LOS ANGELES — At the first mention of the word “history,” Jim Mora knows where this question is going.
Does his history with Stanford — six straight losses — have any impact on Saturday’s game against the Cardinal?
In a rare instance, the head coach doesn’t recoil from such a question.
Yes, he admits, the history does matter. But only to him.
“I don’t want that to be transferred to the players. That wouldn’t be fair,” Mora said. “But for Jim Mora? Damn right. And if I told you any other way then you’d know I was lying to you.”
Mora understands the half-decade of torment the Cardinal has caused him. Besides Oregon, which Mora has faced only twice, Stanford is the only Pac-12 Conference foe the six-year head coach hasn’t conquered.
In the 2012 Pac-12 Championship Game, UCLA had outgained Stanford and won the turnover battle but still lost, 27-24, after giving up 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Last year, the Bruins came within 24 seconds of the victory until Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside caught the game-winning touchdown.
While Mora continues to bear the burden of a losing streak that predates his tenure, his players say they’re looking at Stanford as a nameless opponent who happens to wear Cardinal and white. Quarterback Josh Rosen, who threw for an efficient 248 yards and one touchdown on 18-for-27 passing last year against the Cardinal, said the team looked at last season’s game film as a normal learning exercise. He’s most concerned about playing up to his own team’s high standard no matter the opponent, but also wants to help his coach secure an important win.
“We want to do it for Coach (Mora) because we have each other’s back,” Rosen said. “Every game has to matter as much as possible. No one game can matter more than another because your health is on the line so if you’re not sharp, you’re going to suffer. … But sometimes when certain things are on the (line), you kind of what to fight for your brother on the field, so we’re going to do everything we can to win.”
Back in action
Since the away team’s locker room didn’t have a TV at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, linebacker Josh Woods had to watch the first half of UCLA’s game against Memphis from the referees locker room while he served his one-half suspension for targeting. He watched helplessly as the Bruins took a 27-24 deficit into halftime.
“It was pretty tough not being out there with my guys,” Woods said.