UCLA Football: Jim Mora's 2nd-Half Adjustments Prove He Is an Elite Coach

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UCLA Football: Jim Mora's 2nd-Half Adjustments Prove He Is an Elite Coach
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Uncle Mo came out of the locker room from halftime of UCLA's 41-21 win over Nebraska Saturday wearing Bruin gold. 

He's one recruit head coach Jim Mora is particularly adept at introducing to the Bruin lineup at the most opportune times, and Saturday he elevated the play of everyone around him: quarterback Brett Hundley, running backs Paul Perkins and Jordon James and the defensive front seven. 

Indeed, momentum was squarely on UCLA's side after trailing the No. 23 Cornhuskers 21-10 at halftime. A 28-point third quarter fueled the Bruins' astounding 31-0 second half and 38-0 overall run.

Halftime adjustments are fast becoming a staple of the Mora-coached Bruins. In its Week 1 rout of Nevada, UCLA blew open a four-point edge in the third quarter with 20 points and another 21 in the fourth. 

Through two games, the Bruins are outscoring opponents 82-7 in second halves. Whatever the often-fiery Mora is saying to his team during intermission, the message is getting through loud and clear. 

As a result, UCLA is looking like an early contender to the Pac-12 Conference crown.

A 9 a.m. Pacific kickoff and raucous Memorial Stadium crowd—the largest in the venue's history—both seemed to affect the Bruins while falling behind 21-3. 

UCLA also came to Lincoln with heavy hearts following the death of wide receiver Nick Pasquale Sunday. A choked-up Mora dedicated the win to Pasquale and his family during his postgame television interview. 

"Our goal today was to honor Nick," Mora said to sideline reporter Shannon Spake. 

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams wore Pasquale's No. 36 on their helmets. Hundley held up a towel with the number scrawled in Magic Marker after leading a scoring drive. 

Mora's halftime adjustments allowed the Bruins to give their fallen teammate the tribute they wanted. 

A defense that struggled to contain the Cornhuskers' multifaceted backfield early was impenetrable down the stretch. True freshman Myles Jack had something of a coming-out party, recording five tackles and deflecting a Taylor Martinez pass. 

Linebacker Anthony Barr was outstanding. His three forced fumbles set the table for the Bruin offense. Barr exemplified the energy Mora refocused at halftime, pursuing Husker ball-carriers with reckless abandon.  

On the other end, Hundley operated with veteran precision to key the potent offensive attack. 

In the first half, he passed for 153 yards and an interception and rushed for 31 yards. He failed to reach the end zone. His second-half numbers weren't markedly better139 yards passing, 30 rushing—save for one. 

His three passing touchdowns capped the balanced approach coordinator Noel Mazzone sent at Nebraska's defense in the second half. James had his second 100-yard game since taking over for the program's all-time leading rusher, Johnathan Franklin, and scored a touchdown. Perkins also reached the end zone on the ground. 

Such balance was evident in every component of the Bruin offense, another indication of Mora and staff's outstanding play-calling. Hundley attacked Nebraska by using an array of receivers, completing passes to nine different targets. 

His team is getting Mora's message, and the Bruins' remaining opponents should take the same note. These Bruins are playing for 60 full minutes, but the second 30 will be especially daunting. 

 

Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.

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