Visitors’ Locker Room: UCLA “Not There Yet”

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Kevin Cline

If you’re expecting UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora to be happy about being tied with Oregon at halftime, forget it!

Coach Jim Mora following Saturday's 42-14 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium

Kevin Cline

Coach Jim Mora following Saturday’s 42-14 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium

“This was a very disappointing loss,” Mora declared.  ”We didn’t come up here to play close.  We didn’t come up here to lose.  We came up here to win and we didn’t get it done.”  When asked if this game gave him any indication of whether the Bruins are close or far away from playing on the level he expects, Mora replied, “That’s a very good question.  I’d have to say both.  We showed we can play with them, but they have consistency and we’re not there yet.”

Mora’s frustration was obvious and profound.  He clearly has a vision of his team competing and winning at the highest level.  He praised his team and his coaching staff for their work effort.  Responding to a question about QB Brett Hundley’s performance, Mora said that Hundley works his butt off and plays well, but that he needs to get more consistency.  Rating the progress of his team, he pointed out that Oregon and Stanford have been developing their teams and their systems for years.  Of the Ducks, he said, “They’re a machine.  They’ve got a system in place.  We’re still just getting started.”

“We started eight true freshmen and played eighteen during the game.  Experience is a factor, but it’s not an excuse.  If we start making excuses, we’re never going to get there.  We just gotta keep growing,”  Mora added.

Brett Hundley in action against Oregon in Autzen Stadium

Kevin Cline

Brett Hundley in action against Oregon in Autzen Stadium

Scoring on two short fields, the Bruins held the Ducks to a 14-14 tie at halftime, but the wheels came off in the second half.  Mora had no answer for what happened, citing a number of possibilities: receivers not getting open, Hundley not seeing open receivers, blocks not being made, tackles being missed.  From the press box, it looked like the answer was “E” — all of the above, with a nearly flawless second-half performance by the Ducks thrown in for good measure.

Mora praised the Oregon coaching staff, recognizing the value of having a staff that has worked together for years.  With little exaggeration, he commented that all but two of the coaches had been at Oregon for more than 20 years.  Earlier in the week, he said he was hopeful that the NFL would have a supplemental draft before this game and take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota as the first pick.  Last night’s game did nothing to change his opinion of Mariota, who is closing in on a full year since he last threw an interception in a game.  ”Mariota is something else,” Mora admitted.  ”He’s a great one.”

Marcus Mariota on the run against UCLA at Autzen Stadium

Craig Strobeck

Marcus Mariota on the run against UCLA at Autzen Stadium

Mora added that going in at halftime, UCLA outside linebacker Myles Jack — no slouch in the speed department himself — said of Mariota, “Man, that dude can run!”  Indeed, Mariota accounted for his share of the difference in the game in the second half.  Not only did he not throw an interception — he didn’t even throw an incomplete pass.

Despite back-to-back losses against Pac-12 North powers Stanford and Oregon, UCLA remains a favorite in the Pac-12 South.  Win out and they’ll be in the Pac-12 Championship Game for the fourth straight year.  If the young Bruins don’t make it back, it won’t be because Mora is basking in the glory of playing the Ducks to a halftime tie.  ”If we take going in at half time 14-14 as a moral victory, we’re going straight downhill,” Mora concluded.  ”We’ve gotta play better, coach better.  We have to find consistency.”

Thread and Shred: The second half of last night’s game had about as much consistency as can be found in any game.  Mariota consistently threaded the ball to open receivers.  Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner consistently shredded UCLA’s run defense.  Oregon’s O-line and D-line consistently dominated the Bruins’ lines.  And Oregon’s defense consistently stuffed UCLA, whether they were passing or running.  It was consistency, but just not the kind of consistency that Coach Mora is looking for.

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