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UCLA Sports

UCLA hopes venue won’t be a distraction against Texas

AT&T Stadium
A visit to AT&T Stadium, where UCLA plays Texas on Saturday, is an awe-inspiring experience.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

As Coach Jim Mora puts it, UCLA is going to visit AT&T Stadium a day before its game against Texas to ogle. His players are going to stare at the 20,000-square-foot video screen, walk through the concourse and get a feel for one of the most famously over-the-top stadiums in American sports.

The goal, according to Mora and his coaches, is to make sure no one is awestruck come Saturday.

“We had the talk yesterday about giving them one day to stare at the thing, then they’re not supposed to stare at the thing during the game,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said on Wednesday.

The Bruins have nine players on their roster from Texas. Some of had played in the stadium, some haven’t. Back in his NFL days, Mora coached in Jerry World. Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has both coached and played there.

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But the vast majority of UCLA’s roster and personnel haven’t been to the stadium in Arlington, outside Dallas, and Mora wants to make sure that the venue doesn’t become a distraction.

“When we arrive on Saturday, it’s ‘OK, we’ve done that,’” he said. “Now our focus is just what’s going to happen on the field.”  

Of those nine Texas guys on the roster, some, like sophomore offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch, had offers to play for the Longhorns. Others, like redshirt junior center Jake Brendel, did not.

Sophomore linebacker Deon Hollins said he was interested in Texas, but the Bruins showed him “a little more love.”

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“I was just trying to get the right opportunity for me, school-wise and football-wise,” Hollins said. “I think a degree from Texas, it’s pretty good, but just coming to UCLA, it’s sort of global. I can do exactly what I want to do. And then football-wise, coming in with Jim Mora, I just felt that the staff was bringing something fresh, something I wanted to be a part of.”

Benenoch, in particular, is excited to go home. His mom has seen him play only one time in college, in the Sun Bowl last season. She’ll be there on Saturday, along with Benenoch’s sister, brother and friends.

There will be familiar faces on the other side of the ball, too.  

“I know a whole lot of guys on that team,” Benenoch said Tuesday. “It’s going to be fun playing against the guys I hung out with during the recruiting process. I took a lot of visits with those guys to Texas A&M and Texas. So seeing them again is going to be a lot of fun.”  

So while some players are comfortable with the state of Texas and its most famous stadium, and some aren’t, the goal is to make sure everyone is familiar with their  surroundings by Saturday. 

“That’s one of the great things that we do here, going in there the day before and kind of getting the awestruck out of it, getting the big eyes from our kids who see that enormous TV,” Ulbrich said on Wednesday.  

For more Bruin observations, follow Everett Cook on Twitter @everettcook


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