TUCSON, Ariz. — Coach Jim Mora didn’t sound like the winning coach after Saturday’s game.
“For a team to be able to run the ball like that on us – it’s inconceivable.” Mora said. “It makes me sick to my stomach.”
The tone of Mora’s press conference made it feel like he wasn’t satisfied with No. 9 UCLA’s 56-30 win over No. 16 Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12). He was instead preoccupied with the fact that UCLA had allowed a season-high 353 rushing yards on defense.
“I’m just disappointed (with the run defense),” Mora said. “It started with me and as a staff we’re disappointed, and as players we’re very disappointed.”
This unfulfilled mindset is perhaps the one that Mora wants to cultivate in his locker room in the wake of UCLA’s huge blowout win at Arizona. Last year, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) started their Pac-12 conference schedule almost the same way – demolishing then-No. 15 Arizona State 62-27 in Tempe, Ariz.
The very next week, then-No. 8 UCLA lost at home to an unranked Utah team, allowing 242 rushing yards on 55 carries.
Mora aimed to ensure that that situation would not repeat itself when UCLA returns home to face an unranked Pac-12 team next week.
“We don’t expect the ball to ever, ever, ever get the ball run on us like that – ever, ever. It’s unacceptable and it will not happen again,” Mora said.
The defensive performance may not have been acceptable in Mora’s book, but it was enough for a UCLA win on Saturday. The Bruins’ high-powered offense made sure of that.
“Thank God we got it,” Mora said.
UCLA countered Arizona’s huge rushing performance by putting up six rushing touchdowns of its own. By game’s end, the Bruins had nearly 30 more offensive yards than the Wildcats.
“I think the most impressive thing that our offense did was respond to the first Arizona drive,” Mora said.
Key to that response was quarterback Josh Rosen. The freshman tucked the ball and ran for a first down on third-and-nine play at the Arizona 44-yard line, bulling over an Arizona defender in the process.
“(It was) unbelievable,” said offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. “What I liked about it is it’s just kind of an efficiency play now when he pulls it (and runs).”
Rosen capped off UCLA’s opening drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass just a few plays later, hitting junior Y receiver Thomas Duarte in stride. That tied the game back up at 7-7 early in the first quarter.
“I thought it just set the tone for the game,” said Rosen, who got off to a much slower start in last week’s game against BYU. “You have to start fast, start sharp and get off on the right foot.”
Once Rosen and the Bruins got off on the right foot, they never trailed again. The offensive line commanded the game for the fourth straight week, and paved the way for a standout rushing performance from redshirt junior running back Paul Perkins and company.
“We all were on the same page,” said redshirt senior center Jake Brendel. “Plus the third downs weren’t third down-and-longs – which is imperative.”
With UCLA’s offense playing the way it did, Mora may not need to worry about his team allowing 353 rushing yards on defense. But Mora wouldn’t tell you that.
“I like to stop the run,” Mora said. “They were moving the ball on us. (The offensive start) didn’t do anything. … We have to do a better job.”