Mora After USC

Coach Jim Mora talked about the outstanding performances and how proud he is of his team after the victory over the Trojans...


JM: Well, it was a heck of a win against very a good opponent. I just want to tip my hat to USC. They did a nice job. Came in here and played hard. I'm really proud of our team. I'm especially happy for our seniors that got a chance to finally win that last one against USC. So it was a hard-fought game. A lot of back and forth. We knew it would be like that. When we got up, we knew they wouldn't go away easy so just really proud of our team and excited.

Q: They named the press box pavilion today after our friend, Coach Donahue. Congratulations to him. Are you waiting for the Rose Bowl? Is that what you're looking for now?

JM: Terry Donahue had an unbelievable career. I've known him since I was a little boy. You know my dad coached with him and there couldn't be anybody that's more worthy of having the press box… I think it's the Terry Donahue Pavilion. That's awesome. I think it'll remind everybody when they come into this place that this is UCLA's home.

Q: You pretty much dominated the first half and you were only up by 10 at that point. Any concerns going into the break?

JM: Yeah. I was concerned the entire game until that last play. Matt Barkley is a great player. They've got great receivers. Lane Kiffin is a terrific play caller. And they're going to score some points. They're going to make some plays. They're going to get some yards. But we were able to come up some plays when we needed to come up with them and that was the key today.

Q: Coach, were you surprised that USC stayed in the zone for as long as they did? Because when Hundley was throwing the ball to Fauria, it looked like he was wide open on every play.

JM: No. He wasn't wide open. Brett made some good plays. Joe ran some good routes. They did a really nice job of mixing man and zone. As a matter of fact, they came out and started in a lot of man. Monte Kiffin… I had the pleasure of working with Monte Kiffin, and he's one of the great defensive minds that've ever coached this game. And he knows how to mix it up, and he had those guys playing hard. Our guys just made some plays. Brett made some throws. We protected well. Ran good routes. Made some tough catches.

Q: Coach, for what this game represents, what it means to the students, the players, the school, and having not won it for many, many years, what does this one mean to you and the program?

JM: what I think is it means an awful lot. 1) To our kids that are in there celebrating right now, you could feel the emotion. 2) It means a lot to our university and to our student body and our alumni. Other than that, it just means that we're 9-2 and we play Stanford next week. I know that's my simpleton way of looking at the world.

Q: Coach, Sheldon [Price] and Aaron [Hester] were talked about a lot this week. Both being senior corners going against some really good receivers. Can you talk about it a little bit of what they did with Sheldon blocking that kick and Aaron having the intersection?

JM: Yeah, you know Matt [Barkley] would like to have that first throw back. We were playing a 2-deep zone and he was just trying to stuff it in there and Hess [Hester] made the catch. And for Sticks [Sheldon Price] at the end to block that thing… It was great. I was really proud of those guys. They're very much-maligned. We had more PI calls today. We'll get that fixed. But I'm just happy for all the seniors. I'm happy for Johnathan [Franklin]. I'm happy for all of them. It's a great day.

Q: So far it's been all about putting yourself on the map. Now that word "expectations" enters the picture. But that's an animal that's quite different.

JM: It is, but it's a good animal. It's an animal you'd like in your house in a cage.

Q: Jim, can you talk about the maturation of Brett Hundley and his coming out today and specifically in some of those long downs, 3rd downs where he just made some huge plays that extended drives.

JM: Boy, you're right. There were some plays in there where the rush got to him. They've got a really nice pass rush and going against our young offensive line, they did some good things. But I thought Brett, when he needed to, he hung in there, he kept his eyes down the field, and he made the throws… money throws… hard throws… critical throws… at important times in the game. And we're just seeing the beginning of how great Brett Hundley can be. It's going to take a lot of work, but he's a young man that's willing to work. He's got great coaching. His teammates love him. He's a tremendous leader. And I think that, what is he? 11 games into his career right now? I think that we're going to see tremendous things out of this kid.

Q: Jim, first of all, congratulations. How can you explain what this rivalry is to be in it versus when you're seeing it on TV? Was there a moment when you're caught up in the emotion or "wow, this is it?" In particular, UCLA has lost 12 of 13. And to win that now.

JM: well I understand what this rivalry is all about. I was on the field in the Coliseum. What year was that? 1974 or 1973? I just turned 13. My mom went to USC. My dad, my cousins… I understand what this is all about. But it's just one game. Until we can string something together. And do it all over and over again. Then it has significance to me. Don't get me wrong. This has significance. But I mean real significance.

Q: Jim, if somebody had told you before the season that you guys would be 9-2 at this point and had beaten USC, you would have said…

JM: I don't think that way. I would've said, "great." My experiences in coaching have taught me that the best way to approach it is, "one game at a time." I know that's a tired old coach's cliché. I know that. You're all going to write that tomorrow. Coach speak. But in order to survive in this business, that's how you have to do it. You have to take it one week at a time. You have to put all your energy into that week. And then you have to move on. You don't think long-term. You just don't. If you do, you end up in the psych ward. I don't want to go there.

Q: And is the monopoly in LA over?

JM: ummm… I don't know…

Q: Jim, what does it mean for the defense, knowing what they were going to have to go against today? To come out and make that play right at the start with Hester?

JM: Chris, I think that was huge. You know when you kick off to a team like USC on that first drive, you're hopeful that you can get a three and out at least. You're hopeful they don't take the ball and run it right down your throat and just ruin all that emotion you came out of the tunnel with. But to be able to get an interception and then convert it into points… that's big. It gives them confidence. It gives them a boost. It gives them confidence in the plan. It gives them confidence in themselves. It makes them believe that they can play with these guys. And it was a big play. But you got to keep backing it up with more plays and we were able to do that today.

Q: Coach, when they had scored in the fourth quarter to cut it to a three point game, a lot of coaches maybe would've ran the ball. You guys came out throwing. Was that a mindset to grab this momentum back?

JM: that's just how we play football. What we do best is tempo. Get up on the ball and go. We're not going to change. It was working for us. That's just our philosophy. We were trying to waste time. But we weren't going to go into a shell. That's not the way you do it. That's not how you win games like this. That's a great credit to Noel [Mazzone]. Noel, he just keeps slinging it. That's awesome.

Q: do you think there was any particular turning point today?

JM: No. I just think it was just a heck of a game by both sides. 2 really good teams that fought hard all day. And we were fortunate to come out with a win but I don't know that there was a turning point. There's so many plays in a game that are so important. I hate to point at just one.

Q: what was the message at halftime? It seems that USC stole some momentum back by scoring a touchdown to cut the lead.

JM: I would agree with that. The message at halftime was the same as the message has always been. We have to play it one play at a time. We just got to keep grinding. Once you play a play, put it in the rear view mirror and go to the next one. We didn't really change our philosophy at all. There was no big rah-rah pep talk. Nobody was second-guessing what we were doing. We just have a belief that if we trust each other and we trust the plan… we go out and execute… that good things will happen and they did.

Q: what was it like celebrating this one with these college kids as opposed to celebrating in the NFL?

JM: It was great. I mean it was awesome. I didn't want to come in here. They're in there doing like a dance-off. You don't see that in NFL locker room. For these seniors… just the emotion… and to feel that emotion coming off of them. This was a big, big, big day for them. Obviously it's one they'll remember forever. And to be a part of that with them is really special to me. It's a great, great feeling. I'm so happy for those guys.

Q: Coach, it seems like all year you've kind of built and built and kept that "one game at a time"… does it become incrementally harder with each bigger win that you get? This one being the biggest?

JM: you know what, Sam? It doesn't seem to with our guys. I think that's a real credit to the leadership of our team. And I'm talking about the players here. They've just adopted the same philosophy that we presented to them. They really have. They take it one day at a time. One game at a time, and it hasn't seemed any harder. It hasn't. We're going to have to get over this one quick though. We got 24 hours and then we have to get on to Stanford. And we talked about that already, but I certainly want them to enjoy it.

Q: I know you don't want to touch the monopoly line, but if you've been in the city as long as you have now, and around football, you know that USC has had a tremendous run. So there's extra emphasis here because of what happened in this game. So how do you deal with that?

JM: I don't know yet, T.J. [Simers]. I think what I'll do is I'll just follow my routine. Are you talking big picture or are you talking immediate?

Q: first of all, this isn't routine. When you win…

JM: well it is for me.

Q: well, it's true. You're 1-0.

JM: I'm 1-0.

Q: Okay, I can already see the t-shirts coming out.

JM: I'm just trying to envision your headline tomorrow.

Q: I don't write the headline, but I certainly do the columns. But there's significance to it because of who USC has been. And what you're trying to accomplish here. So I understand the coach speak because you do that very well but try and break out of it for just a second… and those emotions that are sitting there obviously. And you're just not sharing them.

JM: I guess I don't understand your question. Give it to me one more time. Because you're so eloquent.

Q: well you got your players dancing in there, okay? And this is a game that everyone points to in the city for so long and you come out and you put it to them and right off the start in the first half and when you have to get tough, you get tough. So it must mean something to you to pull this off. 25 years in the NFL, I'm sure you thought you could be a great college coach. But this is kind of a big moment.

JM: it's a great moment. Like I said. I'm excited. I can't wait to go hug my mom. And shake my dad's hand and kiss my kids and go back in there and be with the fellas. I don't know what to tell you. I'm not crying. I don't have goose bumps. The hairs aren't standing on the back of my head right now. It was. I mean, when I stood out there in front of the locker room and greeted all those young men and saw the emotion that that were sharing, it's very special. I don't want to minimize it at all. This is a very special day. I'm as excited as can be but I also believe that as the head football coach, it is important to keep an even keel as much as possible.

Q: An "even keel " kills a column, you understand that?

JM: Sorry about that.

Q: that's okay, I'm sure you're bothered about that.

JM: especially since it's your column.

Q: thank you very much.

Jim, do you have a preliminary on Damien Thigpen?

JM: No. No, I don't.

Thanks everyone.

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