Monday, December 9

UCLA football’s interim coach Fisch makes victorious debut despite setbacks

Offensive coordinator and interim head coach Jeff Fisch spent his first day as a head coach guiding the Bruins to a 3-point victory, capped off by a game-winning field goal. (Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin senior staff)

Offensive coordinator and interim head coach Jeff Fisch spent his first day as a head coach guiding the Bruins to a 3-point victory, capped off by a game-winning field goal. (Aubrey Yeo / Daily Bruin senior staff)

Friday was Jedd Fisch’s audition to become a college football head coach.

After UCLA’s last-second 30-27 win over California, offensive coordinator and interim head coach earned a second game at the helm for whichever postseason bowl the Bruins attend.

And he made sure to give credit where credit was due.

“We owe this win to (former) coach (Jim Mora),” Fisch said. “We wanted to make sure that we were able to end his legacy as the head coach at UCLA, as a guy that led five of his six teams to bowl games.”

Fisch was thrown into a piping-hot fire – he was named the interim coach Sunday – and encountered the full Mora experience, including losing his starting quarterback to injury.

Despite the pressure of a must-win game to reach bowl eligibility, Fisch pulled junior quarterback Josh Rosen following halftime for precautionary health reasons. Redshirt freshman Devon Modster played the rest of the game in Rosen’s place and completed all but four of his passes for 191 yards.

Fisch gave Modster the go-ahead during halftime and shared some words to hype him up as he went into the third quarter.

“I said, ‘You know, you played one great half of football and you were 8-for-8 against Utah and then we lost you that second half,’” Fisch said. “Here’s your second half and let’s play a complete game.”

Modster outplayed his previous perfect outing and led the Bruins to three scoring drives, including the go-ahead field goal with four seconds left against Cal.

Fisch, who also called plays on offense, not only motivated Modster to lead a game-winning drive with two minutes left in the game, but also inspired his players to finish with UCLA’s first undefeated home record in 12 years.

That required the near-lifetime offensive coach to venture outside of his usual bubble.

“I’ve never been such a cheerleader for the defense,” he said. “And boy, it was fun.”

The party for Fisch and the Bruins will continue at a yet-to-be-determined bowl game.

More wins for Mora

Leading into the final game of the season, many players expressed their gratitude for Mora on social media and their wish to defeat California for his legacy. Friday’s matchup was also senior day – winning for the coach who recruited the fourth and fifth year players became a rallying cry in meetings and in the locker room.

“He was more than just my coach,” said redshirt junior wide receiver Jordan Lasley. “We had a lot of different conversations about a lot of different things. Coach Mora getting fired like that, I kind of took that to heart. I’ve been knowing coach Mora since I was 15, 16 years old, so this week was emotional, it was alive.”

Lasley responded with a career-high 227 receiving yards and a touchdown, his third consecutive game setting a career-best in yards. He surpassed the 1,100-yard milestone this season despite missing four games earlier this year because of two suspensions.

But Lasley wasn’t the only player to dedicate his game-changing performance to his former coach. Sophomore kicker JJ Molson also said he made the game-winning field goal for Mora.

“The values, the principles that he not only taught us but demonstrated every day – there’s kind of a void,” Molson said. “But coach Fisch did a great job telling our guys to carry on (Mora’s) legacy and give it our all this last game.”

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Senior staff

Wang is a Daily Bruin senior staffer on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's tennis, women's tennis and women's soccer beats. Wang was previously a reporter for the men's tennis beat.

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