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No question the Rose Bowl is Jim Mora's house now

But despite Saturday's victory over USC, the UCLA coach is not ready to relax just yet.

November 17, 2012|T.J. Simers

They announced Saturday that the press box in the Rose Bowl will be renamed the Terry Donahue Pavilion.

"Congratulations to him," says Coach Jim Mora, after UCLA blitzes USC, 38-28.

But no firm date as of yet when they will officially declare the Rose Bowl Jim Mora's House.

Glory be it was a fun day in the rain for a football renaissance, Mora telling the student body earlier in the week that he wants to make this house uninviting to the opposition.

Ask USC how it feels today.

The Trojans' band surrendered before the game, the gladiator making no move to stab the ground. And then USC's football team performed as though it had been told by UCLA officials to stay off the grass in the end zone.

A few hours later it's "U-C-L-A," and with gusto not heard around here in a long time.

Mora has a hug for his daughter on the field after the game, hugs for everyone really, before throwing a pair of fists into the air to the soggy crowd.

Off to the right of the tunnel as Mora leaves his House, a fan holds up a sign: "Long Live the New King."

One year ago, Lane Kiffin feels like a king running off the Coliseum field, his team winning 50-0 over UCLA, and a few weeks later Matt Barkley is announcing he will return.

But here we are, Barkley flattened and gasping for breath and fans and columnists calling for Kiffin's job.

The king-crowning business is obviously a tough one. UCLA is 9-2 and I couldn't be more disappointed with the Bruins.

They should be 10-1 as lousy as Cal is, and a case could be made — as I did Sept. 18 on Page 2 — that they should be 11-0, as ordinary as Oregon State might prove to be.

Welcome to the big time.

But it's a process, as Mora says, with maybe what happens following the game's biggest moment the best example of why the Bruins have taken such giant steps.

The Bruins are leading, 31-28, holding the ball or scoring essential as the conditions worsen.

On second and seven from the Trojans' 29, Johnathan Franklin effectively ends the game with a 29-yard touchdown run.

Mora's House goes crazy, Franklin hitting the end zone and running a finger in a slashing motion across his throat.

If it's a USC player doing the same thing I'm not sure Kiffin lifts his head from his play sheet to notice.

But Mora does, and maybe a penalty flag thrown on Franklin helping to get his attention, but the moment is not going to get away from him.

He finds Franklin, who is already apologizing. Mora says later he loves the kid and this is not the kind of kid to do such a thing.

"It's not him but the emotion of the moment," says Mora, who makes it clear that it's also a "teaching moment."

This is how championship teams are built.

But with great success comes an even bigger animal to tame: expectations.

"Give me a break, will ya," jokes Mora before agreeing it's the next logical hurdle to overcome.

Lose a game now and the Bruins' faithful will be let down, and there is nothing uglier in this world than let-down UCLA or USC fans.

Unfortunately, the same can also be said at times for winning UCLA and USC fans.

Now, as good a year as this has already been, there is still an outside chance of the Bruins earning Rose Bowl consideration.

That's pretty heady stuff for a group dismissed as a good high school team to start the season, but then have you seen the development of quarterback Brett Hundley?

He was the best quarterback on the field, and the other one began the season as a favorite to win the Heisman.

No question, the UCLA party might be just getting started.

"They're in there right now doing something like a dance-off. I've never seen that in the NFL," says Mora. "I didn't want to leave.

"But it's one game. Until we can string some together, do it over and over again, then it will have significance for me. Don't get me wrong, this has significance, but I mean real significance."

UCLA fans will love that kind of talk, and long live the king.

But while Mora dodges the monopoly question, he's reminded that a win over USC is not routine.

"It is to me," says Mora.

I tell him I can see the T-shirts now being printed: "1-0," a nice UCLA rebuttal to last year's "50-0" T-shirts.

But I want to know why he's not doing handstands, UCLA coming so far and Mora remaining so low-key.

"It's a great moment, and I'm excited," he concedes. "I can't wait to go hug my mom, shake my dad's hand, kiss my kids and go back in there and be with the fellas.

"But I don't know what to say. I'm not crying. I don't have goose bumps. My hair is not standing up on the back of my head right now. It was. Yes, it was. When I stood in the locker room being with all those young men and saw the emotion that they were sharing, it was very special."

But that's so yesterday by the time Mora starts talking about the game. This is a stirring win over USC!

"Now I don't want to minimize it at all," he says. "This is very special day. I'm excited as can be. But I also believe as the head football coach it's important to keep an even keel as much as possible."

I remind him, "even keel kills a column," and he says, "sorry about that — especially since it's your column."

And I wonder, is this another one of his teaching moments?

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