Let me be clear: If Jim Mora and/or UCLA were accused of something they did not do, if Mora was in the right here, I would be writing a very different column. But for Mora to say that Marks is misinformed is equal parts downright amusing, and stunning.
UCLA and Mora's denials (on something that's now occurred two years in a row in the WSU-UCLA series) don't pass muster. And it's not just because Marks has played 44 games in his college career, he is more than familiar with pregame warm-up protocol and has never once complained about any other team's pre-game routine. It's also because Marks has eyes and can see.
Marks is not misinformed, nor is he confused about anything here. Because my vision is just fine, too.
The WSU players were made to wait for an uncomfortably long time while UCLA continued working on WSU's side of the field. Some might say this is making a mountain out of a mole hill, and I get that argument. But watching the Bruins stand there and chirp back and forth with some WSU players showed a distinct lack of class on the part of the Bruins. And let's be clear about something else: the players do their warm up drills, where, when and how - at the direction of their coaches.
To give you a general idea about how pregame warm-ups work, it’s a very simple procedure and one that should not be confusing or complicated for anyone – and it isn’t. Every team in the country has a mutual understanding of how it works.
As a matter of respect, you give your opponent space to warm up and get ready for the game. The unwritten rule is that teams split the field half-and-half, between the 50-yard line. This isn’t news to anyone.
In 2015, when WSU played UCLA in Pasadena, the Bruins made the conscious decision to throw the ball around, and to run drills, utilizing all 100 yards of the Rose Bowl’s freshly cut grass.
My reaction was that it was a little disrespectful -- but okay, it’s their home field. Maybe UCLA thought it was some kind of intimidation factor. Marks was ticked off after the game last year but I think the Cougs mostly let it slide. WSU handed them an ‘L’ after it was all said and done, so I guess it was a fair trade. Fast forward to this past Saturday.
As the Cougs took the field in Martin to line up across the goal line -- as they always do for their pre-game stretch, for the second year in a row UCLA had a couple drills going on right near the end zone in WSU's half of the field.
And UCLA made no move to depart. That didn't sit well, so just as you would expect on their home field, several Cougars in turn trotted right through the middle of the UCLA drill. They let the Bruins know, as they apparently needed to be told, that UCLA needed to grab its, ahem, stuff and get going to their side.
Here’s a few seconds of what it looked like from the press box:
Now, and this is truly breathtaking -- UCLA tried to blame the specialists?
In all my years playing football, I don’t recall the last time the snappers and kickers practiced open field tackle drills. Perhaps I’m just "misinformed."
Seriously, though. Just how many specialists do they have over there at UCLA? Scratch that. UCLA clearly has a massive amount of depth and talent behind Mora’s favorite player on the team, the punter, whom a snarling Sunny Jim was caught unloading early on during the game by both ESPN and photographers (pictured above).
Days after the game, Mora was trying to brush the whole thing off. And Bruin offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu told the LA Times the Cougs were the ones committing the pre-game ballyhoo; “That’s college football – trying to get an edge,” he said.
All due respect, Coach, that’s not college football. Trying to point the finger at the other guy when it's observable fact who the instigating culprit is, well (Marks probably said it best) that's just "douchey." For all the bloviating about 'teaching these young men character and integrity' that you hear non-stop from college coaches, it just doesn't track.
Coaches should be the calm and measured voices of reason when such dust-ups occur. Instead, it fell to an early 20-something in Marks.
“It makes you look less tough because you're trying too hard. It's just weird, you know? You don't have to do that," said the Cougar senior.
UCLA was purposely in the way of the Cougar players, and for an extended time. It wasn't a handful of specialists, nor some innocent mistake. For the second straight year, Mora and UCLA were trying to antagonize and provoke the Cougs to get a reaction. It was like watching the drunkest guy at the bar try to hit on your girlfriend right in front of you. You’re not really all that mad, you just really want them to go away because they’re embarrassing themselves.
Jim Mora (at best) is the one who is misinformed.
And not just about pregame warm-ups, but also about how to show respect to an opponent (and perhaps also about how to tackle low, as long as we're talking here).
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