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UCLA sees Alamo Bowl as a prelude to next season

Bruins are ready to set the tone for next season by showing up at Alamo Bowl ready to win

Bowl games are all about showing up with purpose, or else leaving with a loss.

UCLA arrived in El Paso focused last season, ready to announce its intentions for the 2014 season. The Bruins pummeled Virginia Tech, 42-12, in the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

A year earlier, UCLA players treated a trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl like a vacation from football. The Bruins came home with a 49-26 loss to Baylor as a souvenir.

The framing for which UCLA team shows up in San Antonio for the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 has begun.

"You can't do anything about the past," defensive back Ishmael Adams said. "We just learn from our mistakes and proceed forward."

The talking points for moving forward were established by Saturday, the Bruins' first practice for the game.

•The Bruins need to show they are tough.

According to Adams, Coach Jim Mora said that people felt the Bruins were soft in a 31-10 loss to Stanford in the season finale.

"Coach Mora is saying that our toughness and mindset have been questioned," Adams said. "I have heard that after our last game."

•The Bruins need to send the seniors — and junior quarterback Brett Hundley — out in style. UCLA has eight seniors on scholarship playing their last game, as well as Hundley, who will declare for the NFL draft after the season.

"I'm a prideful man, and I'm not letting my seniors leave with a loss," Adams said. "I never like seeing that."

•The Bruins need to start 2015 on Jan. 2. With 18 starters returning, UCLA should carry plenty of expectations into the season, even with needing to break in a new quarterback.

"It can make a statement for next year," defensive back Jaleel Wadood said. "How we come out of this game can show that we're a force to be reckoned with."

How the Bruins come out of this game remains to be seen. They went back to work Saturday, with a practice that was adequate from Mora's description.

"We were just getting the tempo back up to where we want it to be," Mora said. "I thought they did a pretty good job of it. I thought toward the end it might have dragged a little bit. But they came out here in good spirits and good intentions."

With an eye on winning, and not losing.

"I hate losing more than I love winning, and I love winning," Adams said.

Post-Christmas returns

Adams was eager to meet the challenge that Kansas State presents.

The Wildcats rank 14th nationally in kickoff coverage, allowing only 17.9 yards per return. Adams was such a dangerous return man early in the season that teams began kicking the ball away from him or burying it in the end zone for a touchback.

"Kansas State flies around, does a great job of spacing and staying in their lanes," said Adams, who had a 100-yard return for a touchdown against Arizona State. "It comes down to me making it happen. It's going to be a fun game."

One where Adams expects to get his opportunities.

"I don't see them kicking away from me," Adams said. "I think they pride themselves on kickoff coverage, and all their special teams."

Triage

Hundley, who injured the index finger on his right hand against Stanford, threw during practice Saturday and is making progress, Mora said.

"You saw some balls wobble on him, but as he loosens up, he throws it better," Mora said.

Linebacker Deon Hollins was in a red, no-contact jersey for practice. Mora said it was the result of a concussion Hollins suffered during a collision with linebacker Eric Kendricks on Dec. 13.

"Hopefully he will be cleared tomorrow," Mora said. "I believe he passed the concussion protocol, but since we are two weeks away from the game, we are going to be a little extra careful with him."

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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