In Jim Mora's first three seasons as UCLA's football coach, the Bruins have enjoyed more success than they have had in decades. His .718 winning percentage is the second-best three-year start in school history, behind Tommy Prothro, who had a .806 winning percentage from 1965-67.
UCLA started this season ranked in the national top 10, and the Bruins defeated rival USC for a third consecutive season. But ultimately, UCLA fell short of some of its major goals, losing to Oregon and Stanford and falling short of qualifying to play in the Pac-12 Conference championship game.
The Bruins take a 9-3 record into their Jan. 2 date against Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
Reporter Chris Foster recently conducted a brief question-and-answer session with Mora. Here's how it went:
What's one thing that surprised you since you took over?
"How much I have enjoyed college football. I had never coached college football, it was a great unknown to me. I didn't know I would enjoy it as much as I do."
What was your biggest high this season?
"Always seeing our players reach their potential is the biggest high. Seeing them grow together and bond as a team. It shows that we're doing things right. It shows that we're emphasizing the correct standards."
What was the low?
"Every loss is a low. They all hurt the same."
If you could take back one decision you made this season, what would it be?
"I have no regrets. I don't go back weeks later, months later, and think about decisions and react to it. That's my answer. I have no regrets. When you work hard as you can and your heart is in the right place, when you're committed and devoted, when you make a decision, you can have no regrets. That doesn't mean every decision is right, but I have no regrets."
What remains to be done to put this program on a par with Oregon?
"You're assuming Oregon is the measuring stick and they're not. Our measuring stick is playing to our standards. That's what we're trying to accomplish."
What are the challenges next season with quarterback Brett Hundley leaving?
"Playing a quarterback with limited snaps or no snaps at this level."
What will make it easier on that quarterback?
"The fact we return our offensive line; the fact we have the leading rusher in the Pac-12 [Paul Perkins] returning; the fact we have a veteran receivers corps returning will certainly help. The fact we return eight of 11 starters on defense will help."
Why has Stanford's style of football been so effective against your team?
"We haven't played as well as we need to play to beat them so far."
The construction of a football facility has been a major issue with you. Once that begins, what could pull you away from UCLA?
"I have no plans at this time to leave UCLA. It doesn't matter if there is a facility or not."
Do you ponder what some critics might say about you?
"If you are your own toughest critic, you really shouldn't have to worry about what others have to say. I am critical about myself about everything. I analyze everything every day constantly. I don't cut myself much slack."
Why has UCLA had success against USC for three consecutive years?
"We just played well in those games."
Past Bruins coaches have pointed to beating USC as a barometer to judge the success of the UCLA program. Is that still the case?
"Of course they are our crosstown rival, but just beating USC does not make a season successful in my opinion. Our goals are more than just beating USC."