What is different about UCLA this season was clear to defensive end Datone Jones on Saturday night.
The Bruins were putting the finishing touches on a 66-10 victory over Arizona. The Wildcats, Jones said, were not taking the thrashing well.
“You could see it at the end of the game, a lot of Arizona guys were undisciplined,” Jones said. “They were hitting us after the plays, throwing punches. We walked away. Last year, that could have been a big brawl. Last year, it was a big brawl.”
Arizona routed UCLA, 48-12, in a fight-marred game last season that sealed Coach Rick Neuheisel’s fate. The Bruins have toed the line this season, give or take a few personal-foul penalties.
Coach Jim Mora has been rough, and at times loud, filling players with a mixture of respect and fear. That was clear early on, when he declared that any player looking to continue the “over the wall” tradition of ditching practice could just keep on going.
Tossing the team out of practice one day during training camp may have been calculated, but it sent the I’m-running-things message that has been absorbed. You didn’t have to be in the locker room to know what the post-Arizona game talk was about.
The coach-speak was thick after the win, which left UCLA alone atop the Pac-12 Conference South Division.
Linebacker Anthony Barr: “We can’t become complacent on our high horse.”
Cornerback Sheldon Price: “We have to keep the same mind-set and don’t get complacent.”
Running back Johnathan Franklin: “We have to stay humble.”
Quarterback Brett Hundley: “We have to keep our heads down and stay humble.”
What makes the tight reins work is the winning.
The Bruins’ victory Saturday ended a five-game losing streak against Arizona. That meant a lot to the seniors.
“This feels amazing,” Jones said after the game. “I was almost in tears. We beat Arizona. Not only did we beat them, we destroyed them.”
UCLA plays Pac-12 doormat Washington State on Saturday. Losing would require a lot of effort from the Bruins. So the focus on campus is already shifting to USC, which the Bruins face Nov. 17.
Players are hearing from fellow students about facing the Trojans, who have beaten the Bruins in 12 of the last 13 seasons.
“A lot people are talking about the ‘SC game,” Hundley said. “They are not our opponent this week. We have Washington State this week. USC shouldn’t be in our heads, and it isn’t.”
Washington State suspended Marquess Wilson, its all-time leading receiver, on Monday.
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported that Wilson refused to finish a push-up drill and walked out of practice Sunday. There were also reports that Wilson had quit the team.
Asked Monday whether Wilson had quit, Coach Mike Leach said, “I don’t know. I do know he’s suspended. If he left the team, that’s his business.”
Wilson has 52 receptions for 813 yards and five touchdowns this season, but he was dropped to second on the depth chart two weeks ago.
A junior, Wilson has 241 receptions for 4,020 yards and 28 touchdowns in his career.