UCLA Football: Quiet Jim Mora Means Bruins Must Make Statement on Field

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UCLA Football: Quiet Jim Mora Means Bruins Must Make Statement on Field
USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, UCLA head coach Jim Mora is opting to let his team's performance do the talking in Week 2. 

Coming off a 28-20 win at Virginia Saturday in which the 11th-ranked Bruins scored only one offensive touchdown, Mora's answers on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference call Tuesday were short and broad. 

On the team's attitude: "Great. Feeling good."

On changing anything in the offensive line's preparation: "No, just [practicing] our normal stuff." 

On concerns about the offensive line: "I'm concerned about everything. I'm concerned about every position on our team. We've just, as a team, got to get better every day." 

On defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa building off his Week 1 performance: "We take it one day at a time."  

Mora does not need to make bold proclamations about his team in preparation—others have taken care of that.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Media at large did an about-face on UCLA after just one game. The trendy national championship pick plummeted four spots in the most recent Associated Press Top 25. For context, consider that UCLA fell as many places in a road win as Wisconsin dropped in a neutral field loss.

It isn't just media making superlative statements about UCLA's Week 1 showing, however.

After quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked five times and under constant duress at Virginia, Bruins offensive line coach Adrian Klemm told Everett Cook of the Los Angeles Times the front five's performance ranked among the worst he's ever experienced. 

Justin Fuente will be on the sideline opposite Mora and his staff this week in the Rose Bowl. The Memphis head coach had much more to say about UCLA's offense than the Bruins head coach.

"Offensively they provide plenty of problems and will continue to improve," Fuente said in his weekly press conference, via GoTigersGo.com. "I don't think they're over there freaking out or panicking about their offense.

"They'll score plenty of points over the season," he added.

Fuente would obviously prefer the Bruins offense not come to life Saturday. His team's talented defensive line, led by American Athletic All-Conference selection and NFL draft prospect Martin Ifedi, will do what it can against an injury-plagued offensive line.

UCLA was without starters Jake Brendel at center and Simon Goines at right tackle against Virginia. Their statuses are unclear.   

Mora told Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News that last week was UCLA's first game in Mora's three-year tenure without Brendel starting at center. It showed, as Virginia exploited the matchup problem the Bruins faced lining up sophomore Scott Quessenberry at center with frequent blitzes up the middle. 

UCLA countered in the second half with Hundley taking off on designed runs. Running back Paul Perkins also injected some life into the ground game, getting 13 of his team-high 16 carries after intermission per UCLABruins.com.

At five yards per carry, Perkins was much more effective than Jordon James, who mustered just three yards on five rushes.

UCLA Ball-Carriers vs. Virginia
Players 1st-Half Carries 1st-Half Yards 2nd-Half Carries 2nd-Half Yards
Paul Perkins 3 23 13 57
Brett Hundley 4 2 11 33
Jordon James 3 8 2 -5
Steven Manfro 2 -5 0 0
Team 0 0 1 -1
Total 12 28 27 84

UCLABruins.com

Establishing an effective run game early is critical if the Bruins are to alleviate some of the pressure on Hundley

In the first quarter last week, UCLA ran just five times for 25 yards. Take away Perkins' runs of four and 18 yards just before the end of the period, and the Bruins managed all of three yards on three carries. 

That ineffectiveness on the ground allowed Virginia to blitz more aggressively. Expect offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to turn to Perkins much earlier this week. 

Meanwhile, overshadowed in the critiques of the UCLA offense is the performance of its defense. 

One of the three Bruins defenders to get into the end zone was redshirt senior Eric Kendricks. Despite finishing as UCLA's leading tackler, Kendricks' 2013 was cut short by an ankle injury that required surgery.

ANDREW SHURTLEFF/Associated Press

In addition to his 37-yard interception return for a touchdown, Kendricks notched a career-high 16 tackles en route to earning both Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and the Football Writers Association of America Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors. 

Another Bruin making his first appearance since an injury, Odighizuwa, did not appear to miss a beat despite a 20-month layoff from game action. 

"Those guys you mentioned," Mora said when I asked him about Kendricks and Odighizuwa, "They're our two defensive captains. When your best players are playing well, that's a good thing for you." 

Myles Jack was also impressive, playing exclusively at linebacker and racking up 13 tackles and two pass breakups. 

Memphis hung 63 points on an overmatched Austin Peay in Week 1. How indicative that performance is of an offensive renaissance for the Tigers remains to be seen—the Governors ranked No. 113 among Football Championship Subdivision teams in scoring defense at 39.7 points per game as season ago, via NCAA.org

The Bruins defense will test Memphis from the outset and give the UCLA offense a sizable cushion with which to operate. 

Capitalizing with a few early touchdowns on the other end will speak volumes for UCLA—even if its coach isn't saying much. 

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via CFBstats.com unless otherwise noted. 

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