He has thrown players out of practice, he has kicked media members out of practice and he has called his own sports information staff “incompetent.” No one is safe from Jim Mora’s critical ways as the former NFL coach has rebuilt the UCLA Bruins in his style.
It’s hard to complain, however, about a few ruffled feathers based on the results he is getting in his first year with the Bruins.
With the exception of last week’s 43-17 upset at the hands of Cal in which the team seemed to slip into last year’s mediocrity, the Bruins (4-2, 1-2) have exhibited a new attitude and style of play under Mora, whose team hosts the Utes (2-3, 0-2) Saturday at 1 p.m.
“The personnel hasn’t changed much, but they are utilizing their talent in new ways,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “The cupboard wasn’t bare — they have athletes.”
Even though he has a reputation as a defensive guru, Mora’s biggest influence has been with the offense.
UCLA’s offense limped along under former coach Rick Neuheisel, who insisted on trying to run the pistol offense.
The scheme never worked for the Bruins, who were 21-28 under Neuheisel and averaged just 23 points a game in 2011.
But Mora has found a way to add some zing to the Bruins’ offense, hiring Arizona State’s Noel Mazzone, who has opened up the offense into a more dynamic attack.
Now the Bruins are averaging 529 yards of total offense and 33.5 points.
“They look a lot like Arizona State did with a wide-open attack,” Whittingham said. “It’s a whole new scheme from what they were doing last year, and it’s working for them.”
Of particular concern for the Utes is running back Johnathan Franklin, who leads the Pac-12 averaging 133.3 yards a game.
Franklin was slowed by injuries to his calf and hand against Cal, when he rushed for 103 yards on 15 carries, but the Utes have learned stopping the run against high-powered Pac-12 teams doesn’t always translate to defensive success as much as it did in the Mountain West.
“You’ve seen all the big plays the quarterback and running back make,” Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake said. “They have a cast of running backs who can do it, but they can also hurt you with the bubble throws and screen throws outside.”
Utah’s defense is giving up just 114.8 yards a game on the ground, but has been susceptible to passing attacks, allowing USC’s Matt Barkley to throw for 303 yards.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is third in the Pac-12, averaging 315.8 yards of total offense, although he did throw four interceptions in the loss to Cal. However, Mora didn’t put all the blame on his quarterback, saying he was pressing after the Bruins got into a desperate situation.
“We are continuing to see him make progress,” Mora said.
Rushing offense • 178.36
Passing offense • 198.29
Total offense • 376.64
Scoring offense • 23.07
Rushing offense • 224.33
Passing offense • 304.67
Total offense • 529
Scoring offense • 33.5
Utah at UCLA
P Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • Ch. 13