Jim Mora has not made UCLA Football great by lying down. Unfortunately, he has drawn criticism because of it.
Last Saturday, UCLA Football Head Coach Jim Mora continued to fight in a game that was essentially over at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bruins eventually beat UNLV 37-3, but certain decisions were made and a few unfortunate events occurred at the end of the game which drew ire from many, even UCLA fans.
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Here is the thing…
Mora not only has the right to do what he did, it is part of his plan to play to the very end. Now having Jerry Neuheisel throw the ball when you are up 37 points with less than five minutes to play — only to have it intercepted and taken back 61 yards, resulting in a UNLV field goal — maybe was not the smartest decision. But it needed to be done.
It also was bad to see Tevita Halalilo break his ankle on the second to last play of the game. Though unfortunate, it is all part of the game called “football”. But many saw it differently.
Some thought that was Mora trying to run up the score or generally being arrogant. No. Mora does not do that. In making the Bruins a national contender, he has made them a very good team on both sides of the ball which has resulted in some dominating performances. If Mora wanted to run up the score in any given blowout, we would have seen that by now.
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Instead, he uses “garbage” time to get the rest of his players some reps. Reps that will benefit the second, third and fourth string players. This is football and at any minute a guy can go down, as we saw last week with Eddie Vanderdoes and this week with Halalilo.
As far as running the plays, my Go Joe Bruin colleague Nathan E. had an excellent take on the situation in On Tevita Halalilo’s Injury and Second Guessing Jim Mora. Nathan essentially states what I have, but goes a bit further to question why Mora would not take a knee in that situation, but ultimately has no problem with how the game played out:
"I also have no problem with the decision to run plays in the waning moments of a blowout. This is how a team builds depth, by giving the third and fourth string playing time in low-stakes, game-speed situations."
According to the LA Times, Mora stated that “everybody deserves to go out there and play.” It is not just that, Mora NEEDS these players to play. He also needs them to learn how to play UCLA Football like every starter and second stringer does. That is the point.
Mora wants all of his players to play hard until the very end. He does not want them to have a quitter mentality and he does not want them to play down to opponents. As we saw this weekend, that type of mentality hurts a team.
Ask Auburn as they nearly lost to FCS school Jacksonville State and subsequently fell 12 spots (12 SPOTS!) in this week’s AP Poll. Or what about Arkansas who actually did lose to Toledo? Looking past them, were they?
The biggest example could be LSU letting off the gas against Mississippi State. Though the Tigers were not playing a lesser opponent, being up 21-6 to start the fourth quarter, LSU did not have their best effort defending the lead as the Bulldogs did not quit and were a field goal away from pulling out the comeback.
Jim Mora does not want UCLA Football to be like those teams. Jim Mora wants every UCLA Football player to play hard and know how to finish a game.
With that being said, it is unfortunate about Halalilo getting hurt, but if he was hurt earlier in the game, we might only be talking about the Neuheisel pick, which, as I stated above, probably was not the right call at the time. Still, Mora needs everyone on his team to know how to play and Fight! Fight! Fight! to the very end. Any other type of mentality does NOT win championships and Mora is trying to prove that.