Out of the frying pan and into Eugene.
The “O” word was used a lot by UCLA football players Saturday. It wasn’t “ouch” after being pounded on in a 24-10 victory by Stanford, now ranked No. 8. Nor was it “Oregon,” in anticipation of playing the second-ranked Ducks this week.
“We have another big opportunity,” quarterback Brett Hundley said.
Said linebacker Jordan Zumwalt: “We had an opportunity to take a step.”
“We have an opportunity to grow,” Zumwalt said.
Having such opportunities against two of the nation’s top teams on consecutive weekends caused Coach Jim Mora to chuckle during his Sunday evening teleconference call.
“Well, they are both very good football teams,” Mora said. “They are very different in the ways they play the game. It is two very hostile environments to go in to play.”
Which brings things back to opportunity.
The Bruins weren’t able to seize it against bump-and-grind Stanford, losing for the first time. It was a game the Bruins could have won . . . and one they could have lost by more.
Now comes fast-and-furious Oregon, the back end of a two-game swing in seven days.
Said Mora: “No one said it was going to be easy.”
Yeah, but the Pac-12 Conference schedule makers seemed to go out of their way to make it tough.
Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian has hard-knock experience in this area.
The Huskies played Stanford and Oregon back to back this season. They pushed the Cardinal to the limit in a 31-28 loss at Palo Alto, then wilted against Oregon, 45-24, the following week in Seattle.
There was nothing to be learned there.
“Maybe if Washington was able to beat Oregon or slow them down,” Mora said. “But Oregon is a special team.”
The aftershock Washington suffered might be worth noting. The Huskies were pummeled by Arizona State, 53-24, on Saturday, a week after the Oregon game. Fortunately for the 12th-ranked Bruins, Pac-12 doormat Colorado is their follow-up to Oregon.
Attrition was on Mora’s mind.
The Bruins may be without two key players this week, linebacker Eric Kendricks and offensive tackle Simon Goines.
Kendricks, the team’s leading tackler, went to a hospital for tests on his kidney. All were negative. Mora said he suffered a bruise during the Stanford game, though he was unsure whether it was a bruise to the kidney or to “the surrounding tissue.”
Goines, who protects Hundley’s blind side, reinjured his right knee. Conor McDermott, his backup, suffered a separated shoulder. The Bruins have already lost starting tackle Torian White for the season after he tore a ligament and broke a bone in his right leg Oct. 3 against Utah.
Mora was unsure whether Kendricks, Goines or McDermott would play. The Bruins were already without starting running back Jordon James and receiver Darius Bell.
Heading to Eugene short-handed is far from a start to the perfect game plan.
“My concerns right now are health along the offensive line,” Mora said. “I’m not quite sure what we can put together up front. We’re very young and not very deep.”
That could be a linchpin issue in UCLA’s effort to keep the Ducks’ point-a-minute offense off the field. Oregon averages 57.6 points per game.
Stanford beat Oregon in Eugene last season, 17-14 in overtime. The Cardinal held on to the ball for 37 minutes. The Bruins’ offensive line showed that it’s not quite on par with Stanford’s unit Saturday, at least not yet.
Stanford started four seniors on the offensive line, two fifth-year seniors. UCLA started two sophomores and two freshmen, then lost Goines. Hundley spent the day being pursued.
The Bruins’ line also had four penalties — three false starts and an illegal motion — that disrupted the offensive rhythm.
UCLA had 74 yards rushing, the second consecutive week the Bruins have been held under 100 yards.
“I didn’t see it as a setback,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “I saw it as part of the learning process in becoming a great football team.”
UCLA has a week to get a little greater.
Said Hundley: “In order to be a championship team, sometimes you’re going to get knocked down. It’s really about what you do when you get knocked down.”
In this case, play Oregon.
“The great thing is we get to line up next week and do it again, against a really good football team,” Mazzone said.
One that is better than Stanford?
“A really good football team,” Mazzone said.
One that is better than Stanford?
“I’m not going to say that about Stanford,” Mazzone said. “They just whupped our [tails].”