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MY THOUGHTS OF THE GAME THAT ULTIMATELY COST JIM MORA HIS JOB AS UCLA’s FOOTBALL COACH
To be honest, my feelings concerning the 87th meeting of UCLA’s Bruins and USC’s Trojans are mixed.
On the one hand:
Those Bruins exceeded my expectations, not only avoiding getting blown out by a Trojan team that I’m sure would gash their pathetic run defense for well over 300 yards,
Not only staying with those Men of Troy and making it a battle to the end,
But having a chance to pull off the upset!
I was hoping UCLA would give ‘SC a game, and they did, Josh Rosen having an outstanding night with his 421 yards and three touchdown passes, all of them to Jordan Lasley, who for the second straight game was the man with his ten catches and 104 yards.
It was obvious to Bruin Nation that their team was playing their absolute guts out and fighting like rabid dogs.
Which is all I, in particular, wanted to see.
On the other hand:
The one reason why the Victory Bell is not painted blue and sitting in the Morgan Center,
The one reason why Jim Mora was relieved of his duties as UCLA’s football coach the next morning…
I emphasized in the preview to this Crosstown Rivalry clash that the Bruins needed to play an absolutely perfect game to beat ‘SC.
To say that they did not would be a PRONOUNCED understatement…
* TWELVE penalties for a total of 100 yards, including one – an illegal block by left guard Najee Toran – that wiped out a 21-yard rushing touchdown by Bolu Olorunfunmi in the second quarter that was ultimately the difference in the game,
And a 53-yard pass from Rosen to Lasley that was likewise negated by right tackle Andre James for being an ineligible receiver downfield,
* The fact that Rosen was sacked four times, one of them resulting in a fumble, cements the Bruin offensive line as being the goats (and not the Greatest Of All Time, either) of the game, as they failed to pick up the Trojan blitzes and made foul-ups that were a big factor in losing the game.
* Dropped passes by Austin Roberts, Theo Howard, and Giovanni Gentosi in the first half certainly didn’t help.
* As was Rosen being intercepted in the end zone during a very promising drive.
* And we can’t forget the punting team being completely duped by Ajene Harris and Michael Pittman, Jr., who completely fooled the Bruins in the first quarter, Harris pretending to catch a punt and Pittman not only catching that punt, but going 72 yards for USC’s first touchdown.
It was those mistakes that kept the Victory Bell cardinal for another year and sealed Mora’s fate.
Full highlights of USC’s third straight win – and 49th overall – over UCLA in football. Courtesy of YouTube.
As for those Trojans,
My player of the game (besides Rosen) goes to Ronald Jones II with his 126 yards on 28 carries and two scores, the second one with 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter making sure that the USC band would be playing “Conquest”.
Though kudos goes to UCLA’s run defense for holding Jones and the rest of the Trojan running backs to just 157 yards – well below its nation-worst 302 yards per game – and to Rosen for winning the quarterback battle with SC’s Sam Darnold,
Rosen might have won his battle with Darnold, and the Bruins may have fought extremely hard,
But at the end of the day, USC won the war.
Since that’s the case, while the Trojans can finally take a bye week and get ready to play either Stanford or Washington State at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 championship and a New Year’s Six bowl on December 1st,
UCLA is faced with two roads going into a game with California on Friday night that in my view is more important than their game with the Trojans, because with both the Bruins and Golden Bears having five wins, bowl eligibility is at stake in that post-Thanksgiving contest.
They can either…
1. Be devastated at the firing of coach Mora, a man who they loved and never stopped playing their hearts out for despite the struggles and sub-par results of the past two years, leading them to playing listlessly against the Bears in the sense of giving up, losing to them and ending their season on a bitter note.
2. Get extremely motivated to beat Cal in a “Let’s do it for Coach Mora!” fashion, playing as hard as – no, harder than – they played against ‘SC, ending the regular season by going undefeated at home, and accepting the bowl bid that would surely come afterwards.
It’s completely up to those 85 players wearing that script “UCLA” on those gold helmets regarding how they respond to losing Mora and how want things to end.
Which is why I will be quite interested in what unfolds this Friday night.
THAT’S THAT – MY CROSSTOWN RIVALRY COVERAGE FOR 2017!
UNTIL NEXT YEAR…
Josh Rosen (#3) slinging the ball for some of the 421 yards that he threw against the Trojans on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of latimes.com.