When we discussed the possibilities for the Pac 12 Championship last week, we noted how the UCLA Bruins could in essence pick their opponent by winning or losing on Saturday against the Stanford Cardinal. We quickly dismissed the notion that Jim Mora would have his team throw the game to avoid playing the Oregon Ducks in Autzen Stadium because Mora is a fiery competitor that doesn’t hold back.
Well, at least one reporter disagrees with that sentiment. T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times feels that Mora would absolutely hold back for a competitive advantage, and in fact did just that when the Bruins fell to Stanford 35-17. He believes it so strongly, he hijacked Mora’s post-game press conference to tell the coach his whole theory.
Simers starts in around the 23-second mark and doesn’t let up. He talks over Mora and interrupts other reporters to push his theory and try and get the UCLA first-year coach to admit to it.
In short, Simers theory is that it was advantageous for UCLA to see what Stanford would bring to the table. If the Bruins felt they could handle it, then they would tank the rest of the way and let Stanford win, setting up a rematch with the Cardinal with UCLA prepared for Stanford’s attack. He feels that the easier road to the Rose Bowl went through Palo Alto, so Mora coached his team to lay down to avoid having to head to Eugene.
Simers’ theory is almost entirely based on the fact that the game was tied 7-7 after the first quarter when he felt the Bruins “gave up” and Stanford pulled away. He also points out that Mora has experience coaching teams down since he did it all the time during preseason games in the NFL. No, really, that’s what his argument is based on: Preseason NFL games.
Mora goes from amused at the thought of throwing a football game to annoyed to downright confrontational. He eventually points out that Simers isn’t even asking questions, just making statements at Mora, and the coach invited him to sit next to him and make all the statements he wanted, telling Simers “You don’t scare me.”
This isn’t the first time Simers has used his press credentials to bait the subjects of his stories into a reaction. In September, he was goading the Los Angeles Dodgers by asking every one of them if they were having fun while mired in a slump. His antics got a rise out of Matt Treanor, who allegedly laid into the reporter with an obscenity-laced tirade, essentially giving Simers the story he set out to find.
This is just another example of that, where Simers has a narrative already in mind and then pushing buttons to get it validated. Did the Bruins throw the game? No, and the fact that they were tied at 7-7 after the first quarter is far from proof of it. Stanford was only up 7-0 on the Colorado Buffaloes after the first quarter. They got into a rhythm, however, and ended up rolling to a 48-0 win.
Did Colorado throw the game? No, Stanford is a very good team that doesn’t always start the game fast, but who can quickly pick up momentum and score in bunches. That’s what happened on Saturday, as UCLA has had defensive lapses for stretches this season, making them prone to Stanford’s quick-strike tendencies.
To accuse UCLA of throwing the game is irresponsible journalism and just plain rude. Mora is trying to instill a winning culture of tough-minded football players. That isn’t accomplished by laying down for one opponent to avoid another. He wouldn’t do the disservice to his players of disrespecting them like that.
But that doesn’t sell Simers’ column. Getting under Mora’s skin, however, does. So for one antagonistic journalist, this is a mission accomplished. Don’t expect to see him invited to the press conference following the Pac 12 Championship on Friday, though.