The former Husky walk-on defensive back won his first game with UCLA at Washington in 2014.
Three years after his first game on the opposing sideline at Husky Stadium, UCLA coach Jim Mora returns to his adopted hometown of Seattle to face his former team the Washington Huskies.
The days before his 2014 visit, the former UW walk-on defensive back was dismissive about the homecoming and portrayed it as “a business trip” devoid of any emotional attachment.
And following the Bruins’ 44-30 win, Mora said curtly: “It was a game. I’m happy my family was here, but other than that I couldn’t care less. I’m happy we’re 8-2 and I’m excited for our players, but other than that it doesn’t matter to me.”
Don’t expect Mora to suddenly get sentimental this time either before No. 12 Washington (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) hosts UCLA (4-3, 2-2) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
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Even though Mora, a graduate of Interlake High School in Bellevue who turned down a chance to coach the Huskies in 2014, is uniquely tethered to both programs, he’s been unwilling to publicly admit a UW-UCLA game is anything special.
Still, those close to him believe otherwise.
“I have to think this is an important game for him,” former Washington quarterback Hugh Millen, Mora’s college roommate, told the Los Angeles Times in a 2014 story before Mora’s first game at UW.
“I think his compulsion, that ‘Hey, this is a game we must win,’ won’t allow him to say it,” Millen said. “What’s best for UCLA dwarfs any feeling he has.”
Mora comes to town on a bit of a high note following the Bruins’ 31-14 win over Oregon on Saturday, which momentarily quieted a chorus of critics unhappy with a 1-3 stretch that followed a 2-0 start.
“If you’ve a competitive bone in your body — and these guys have a full body of competitive bones — you take it personally,” Mora told reporters in Los Angeles after the Oregon game. “Today, at some point, all the hard work and the resolve and the attitude and the commitment started to pay off.”
Mora, who was the Seahawks head coach in 2009, guided UCLA to bowls during his first four years in Westwood, Calif. The Bruins finished 4-8 last year, which led to questions about his job security.
Last year Mora, 55, signed a two-year contract extension on a deal that ends following the 2021 season.
Injuries mounting for UCLA
The Bruins lost senior defensive linemen Matt Dickerson (collarbone) and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner on Saturday, which forced them to burn freshman Greg Rogers’ redshirt.
“Had to pull his redshirt off — had to do it,” Mora reportedly said after the Oregon game. “Had to have guys to play; (he) comes out in the fourth-and-one and makes a huge play.”
Junior linebacker Josh Woods (shoulder) left in the third quarter and did not return. UCLA also played without linebackers Breland Brandt (concussion), Krys Barnes (pneumonia) and Lokeni Toailoa (undisclosed injury).
The dearth of linebackers forced the Bruins to move defensive lineman Keisean Lucier-South to linebacker.
UCLA is also thin at tight end.
Caleb Wilson suffered a season-ending foot injury three weeks ago against Colorado and Austin Roberts (ankle) did not play after the first quarter last Saturday. The Bruins relied heavily on redshirt freshman Jordan Wilson and pressed freshman Moses Robinson-Carr into action.
No change for UW in rankings
No. 12 Washington, which had a bye last week, remained in the same spot in the latest Associated Press college football poll.
The Huskies were bypassed in the rankings by No. 9 Notre Dame, which moved up four spots after a 49-14 win over USC that dropped the Trojans 11 places to No. 21.
Washington State stayed pat at No. 15 and Stanford improved two spots to No. 20.
Here’s a look at the Pac-12 teams in the Amway Coaches Poll: No. 11 UW, No. 16 WSU, No. 20 Stanford and No. 21 USC.
The College Football Playoff releases the first of six weekly rankings Oct. 31.