No. 14 UCLA relaxes on bye, prepares for finish
Nov. 11, 2014
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A bye week affords No. 14 UCLA a chance to watch some football.
Linebacker Myles Jack got to enjoy his 28-yard touchdown run against Washington, with his family prompting extra viewings at the expense of his friend and former high school teammate, Huskies safety Budda Baker. Jack's brother pulled up the video Saturday night as they were hanging out after the game, meaning Baker had to see the stiff arm that sent him flailing to the turf once again.
Defensive back Anthony Jefferson is looking ahead to this weekend's nightcap between Arizona State and Oregon State, hoping the Beavers pull off the upset and propel the Bruins back into the Pac-12 South lead.
The only team UCLA really won't be focused on this week is its next opponent, rival Southern California — if you believe the pronouncements coming from Westwood.
"We're not focused on them at all," Jack said. "We're focused in on ourselves, just fine-tuning things where they should be. We haven't even mentioned them in our meeting rooms."
Said Jefferson: "It's always a good game, but it is just another game in our eyes."
That might be the party line coach Jim Mora wants his players to convey, but quarterback Brett Hundley admitted he would start looking at tape of the Trojans this week. Whatever UCLA chooses to watch, it will certainly include its two best back-to-back performances of the season, including the 44-30 win at Washington.
The Bruins did not turn the ball over, allowed one sack and committed just four penalties against the Huskies. Such a clean performance seemed impossible as UCLA squeaked through its non-conference schedule before suffering consecutive losses to Utah and Oregon.
But another late-season surge has UCLA on track for its second straight 10-win season. If the Bruins win out and the Sun Devils lose one of their final three games, UCLA would get a rematch with the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game.
"I think we're just resilient and we all have a great mindset headed into the end of the season when we start winning games and start getting confidence," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "Right now we're on a roll, so our confidence is high and we are playing well."
Still, Jack saw issues the defense must address before facing a far more talented USC offense on Nov. 22. Washington rushed for 211 yards, with Shaq Thompson gaining 100 yards on 16 carries without a single negative run.
"There were some drives where they just drove down the field on us at will," Jack said. "We feel like we should be a dominant defense and be able to stop them, just put out the flame when they are starting to drive on us. I feel like we played good, but we definitely could have played better."
With a chance to rest, recuperate and return to the fundamentals, everyone is confident the open week will allow them to do just that without breaking their newfound rhythm.
"You get to take a deep breath and then get to the last two big games of the season," Jack said. "It's a good feeling."