No. 12 UCLA winning, but still sliding in polls

LOS ANGELES (AP) Like so many once-trendy Hollywood nightclubs a short drive from campus, No. 12 UCLA has found out how quickly you can go from hot to not so cool.

The Bruins have dropped five spots in The Associated Press Top 25 over the last two weeks, with voters clearly less than impressed by closer-than-expected wins over Virginia and Memphis. UCLA was heavily favored in both games, a product of high expectations from the Bruins’ first two seasons under coach Jim Mora.

Now that poll voters have begun recalibrating their feelings about the Bruins, Mora hopes his players will follow suit as they prepare for Saturday’s trip to Texas.

”I don’t want expectations to become a burden,” Mora said Tuesday, adding that the Bruins will be ”getting back to the roots of who we are. We’re an underdog. That’s who we are. We like it when people doubt us. That helps inspire us. I’m not saying it should, but it does. I just think we were tight. I think that we let the outside expectations become a little bit of a burden for us.”

For linebacker Myles Jack, there are more pressing concerns than where UCLA sits in the rankings.

”As long as we keep winning our games, that stuff will take care of itself,” Jack said. ”We have to take care of internally what is going on in that locker room.”

What is going on right now is trying to figure out how to come up with a complete performance on both sides of the ball.

The Bruins’ defense was opportunistic in the 28-20 win over the Cavaliers, returning two interceptions and one fumble for touchdowns to prop up a subpar performance from quarterback Brett Hundley and the offense. Against the Tigers, the offense was picking up the slack for the UCLA defense in the 42-35 win.

UCLA gave up 469 yards of total offense, allowing Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch to throw for a career-high 305 yards. A highly regarded front seven led by Jack finally produced its first sack of the season, but allowed 4.2 yards per rushing attempt.

And the Tigers’ final drive, which ended at the Bruins 41 when time expired, was determined more by questionable clock management than any particular defensive adjustment or standout play by UCLA.

That doesn’t exactly bode well for Pac-12 play, with games against high-powered Arizona State, Utah and Oregon to open the conference schedule, following the trip to face the struggling Longhorns at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

”We can’t wait to get things fixed,” Mora said. ”We have to fix things now. … (Older) guys like us, we understand how fast life goes, and I don’t think these guys always understand it, so it’s a matter of making them understand it’s important right now.”

Jack noted that elements of the Memphis offense caught UCLA off guard, showing ”wrinkles” that were not seen on tape study from games dating through last season, but laid most of the blame with his group.

”It really just came down to us making mental errors and stuff, little things,” said Jack, who had six tackles with one tackle for loss. ”That will be corrected this week.”

Another immediate challenge for UCLA comes from the Longhorns’ dual-threat quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes, a redshirt freshman listed at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. Jack played with Swoopes in a high school all-star game in 2013 and is well aware of what he can do.

Even though UCLA faces mobile quarterbacks every season in the Pac-12, Jack said Swoopes’ sheer size makes him unique.

”He’s a big dude, man,” Jack said. ”He is a good player. He has got an arm, he can run, he’s big. He’s going to fall forward, so you really have to hit him. He is a talented player and I am looking forward to the challenge.”