Jim Mora Jr. had a simple proposition for year one as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. It wasn’t an impossible task considering the team he was inheriting. The baby blue faithful in Los Angeles wanted their squad to compete, have a winning season, and hopefully finish second in the Pac-12 South.
Hope not Bruin fan, first is where you live. In a game that was controlled by the Bruins from start to finish, the USC Trojans never held the lead, and UCLA asserted itself as the best program in the southern half of the Pac-12.
Often during the college football season I was asked if the Bruins really could compete against the Trojans. The more I saw of USC, and the more I saw of UCLA, I had no problem answering yes.
Entering 2012 there were several major questions that coach Mora had to address. Losing stud linebacker Patrick Larimore to retirement before the season started was a heavy blow to a defense in need of their best player. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley was untested. How could he hold up for an entire season considering the opposition the young passer would face each week. Through it all the Bruins played on.
No their record is not unblemished. No the Bruins are not competing for a national championship. What the Bruins did do on their home field against the Trojans was show the country they belong atop their division. Little brothers no more, Mora has fired the proverbial shot across the bow of the Trojans warship.
Meanwhile in USC country, Lane Kiffin is feeling the heat for a season with unmet expectations. A word that seemed a little lofty for the squad in Pasadena just a few months ago, is now being used as a negative for their rival team.
Plenty remains on the Bruins plate as they have a likely date with either the Oregon Ducks or the Stanford Cardinal for a conference championship. UCLA will play current North Division leader Stanford this coming week which could further shake the standings.
The mark of a champion is not meeting expectations. It is having the courage to seek out goals beyond what was previously assumed. Before the first game was played on the 2012 schedule, the Trojans were given expectations. A tribute to their beauty on paper.
UCLA fought for theirs.
Don’t put off that dream for a Pac-12 championship til next year Bruins. There is no shame for UCLA to expect such a feat right now. That is an expectation earned.