UCLA football shifts focus to beating Cal by bowling

The summer heat flickered on the artificial turf, with a full season ahead, plus a small group of reporters.

Kazmeir Allen stood in that sauna on the driving range and set the UCLA agenda for the season.

“Rose Bowl or bust,” the wide receiver said.

This was not a player out of control on the roster, trained to never look ahead, focusing only on today, what it takes to have a really good Saturday. In the same week, the defender Dorian Thompson-Robinson admitted that he thinks of the leading Bruins back to the pink bowl daily. watch over John Gaines IIusually as cautious in his comments as any other American football player, he hinted at even greater expectations.

“Win every game,” Gaines said.

The Bruins have come a long way since those dreamy days.

Long way down.

Two consecutive losses, including a tear failure against USCgone University of California at Los Angeles considering far less enticing possibilities. Dropping down to 18th in college football playoff rankingsThe Bruins (8-3 overall, 5-3 Pac-12) will play their last game of the regular season against California (4-7, 2-6) Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in an attempt to avoid controversy over Jimmy Kimmel bowl.

The heavy white bandage on Thompson-Robinson’s throwing arm in practice this week served as the perfect metaphor for a battered team eager to send themselves a get-well postcard.

“Of course it’s very difficult,” Thompson-Robinson said of the transition from 48-45 loss to USC in which he withstood several brutal blows and completed four revolutions. “We’re just trying to stop by California and have one last night together.”

At the very least, the team standing between UCLA and Full Meltdown Mode is looking to get all of his attention. Call it a cup of resentment.

Cal is the reason UC Regents Consider Blocking University of California at Los Angeles move to the Big Ten conference in 2024, those governing bodies were worried that the Golden Bears would be left behind in a downsized Pac-12 while the Bruins would travel thousands of extra miles in an expanded Intercontinental Conference. A decision is expected next month.

Twinning schools have been vying for the nation’s best public university—the Bruins were #1 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings—but the parallels to football are far from perfect.

While Cal is headed for a third consecutive bad season under coach Justin Wilcox, the Bruins’ slow but steady rise under Chip Kelly continues. If UCLA can beat the Golden Bears and win the mid-level bowl game, it will have 10 wins for the first time since 2014, setting a single-season school record.

California linebacker Jackson Sirmon celebrates a touchdown with his teammates.

California linebacker Jackson Sirmon (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during a second-half fumble recovery at Stanford at Berkeley on Saturday.

(Godofredo A. Vasquez/Associated Press)

First things first, of course, for a coach who refuses to look ahead.

“You can’t get to 10 unless you get to nine,” Kelly said, “so we have to get to nine first, and that’s this Friday.”

Two more wins will also push Kelly, who went 26-28 in five seasons with the Bruins, back to .500, an unimaginable spot when he agreed to his original five-year, $23.3 million contract in November 2017, touting the “relationship “. , friendship and championships.

An elite offensive formation followed, led by Thompson-Robinson and a string of talented runners, but the Bruins didn’t have as much success on ball defense. After four unsuccessful seasons, Kelly replaced defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro with Bill McGovern.

The UCLA defense showed promise early this season before returning to family troubles as competition tightened up. McGovern has missed the last four games for unspecified reasons and is likely to perform again on Friday due to Kelly hinting at a health issue based on recent comments that McGovern is “feeling better”.

McGovern, who turns 61 on New Year’s Eve and has one season left on his two-year, $1.8 million contract, returned to practice as a guest this week, bringing smiles to the players.

“It was a little embarrassing not to see him here, even just to be on the sidelines, to hear his voice,” defenseman Alex Johnson said, “so it was really great to see him here.”

The shortened week could help the Bruins forget the pain of losing in a row because they have no choice but to move on quickly. Their itinerary included a Thanksgiving dinner at the team’s hotel in the Bay Area, and everyone was grateful that the season didn’t end in a crushing loss to the Trojans.

“We’re just talking about the ‘finish,'” linebacker Cain Medrano said of the Bruins’ motivation. “It’s a big motto for us to just finish, whether it’s the end of the day, the game, the end of the week. So all that’s left is to finish the season.”

It will be a difficult task given that the season can no longer take them where they wanted to go.