Pac-12 Conference Call: Jim Mora

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talks about the upcoming game against Nebraska and how much of a test this will be for his team's mental toughness...

With the events of this week, how do you toe the line between being emotionally available for your players and getting them ready for a football game this week?

First and foremost, it's most important that you're available to them. Football pales in comparison to what they're going through right now. I'm just making myself available to them 100% of the day, and they know that. And I think when you do that, it helps them come to grips with their emotions, and it helps them focus on the job at hand. So I think it's just about being real, being genuine, being honest, and being there for them.

What did you like that you guys were able to do against Cody Fajardo, and how will you use that this week against Taylor Martinez?

Well, we didn't do a very good job of stopping him, especially in the first half. Taylor, as we know from last year, is a very dynamic runner. We have to be very sound in our gap control. We have to make sure that we're just doing our job and not try to do too much. WE have to play a very tight game with good effort, and do our jobs. He's just an elusive runner.

Is there anything you're doing to prepare your team for such an early morning game?

We typically practice at 7 AM during the season. We're kind of an early morning team as it is. Our guys are up lifting at 5:45 in the morning. So I think that just with the way that we handle things, since we've been here, with regards to when we start to get active, I think that should help us. So I'm not too concerned about it. If we were the kind of team that practiced at 4 in the afternoon or late in the afternoon, it might be more of a concern, but we're an early morning group. That'll help us adjust.

Terrell Newby is a player you guys are familiar with. What do you remember about him from the recruiting process and what have you seen on film from him this year?

We've seen him on film, he's going to be a great player for them. We really liked him, he's a local kid. We were disappointed to lose him to Nebraska, obviously, but we hope he's happy there, and we hope he has a lot of success. Just hope it's not this weekend.

Can you talk about the development of Roosevelt Davis in the program and the prospect for him to contribute to you guys as the 2013 season unfolds?

He started to contribute midseason last season for us. He's a guy that plays hard every play. He's undersized, but he's got a big heart. He's got a lot of tenacity and a lot of passion for the game. He's playing in the slot for us, he's playing running back. Versus Nevada, he actually popped off a few really good runs. He's just a guy that we count on to be in the rotation for us. He's not a mopup player. We count on him to give us quality plays during a game. His teammates have a lot of respect for him just because of the way he works every day. He plays big.

When you're going up against a runner like Martinez, is it more of a head game for your defense just to kind of keep to their assignments and stay in their area?

You have to be disciplined, because otherwise you get frustrated, and do something you wouldn't normally do, and then miss it. We saw that last year in the game we played against them. Martinez never gave up, he never conceded a down, and that makes it really difficult as a defense. I have a lot of respect for him. You have to try to control that frustration as a defense (when he gets out and runs) and just make a play. You've just got to keep playing, keep him in the pocket, make him into a quarterback, and understand that there's a pretty strong likelihood that at some point he's going to break one or two.

Is this a real test of mental toughness for a young team early in the season with everything going on?

I don't know that we could find a more difficult situation. You combine what happened here from an emotional standpoint to our team over the last three days with the fact that we're going into an environment that's so…They have a ton of class. Their administration, Bo Pelini, who's been a friend of mine, have been so empathetic to what's happened here. But it's still going to be a hostile environment. When the game starts, it's going to be they want to win and we want to win, and their fans are going to be cheering like crazy for them. We have to be able to handle all of that. We have to be able to handle our emotions. We have to be able to handle adversity. You asked about mental toughness. Those are the things that define your toughness. I'm so excited to get the chance to go and play this game with these kids, and see where we're at.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories