LOS ANGELES — This week’s test might be the complete opposite scenario from the one UCLA faced last week.
After a dominating 41-21 victory on the road against Nebraska, the Bruins moved up to No. 13 in the polls, the highest ranking since November, 2007. But instead of facing a historical powerhouse in front of front of nearly 100,000 people, UCLA (2-0) will face a team that has not made a bowl game since 1960 in New Mexico State.
The Aggies are not on the up-and-up. Head coach Doug Martin, a former Boston College offensive coordinator and Kent State head coach, has yet to earn a win as an Aggie yet as the team has lost its first three.
While it doesn’t figure that this game will finally end the Aggies’ 14-game losing streak, UCLA coach Jim Mora does feel that his team will need to be in right state of mind for Saturday night’s game at the Rose Bowl.
“I think it’s really important that we find a way to refocus and get ready for this game,” Mora said. “I think it’s our responsibility as a coaching staff to push these kids out of any hangover effect that there might be.”
Mora continues to use the term “emotional roller coaster” to describe the last week. This past weekend in particular featured extreme highs with the win and heavy lows with Nick Pasquale’s memorial service the next day.
Handling their emotions and learning to move forward are going to be the key lessons and possibly the obstacles the Bruins will need to overcome this week.
“To come back and play a game, you can certainly understand where there might be a hangover,” Mora said. “But we can’t have that. Not if we’re going to be the kind of team that we want to be.”
The kind of team they want to be is a championship-caliber team. But Mora and the Bruins are taking it one game at a time. A loss to lowly New Mexico State would be far below their own expectations for themselves.
“We prepare for our opponent but we always play against UCLA Football,” Mora said. “That’s really, I think what we have to get back to. Just the fundamentals of the mental part of it and the actual football part of it.”
The actual clash on Saturday night will feature a UCLA team that is currently tied for the fifth-best offensive team in the country averaging 575.5 yards per game against an Aggied squad that allows only 1.2 more yards per game than the Bruins average.
It’s the second-worst defense in the FBS.
Don’t expect the Bruins to take the night off. This isn’t the time to coast.
“We tend not to look at the record of the opponents because any week, any team can beat anybody,” said quarterback Brett Hundley. “I think that just us reminding the (younger) guys, that college football isn’t what you expect, it’s different. These are big-time people. They may not look the best and their record may not show that but at the end of the day you’ve got to take it like we did for Nebraska.”