UCLA’s 42-30 loss to Oregon adds more questions to season outlook

UCLA bench looks toward the scoreboard during the second half of a 42-30 loss to No. 12 Oregon at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

» UCLA’s season is at a crossroad after a 42-30 decision against Oregon dealt the team back-to-back losses.
» Vinny Bonsignore’s column on Jeff Ulbrich’s mid-game outburst, and how it turned into a learning experience for the 37-year-old defensive coordinator.
» Larry Scott said the Pac-12 will review the punch Eddie Vanderdoes threw during the second quarter, one that did not result in an ejection.

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UCLA coach Jim Mora downplays his argument with Jeff Ulbrich

If someone makes a big deal out of a sideline argument between two coaches, that person doesn’t understand sports.

At least, that’s what UCLA head coach Jim Mora said after cameras caught him arguing with with defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in the second quarter — after Oregon scored its second touchdown in an eventual 42-30 win at the Rose Bowl.

Ulbrich walked toward Mora and followed him, then handed over his playcard and removed his headset.

“How many of you guys have ever been on the sidelines coaching a game at any level?” Mora said. “I go to my kid’s pee wee game, and coaches are “Arrgh!” — grinding. And it’s a game in front of 12 fans. Continue reading

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No. 12 Oregon downs UCLA in mistake-filled game

PASADENA >> Oregon’s visit to the Rose Bowl on Saturday went so well, it turned its own fumble into a touchdown.

Early in the third quarter against UCLA, Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota took the snap on second-and-10. He bobbled it, letting it bounce a few feet forward and to the left.

But with no Bruin defender anywhere near him, the Heisman candidate simply scooped the ball back up in stride and ran around 20 yards untouched to the end zone. Capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive that gave Oregon an 18-point lead, it was just one of many disastrous moments in UCLA’s 42-30 loss.

The Bruins have now lost six straight games to Oregon — two under third-year head coach Jim Mora — but Saturday’s mess was arguably the most discouraging of them all. Continue reading

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Pac-12 will review penalty on UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes

A penalty against UCLA defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes in the second quarter will be reviewed further by the conference, said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Vanderdoes appeared to throw a punch at Oregon running back Thomas Tyner on the bottom of a pileup. He drew a 15-yard penalty — giving the Ducks an automatic first down on what would have been third-and-3 just past midfield — but was not ejected.

Oregon scored five plays later, when Marcus Mariota threw a screen pass to Tyner for a 21-yard gain and a 15-3 lead. After the play, UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich also got into a heated argument with head coach Jim Mora, handing over his headset.

Scott said at halftime that he already has a video clip of what happened on Vanderdoes’ penalty.

“Anything that could possibly be a fighting act is reviewed by the conference office,” he said. “That’s something we’ll certainly take a look at on Monday.”

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What to watch: No. 18 UCLA vs. No. 12 Oregon

No. 12 Oregon’s arrival at the Rose Bowl on Saturday could give UCLA a chance at a program-altering win it sorely needs right now — even if head coach Jim Mora was reluctant to acknowledge it this week.

What to watch heading into today’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff:

UCLA offense vs. Oregon defense: For all the talent and skill that Brett Hundley possesses, he can’t do much once he’s dragged to the ground. And considering that the Bruins’ allowed 10 sacks in last week’s loss against Utah last week, it’s almost surprising that the final 30-28 margin wasn’t larger.

The offensive line isn’t completely to blame for all those sacks, but even the staff agreed that the protection on the edges were lacking. Starting tackles Malcolm Bunche and Caleb Benenoch are playing out of position after arriving at UCLA as guards, something that especially showed against Utah defensive ends last weekend. A significant part of the Bruins’ hopes for an upset will depend on if the unit up front can redeem itself — an opportunity that Bunche himself suggested earlier this week.

If Hundley has time to throw, he should be able to find holes in the Ducks’ defense. The redshirt junior has stretched the field in his final season at UCLA, and already has nine passes of at least 40 yards — just eight shy of his previous two-year total. Those nine passes rank him third in the country in that category, behind Cal’s Jared Goff and Washington State’s Connor Halliday.

