Mora's Bruins focused on Stanford
NOV 20, 2012 1:31p ET
He was just a couple of hours removed from winning the first crosstown rivalry game he'd been a part of as UCLA's head coach.
He spent the week prior downplaying his team's matchup with USC and what it meant to be playing the crosstown rivals with the Pac-12 South Division title on the line.
He said the right things leading up to the game, but the postgame festivities in the UCLA locker room didn’t back up his statements. Their celebration signaled anything but the Bruins having won “just another game.”
A full-on dance contest broke out in the Bruins locker room and Mora was so enamored he didn't want to leave the party for his customary postgame session with the media. Mora's been around a lot of football but the Bruins locker room was unlike anything he'd ever been a part of spending the majority of his coaching life in the NFL.
The party's over with the UCLA seniors having celebrated the biggest win of their careers. But there could be bigger wins ahead as long as there isn't a Trojan hangover.
Any talk of the Trojans in Westwood have been put on hold. They can talk about it, just not anytime soon. Mora hopes any discussions of last Saturday’s win are stored away.
“As long as they talk about it after the season, I’m okay with it,” Mora said. “I don’t want to hear about it this week."
The rest of this week belongs to Stanford. It's time to turn the page. But do the Bruins only want the Cardinal to occupy their time for one week only?
UCLA finds themselves in a peculiar position.
They have already locked up a spot in the conference title game. The Cardinal have not. They need to beat the Bruins to punch their ticket.
It may be more advantageous for the Bruins to lose on Saturday. If the Cardinal win, the two teams will meet again the following Friday in Palo Alto for the conference championship game.
If UCLA wins and Oregon defeats in-state rival Oregon State, it will set up a rematch of last year's conference title game in Eugene.
The Bruins can host the title game with a win and an Oregon loss.
What's a Bruin to do?
A loss pretty much guarantees they won’t have to travel to Eugene to face the Ducks.
But stepping off of the gas in the middle of the largest wave of momentum the program has seen in years could be extremely detrimental.
So detrimental, Mora feverishly dismisses the notion.
When asked if he's ever been in a situation where he wins by losing, Mora thought it was a joke.
"Are you serious," Mora asked. “No. Are you talking about thinking about losing a game this Saturday? No, no, no. Come on. Jiminy Christmas. If I thought that way, I should never be in this business.”
Pumping the brakes this week will go against everything Mora has stood for since taking over in Westwood. Not only that, what type of message would it send to his team to know they were intentionally ducking the Ducks?
His first practices during the spring were as intense and physical as Westwood has ever seen. Not only was he committed to forcing the Bruins to work hard during fall camp to prepare for the season, but he took them to San Bernardino to do so.
The team braved triple-digit temperatures while being in a desolate environment where they had no one to depend on but themselves.
Surviving that was a win in itself. Continuing the momentum without running out of gas - as many assumed they would - has Mora’s bunch still winning.
Nine wins later and the Bruins are on the cusp of their first 10-win season in seven years and just their third in 17 years.
The decision is to win on Saturday when the Cardinal come to town, or at least try to. Even if it means it sets them up to travel to Eugene for the conference championship game.
“This team’s motivation is to win as many games as they can,” Mora said.
Mora’s nine wins are the most by a UCLA first-year head coach since Terry Donahue in 1976. Donahue is iconic in Westwood. If Mora continues at this rate he’ll be too.
The Mora Way doesn’t include pumping the brakes, even if it means having to refuel to get to Eugene.