Just two weeks ago, the UCLA football team played its first game in the rain this season against USC.
Besides one fluke play that led to a Trojan touchdown, the Bruins were able to brave the storm and come away with a victory.
This Friday, UCLA will have to fight the elements once again when it takes on Stanford in Palo Alto, where there is supposed to be heavy rainfall come game time.
“The rain against ‘SC was pretty nice actually,” said redshirt sophomore safety Tevin McDonald. “Although it did feel like it only started raining when we were on offense, so hopefully it’ll be a little more even this week.”
With heavy rainfall, passing will become slightly more difficult with a wet ball, which could mean a heavier reliance on the ground game.
That’s exactly what junior linebacker Jordan Zumwalt prefers.
“It’s going to be difficult for them to pass the ball, so we’re going to be filling gaps all day,” Zumwalt said with a smile.
While the defense remains excited about the opportunity to play in the rain, the offense is a bit less enthusiastic.
“All we can do is control what’s in our hands and play the game,” said redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin. “It is what it is.”
At the end of the day, the Bruins know that football is football, no matter how the conditions are on the field.
“We’re going to play whether it’s snowing, raining, burning, we have to play,” McDonald said. “We know what’s at stake here and we want to play in the Rose Bowl so bad, so I doubt anyone will hold back at all because of the weather.”
Calling for backup
Franklin has been one of the top running backs in the nation this season, but UCLA’s offense requires multiple players at the position to function.
Redshirt junior running back Damien Thigpen went down to an ACL tear two weeks ago against USC, and his presence has been sorely missed.
“I definitely miss having Damien,” Franklin said. “Just his presence was big for not just the running backs, but the whole team.”
With Thigpen out, UCLA will turn to redshirt sophomore running back Jordon James to fill the void.
James has 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the season, but the Bruins will need him to step up his production even more this week against Stanford.
“I have total confidence in Jordon James,” Franklin said. “He’s had a great week of practice, he’s healthy and I have a feeling that he’s going to have a great game.”
With both Stanford and UCLA in the same conference in California, the two go head-to-head pretty consistently on the recruiting trail.
One case of a major recruiting battle came when Zumwalt was a senior in high school.
Zumwalt committed to Stanford in the spring of his junior year and he stayed committed to the Cardinal all the way up until signing day.
When signing day came, Zumwalt flipped his commitment to UCLA, and he signed his letter of intent.
Zumwalt has since been a big contributor for the Bruins over the past three seasons, but he still has yet to beat the Cardinal during his time at UCLA.
“There’s a little chip on my shoulder,” Zumwalt said. “I haven’t beaten them yet, so it’d be nice to get that win under my belt.”