After allowing fewer than 5.0 yards per play in five of the last six seasons, Oregon is giving up 5.73 this season. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Jim Mora talks about UCLA’s play in big games

Last year’s loss to Oregon prompted one of Jim Mora’s most emotional postgame outbursts as UCLA head coach. Asked about the Bruins’ performance in high-profile games with the No. 12 Ducks again looming this weekend, he found a different tone.

“We’ve won a lot of high-profile games,” Mora said Thursday. “We’ve beat Nebraska twice. We went on the road and beat Texas. We beat Southern Cal twice. For people to say we haven’t won high-profile games, I would absolutely dispute that.”

Mora also talked about Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, and the value of that senior defensive back Anthony Jefferson provides to the UCLA secondary.

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Five questions: The Oregonian’s Andrew Greif talks No. 12 Oregon

Coming off its first loss of the season, No. 18 UCLA hosts Oregon on Saturday as both teams try to keep dimming college football playoff hopes alive. The Oregonian’s Andrew Greif answered five questions about the No. 12 Ducks.

1. Shortly before Oregon’s loss to Arizona, Mark Helfrich was dubbed a “quiet genius.” Was that a premature coronation of sorts, or does he simply need more time to guide the Ducks back to Chip Kelly-like levels?

It wasn’t premature to hail his intellect, because he’s regarded as one of the country’s smartest coaches on a pure intelligence level. But how that’s translated to coaching is muddled for critics, who see his 15-3 Pac-12 coaching record and believe that it should be 17-1, at worst. Honestly, he’s in a no-win situation as Chip Kelly’s successor, a point the “Quiet Genius” story deftly told. His 15-2 conference record entering last week’s game against Arizona tied Helfrich for the best conference coaching start since Pappy Waldorf at Cal in 1947. But then Oregon lost, giving him a third conference defeat — as many as Kelly had in his entire four-year run. You can sense Oregon fans getting restless that given all his intellect and talent on the rosters, the Ducks haven’t done more with it.

2. After holding opponents to 4.61 yards per play in 2013 — the seventh-best mark in the country — the Ducks are giving up 5.73 through five games. How much would you attribute the defensive drop-off to the coordinator change (Nick Aliotti to Don Pellum) versus personnel changes/injuries?

Players and coaches are steadfast that the 3-4 scheme has barely changed since Aliotti retired last January, but there is obviously some difference in play calling when a new coordinator takes over as he learns his comfort calling plays. Continue reading

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First look: No. 12 Oregon Ducks

No. 18 UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1) vs. No. 12 Oregon Ducks (4-1, 1-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 11, 12:30 p.m. PT, Rose Bowl
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Molly McGrath)
Radio: 1150 Fox Sports/AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: After Chip Kelly bolted for the Philadelphia Eagles in January 2013, Mark Helfrich took over and produced good but not great results. After four straight BCS bowls, the Ducks lost two games in Helfrich’s first season and ended up with an Alamo Bowl victory over Texas — as well as a No. 9 spot in the final AP poll.

Coming off a loss to Arizona, Oregon now looks more beatable than it has in years, with many fans starting to question whether or not Helfrich was the right man to lead the program. Former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, now a Pac-12 Networks analyst, even picked this week to say that he would have accepted a hypothetical head coaching offer rather than retiring.

Key players:

QB Marcus Mariota, Jr., 6-4, 219 — 91/128, 1411 yards, 16 TD, 0 INT, 42 carries, 215 rushing yards, 3 TD
– Not much more needs to be said about Mariota, who has been playing lights out this season — minus his late-game fumble against Arizona.

RB Royce Freeman, Fr., 6-0, 229 — 67 carries, 346 yards, 5 TD
– Ranked the No. 8 running back prospect in 2014, the four-star recruit quickly became the lead runner in a talented backfield. Among the conference’s top 20 rushers, only he and USC’s Buck Allen are listed at 220 pounds or more. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley reviews UCLA’s loss, looks to Oregon

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley looked back on Monday at his team’s 30-28 loss to Utah and the 10 sacks he took, and looked forward to Saturday’s tilt against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s a big game for us,” Hundley said. “But like I said, this game isn’t bigger than any other game previously. This is another game, obviously, the whole nation is going to be watching. We can go out and show the country what UCLA’s really about.”

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