UCLA ranks 129th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game. The Bruins just surrendered 457 yards on the ground to Arizona.
Jim Mora’s response? Don’t worry about it, fellas.
“We work so hard on tackling and I think sometimes guys get a little anxious or overreact,” Mora said, via the Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch. “It’s that coaching issue that you face times every year with a particular part of your team that’s struggling is, how much do you talk about it?
“Is talking about tackling putting in their mind, ‘Oh, we can’t tackle’? It’s a dance that you have to play out and try to figure out.”
Though it’s not the dance to which Mora was referring, UCLA’s definitely danced about as much as it’s collectively tackled. The ease with which Arizona ran the football was startling on Saturday night, and it’s far from the first time — UCLA allowed 405 rushing yards 3 weeks ago against Stanford, and 382 rushing yards in an opening weekend win over Texas A&M. We could throw more numbers at you, but the first stats provided were all you need to know: The Bruins are very bad against the run.
So when things aren’t going well, and you’ve already harped on the importance of tackling, perhaps the best thing to do is tone it down, right?
“The first three plays, guys got out of their gap or missed tackles,” Mora said. “So when you’re teetering on the edge of confidence and something bad happens to you immediately, human nature is to go, ‘Here we go again.’
“And so one of the things you have to do a great job of fighting and hoping you can provide for your players is a sense of hope and confidence and ‘Here’s how we get better and this is the answer and here’s how we’re going to fix it and it’s gonna take all of us but we’re all going to do it.’
“And then you get some good things happening to you and you build on it. And so we have to move away from being fragile and move into being confident. And that’s difficult, and that’s one of the great challenges of competitive athletics.”
A fragile team doesn’t reflect well on its coach, especially when it’s being mentioned halfway through a season teetering on disaster. But when all else fails, why not turn to positive reinforcement? Hopefully Mora gets his players on board with the change in approach.
UCLA hosts Oregon at 1 p.m. PT on Saturday at the Rose Bowl. They’ll get another test on the ground against Oregon’s rushing attack, which is averaging 244.6 yards per game on the ground and features a tandem of Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit.