Jim Mora on the USC Game

Nov. 14 -- UCLA coach Jim Mora took questions from the media about the USC game Saturday...

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Opening statement:

We had meetings this morning and reviewed the film from Oregon State and now we're focusing on USC. We're excited for the week to get a win and get a little momentum hopefully.  We'll have to play a darn near perfect game on Saturday night. We'll work towards that.

On how frustrating this season has been:

Our own internal expectations are high so there has been disappointment but I can tell you there has been some encouragement in the way these young men have continued to fight. They've been in every game, they never have up. They're young men growing into adults. There are lessons to be learned when you go through a difficult and challenging season. We're not going to lament the fact we're losing and miss what we're teaching them that will face them the rest of their lfie.

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On how much they buy into momentum from the Oregon State win:

I think it helps. Its its own entity. What it does is gives you a more positive vibe.  You have to go out and back it up. If you back it up, momentum is a good thing. You can gain it fast and lose it fast.

On Sam Darnold:

I think he's done a great job. He's a compettive young man.  I think the run game helps him and he's doing a good thing over there.

On USC's turnaround:

I haven't evaluated their turnaround. Other than this week, we just started to look at them. You look at schemes and personnel. I don't know what their psyche is. We evalaute how they play and they're doing a nice job of that.

On his own team:

They're resilient. There is a good culture here. Jim (Hill), you played, you know there are ups and downs. That's life in competitive sports. They're resilient and competitive. They realize there is a lot to overcome.

On if any running backs stood out:

I thought all five played well.  They played all about the same amount of reps. Some had more touches, but I thought they all played well. I'm excited for it.

On if players are more jacked up during USC week:

I'd like to think they play with a level of consistency all year. But I realize its a rivalry. They have long term relationships with a lot of the players at USC. They've played with them and against them since they were little kids so there is something special feeling there. And then also the fact, our schools sit close together. They got us a bunch in a row, we got them three in a row, they got us last year, so there has been some back and forth. We're going to go out and fight as hard as we can and try and get back on top.

On if he's texted Clay Helton at all:

I don't know Clay on a personal basis as well as I did the previous two coaches. But I have a lot of respect for Clay, I think he's a fine coach and a good man.  But I don't really know him.

On how Jordan Lasley has grown:

He's maturing. He's growing up.  He's taking to coaching. It's sinking in. Everyoen develops at a certain pace. He did some nice things the other night. But if you look at it closely, it wasn't one of his best games. He just made some plays. What I'm so impressed with Jordan is the way he's understood that. He could have easily come out and said 'well, I played pretty good and made plays' but he's really self critical and he's going to get better. He's growing up and maturing. He's practicing harder and taking to coaching. He has a more mature feeling about him. That's what you look for. It happens at different times for different guys.

On if Lokeni Toailoa or Krys Barnes will get into the linebacker rotation:

No. We like those three guys we've got playing, really four because of Cam Judge, or five because of Isaako. You'd be hard-pressed to find a linebacker corps playing better than those guys, and I'm talking Josh, Kenny and Jayon. Those guys are really doing a nice job. It's why we're playing so well against the run and the pass right now.

On Cam Griffin moving to linebacker:

He's playing both ways. He's not going to play at linebacker right now because of the rotation, but he's on special teams and in some of our offensive packages. He wasn't getting a lot of work the last couple weeks so he asked if he could do some linebacker, he'd been on the service team.  The thing he's done that has helped is his performance on the service team. Hats off to a guy like that, 'I wasn't really playing, what can I do to help the team?'

On Nate Iese's availabilty:

It's still to be determined. You saw him with his knee. He walked off unassisted. He'll be day to day. He's going to do everything possible with our medical staff and trainers to get back and be ready to go on Saturday. It's important to him.

On Kolton Miller:

I think it's probably doubtful.  He is weight-bearing.  He's walking and moving around. He's off the scooter and crutches. But it's why I don't like putting time-tables and injuries. So he probably won't play. It would be surprising if he did play.  

On drawing the distinction between making plays and not playing well:

What I thought is that Jordan ignited us early and Mike made some nice throws. Jordan had a couple catches then running the punt into the end zone.  I'm not saying he played poorly.  Just that as the game went on, he was less consistent than we like and he likes.  One of the things about Jordan, I sat in the receiver meetings, he had two page of notes of critique of his play. When the outside world says you made plays, he's his own worst critic and thought he could have made more of a difference. That's an indicator of someone figuring it out.

On how big a building block the game was for Theo Howard:

He had five catches, played extensively.  Took a couple of hits.  At this level, he's got to put his foot in the ground and get vertical quicker.  His best learning tool is being competitive in a game. That's where you make your most progress. We've been very impressed with Theo and getting him in there is just going to help him develop.

On if bowl eligibility motivates them:

Yeah we do. Last week, we said it was three and if we didn't get that one, it was probably over.  We know it's two this week but we have to get this one. That's on your mind but you're focus is on the team you're preparing to play and that was USC.

On going with Stephen Flintoft:

Austin had a bruised knee, he couldn't support his left leg when he was kicking through. It wasn't performance based, though we're still working hard to get him over that psychological hump. He's a young guy, a long way from home, but it's a lot for him. It was great seeing Stephan going in there. Against a guy like Adoree Jackson, you can't kick it short, low and down the middle or he'll make you pay like we found out last year. 

On when Austin Kent will be back:

I can't tell you until we get on the field.  I don't know that it was an injury more than just a bruise. His knee swelled up. He came during the game and was honest about it and said I can't generate the velocity I needed to. It looked like he wasn't really swinging through, but trying to hit it. Hopefully he's ready to go.

On if Josh Rosen was back:

Yes, he was on the sidelines, he had the headphones on and he was very involved. And he will be again.

On Eddie Vanderdoes' health:

He actually made the comment to me last Wednesday that it's the best he's felt all year, physically. He felt good and he's doing well. He's a good, good player.

On the mental preparation for USC:

I think these guys are very level headed. We had a good meeting this morning. They're always excited to practice. That's one of the things with these guys, they come out and want to get better. It's been that way around here for a while. We hit a tough spot there for four weeks, we couldn't find a way to get them run. There weren't attitude problems. Substance of a team quitting is guys showing up late or cliques forming or you start to hear chatter and none of that has happened here. It's really, truly a credit to our team and leaders.

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