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UCLA cracks the rankings, but Jim Mora downplays it

UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

Bruins (2-0) are ranked 22nd by the Associated Press and 23rd in the coaches' poll, but coach says there is 'no significance to being ranked after two weeks.'

September 09, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) runs interference for running back Johnathan Franklin on a key run for a first down in the fourth quarter Saturday.
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (17) runs interference for running back… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

It's the encore that matters.

The Bruins are portrayed as announcing a return to the college football hierarchy by beating No. 16 Nebraska, 36-30, Saturday.

The polls responded. The Bruins are ranked 22nd by the Associated Press and 23rd in the coaches' poll. It is the first time since 2007 that UCLA is ranked.

And Coach Jim Mora responded, "Polls are not something I have thought about, nor will I think about. There is no significance to being ranked after two weeks."

Still, he acknowledges, "To our fan base, our alumni, for the exposure it brings our school, I think it's a great thing."

The fan base and alumni are already saying "more, please," and the Bruins' feathery schedule seems conducive to an eight- or nine-victory season.

"I'm not thinking of a win total," Mora said. But, he added, "Winning is a good recruiting tool."

And winning a lot, like eight or nine times in a season, makes it a sharper tool.

"Certainly," Mora said.

But UCLA (2-0) has been here before. The "we're back" cries were answered with seltzer bottles and cream pies.

The Bruins defeated No. 20 Arizona State last season, then lost four of their last five games. UCLA defeated No. 23 Houston and No. 7 Texas on consecutive weekends in 2010, then lost six of its last seven games. UCLA defeated No. 18 Tennessee to open the 2008 season and finished 4-8.

Mora said that the Bruins have "heard" his drumbeat message about handling success. If they hadn't, Mora said, "they heard it yesterday and again today. I have a gut feeling they understand that it's always important to validate these things by winning the next one."

What is different about UCLA through two weeks could be seen on the sideline Saturday. Players were lined up, like soldiers, five yards back. No one dared move forward until called. That type of discipline doesn't result in penalties for too many men on the field after a timeout, which happened against Texas last season.

On the field, the Bruins seem different because of quarterback Brett Hundley, who threw for 305 yards and ran for 53 against Nebraska. But Hundley hobbled through the fourth quarter on an injured right ankle.

An accurate update on his status would have required a CIA interrogation team Sunday.

"He's good," Mora said.

Asked whether Hundley needed X-rays, Mora said, "No."

Richard Brehaut completed one of four passes after Hundley briefly left in the third quarter. When Hundley returned, his mobility seemed limited.

A healthy Hundley coincides with a schedule that tilts in UCLA's favor in coming weeks.

—Houston is 0-2, and had its offensive coordinator quit after a 30-13 loss to Texas State in the season opener.

—Oregon State has lost six of the last seven against the Bruins.

—Colorado is 0-2 after losing to Sacramento State on Saturday.

—California needed a 30-point fourth quarter to beat Southern Utah on Saturday.

Pick up those four wins and UCLA is 6-0 for the first time since 2005.

But traps await, and the Bruins have sunk to their opponent's level before.

—David Piland completed 53 of 77 passes for 580 yards Saturday in Houston's 56-49 loss to Western Athletic Conference favorite Louisiana Tech.

—Oregon State upset No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday.

—UCLA has not won at California since 1998.

"We can't get our heads big," running back Johnathan Franklin said. "We have to stay humble and move on to our next opponent."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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