UCLA ready to face Va. Tech in the Sun Bowl
UCLA head coach Jim Mora is very familiar with his team’s
opponent in Tuesday’s Sun Bowl.
Mora saw a lot of Virginia Tech and head coach Frank Beamer as
he prepared for past drafts in his former role as an NFL coach with
Atlanta and Seattle.
”I had a chance to coach a lot of Virginia Tech players (in the
NFL), and they’re all the same: tough, disciplined, very smart
football players. It goes back to Jim Druckenmiller, Mike Vick,
DeAngelo Hall, Jimmy Williams. In scouting those guys, I’ve watched
a lot of Virginia Tech football, and their teams always play hard,
they always play physical and they always play with great passion.
And I think that’s a reflection, in my opinion, of one of the
greatest coaches of all time.”
Of course, a month of preparation for Tuesday’s game also helped
the 17th-ranked Bruins (9-3) and the Hokies (8-4) familiarize
themselves with one another.
”To have an opponent like UCLA is a real challenge,” Beamer
said. ”But that’s what you like at this time of year – to play a
game that means something against a quality opponent. That’s what
we’ve got, and in a great setting, a great bowl situation.”
”The reality is we’re fortunate to be here,” he said. ”With
the young people that we’ve played and the injuries that we’ve had,
the competition of our league . I think the ACC gets bigger and
stronger every year. I think we’re hanging in there pretty well so
far in the bowls. I think it’s just a fact of life: the ACC is
getting more competitive. It’s not a given that you can win eight
games or nine games or 10 games.”
Five things to watch when UCLA takes on Virginia Tech in the Sun
TRENCH WARFARE: A key matchup will be UCLA’s young offensive
line against the Virginia Tech defensive line. UCLA has three
freshmen starting on the O-line, while Virginia Tech’s defensive
front four includes three seniors and a junior. ”You’ve got one of
the top defenses in the country,” Mora said of the Hokies. ”No.
1, we’ve got to block up that front, and with our young offensive
line that’s no easy task. We’ve got to try to find ways to run the
football. We’ve got to find ways to protect our quarterback and get
open against an excellent secondary.” Beamer agreed that running
the ball would be a key. ”I wouldn’t want to try to line up and
try to throw it against these guys every time. I think their pass
rush is too good, and they get you locked up in close coverage,”
UNDERDOG ROLE: UCLA is favored by seven points. That suits the
Hokies just fine. ”We love being the underdog. I wish we were the
underdog every game,” Virginia Tech safety Kyshoen Jarrett said.
”It puts a chip on our shoulder. I feel great about it. We’re
excited to be the underdog.”
YOUNG GUNS: Young players will play key roles for both teams.
Virginia Tech freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller has six
interceptions and freshman CB Brandon Facyson has five. UCLA has
running back-linebacker Myles Jack, who was the Pac-12 Offensive
and Defensive Freshman of the Year. Jack, a linebacker, didn’t get
a carry on offense until the ninth game of the year, when he ran
for 120 yards and a TD against Arizona. The entire country got to
know him the following week, when he ran for 4 TDs against
Washington. Defensively, he’s fifth on the team with 70
BARR NONE: No UCLA player earned more accolades than senior
linebacker Anthony Barr. The 6-foot-4, 248-pound All-American was
named first team All-Pac 12, won the 2013 Lott IMPACT award and was
a finalist for the Bednarik, Butkus and Lombardi awards. He also
made numerous All-American lists. Some scouts have projected Barr
as a first-round pick in the 2014 draft.
BOWL REGULARS: The Hokies are making their 21st consecutive bowl
appearance and the Bruins are in a postseason game for the ninth
time in 11 years, although they haven’t won a bowl game since