiday Bowl that a position could be available for him if someone from the staff leaves. Two days after the Bruins’ 49-26 loss to Baylor, Washington officially announced that it had hired Tuiasosopo as its new quarterbacks coach. Tuiasosopo had led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory over a decade ago. Continue reading

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