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Sunday, October 28, 2012
Arizona State rewind

By Peter Yoon

LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins’ 45-43 comeback victory Saturday at Arizona State was the kind of program-changing moment Bruins fans have been yearning to see for the better part of a decade, but coach Jim Mora sees it as just a very good win.

By coming from behind twice, including a dramatic, final-minute drive for a game-ending field goal for a road win against a formidable conference opponent, UCLA took a significant step forward. Yet Mora cautions the Bruins are still a work in progress.

“I think you have to be real careful about that,” Mora said. “As soon as you think, ‘Aha, we’ve got it,’ then all of a sudden you don’t have it. So I think it’s important to really stay focused, stay grounded, learn but don’t overreact either way to anything.”

This win erased several negative trends that have hung over UCLA’s program for years. It was the first time since 2006 the Bruins won a conference game on the road against a team with a winning record. It also was the first time since 1994 the Bruins won a road game following a bye week.

They did so after falling behind 14-0 five minutes into the game. In the end, they drove 60 yards in the final 1:13 to set up a game-winning field goal as time expired. It’s definitely a confidence booster and kept UCLA in control of its own destiny in the Pac-12 race.

However, Mora said he didn’t see the victory as clearing a hurdle and added that UCLA is still fighting to take the program to the next level.

“We’re still fighting for respect,” he said. “We’re still fighting to get better.

“We make improvements every single week, but every single week new things pop up that we have to address. That’s football. That’s competitive athletics. That will never change. That’s been the case with every single game that I’ve coached my entire career.”

Hundley’s step forward

Brett Hundley passed for 274 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State, and showed the poise of a veteran during the game-winning drive and his first time directing a comeback.

After Arizona State took a 43-42 lead on a touchdown with 1:13 to play, Hundley faced down the raucous Sun Devils crowd and completed four of five passes for 40 yards to get the Bruins in position for Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 33-yard field goal for the final score.

“I didn’t think about it being his first time,” Mora said. “I thought he would respond the right way. I thought it was important that we do a good job protecting him, which we did. I thought it was important that we do a good job running routes, which we did. I thought it was important that he make good decisions, which he did.”

Mora said the way Hundley handled that drive bodes well for his future.

“One way you evaluate quarterbacks is how they respond in pressure situations,” Mora said. “Can they lead their team back in the fourth quarter or in overtime to win games? When you watch the NFL games, they throw the stats up there: This guy has had X number of fourth-quarter comeback wins. So I think it’s a measuring stick.”

Road warriors

UCLA is 3-1 on the road this season, the most road wins the Bruins have had in a season since 2005. In the previous four seasons, UCLA had won a combined five road games.

Mora said the key to success on the road is following the same routine you have when you are at home. He said he schedules a game day the exact same way each week, and that it helps the players focus and feel comfortable regardless of environment.

“I think what is important is focusing on the process and focusing on the things that matter in winning a game,” Mora said. “Not the environment, not the location, not the crowd, not the weather. Executing and staying focused and believing in what you are doing and making plays.”

Goines OK

For the second consecutive game, right tackle Simon Goines left a game with an injured knee. Mora said Goines had an MRI and everything checked out.

“He shouldn’t even miss any practice,” Mora said.

Mora added that Goines simply aggravated an injury that took him out two weeks ago against Utah, and that the true freshman is still learning how to fight through the routine nicks and bruises that crop up during a football season.

“I still think he’s still trying to learn, like a lot of these kids, learn their bodies,” Mora said. “Learn what is pain and what is injury and how to push through it. This is the first time he’s had any issues with his knee, and it can be a little challenging and a little bit scary.”