UCLA Football has not had the best time at Arizona. Fortunately, that looks to be changing under Jim Mora.
Arizona is a fine place. I would not choose to live there because it is so bloody hot, but it is quite pleasant. The one time I did manage to get out to the Grand Canyon state — which was completely my fault for going in August — I had a blast. The people were nice, the food was good and even though it was a tad hot, for the most part I had fun.
The same cannot be said about UCLA football.
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In recent years, the Bruins have had a tough time against both Pac-12 Arizona schools. In the last seven games in Tempe, the Bruins have only won three. It has been even worse when the Bruins play in Tucson against the Arizona Wildcats, which oddly enough is Bruin’s next opponent in their first conference game of the 2015 season.
For certain teams, there are certain opponents that just seem to give said team headaches. Stanford is an example for USC, Mississippi is the same for Alabama and for UCLA, that headache is Arizona.
For the Bruins, going to Arizona is awful.
Luckily, that tide might have turned the last time UCLA went to Tucson. The Bruins earned a hard-fought win behind an explosive game from linebacker Myles Jack. Though we knew what kind of player he was on the defensive side of the ball, this was definitely his coming out party as a two-way player.
Jack had 120 yards in six carries, one of which went for a 66-yard touchdown. He even had eight tackles and one fumble recovered in the end zone as a defenseman. So yeah, it was pretty awesome.
Aside from that momentous occasion, the Bruins have been absolutely horrible at Arizona Stadium.
Let’s check out the scores for UCLA at Arizona and last several years…
2013 – UCLA 31 – AZ 26
2011 – UCLA 12 – AZ 48
2009 – UCLA 13 – AZ 27
2007 – UCLA 27 – AZ 34
2005 – UCLA 14 – AZ 52
Ouch. The scores were bad enough, but also remembering what happened in a few those games is even worse.
In 2011, former head coach Rick Neuheisel was not exactly wowing the Bruin faithful in his second “hot seat” season. That was made clear as an embarrassing scuffle before halftime against the Wildcats might have been the beginning of the end in what was eventually the final season for the former Bruin quarterback.
You would think that loss was as bad as it gets but it could be argued that what happened six season earlier was worse.
Heading towards the end of an unbelievable season, UCLA Football was on an upswing in the Karl Dorrell era. Heading into an early November game, the Bruins were 8-0. Afterwards they were 8-1 in an absolutely atrocious display of football. I am still emotionally scarred by that game.
Fortunately Bruin fans, it looks like things are changing and there is one huge reason for that: Head Coach Jim Mora.
Since Mora took over, he is 3-0 against the Wildcats. In 2012, he beat Arizona as well as showed his class when he stopped them game to honor Jonathan Franklin who became the Bruin’s all-time leading rusher in a 66-10 rout. In 2013, Jack ran all over the Wildcats. Last season, aside from the first five minutes, UCLA shutout Arizona in a 17-7 victory.
So even though Tucson is an undesirable place for UCLA, it seems under Mora, it might start becoming a nice mid-season destination. Hopefully. I will let UCLA get the win first this Saturday before I start making those claims.