It’s Jim Mora vs. Steve Sarkisian, UCLA vs. USC week
Former Seahawks coach Jim Mora leads his UCLA team against USC, led by former Washington coach Steve Sarkisian.
Seattle Times college football reporter
A long, long time ago, on the day California pulled off a five-lateral heist to win the Big Game against Stanford, I didn’t find out until a few hours later, seeing it on a wire machine that hummed out the shocking news onto printer paper.
Heck of a way to stay informed. The latest on Pac-12 football rivalries is a lot more available today — that’s comparing the Hudson automobile to the Leaf — and for Puget Sound-area fans, there’s rarely been more reason to keep tabs on the crosstown fratricide in Los Angeles known as the USC-UCLA rivalry.
With Apple Cup hostilities a week away, and with Washington’s clock-management contretemps at Arizona apparently having timed out, there’s plenty to rubberneck in Los Angeles.
Pick your rooting interest: Jim Mora, the former Husky walk-on of the Don James glory days, fired after a year as Seahawks coach in 2009, the guy who was always going to be coach at the UW until he wasn’t; or Steve Sarkisian, Mr. 5-4 In Conference in his five seasons at Washington.
Ties aren’t possible; those ended in 1995.
Tuesday’s sports cover story in The Los Angeles Times was about the relationship between Mora and Sarkisian, and how the college environment grew on Mora in 2011 when Washington opened its doors to him as he was rehabbing a knee he injured skiing.
If that local angle doesn’t do it for you, Mora warned his players Monday not to say anything like Zach Banner did after the Trojans beat California last week.
Banner, USC’s huge offensive lineman from Lakes High outside Tacoma, was asked about the notion of UCLA “owning” L.A. after beating USC in Mora’s first two seasons.
“They got us the last two years but they don’t own it,” Banner was quoted. “They’ve just been renting it for a couple weeks.”
Much as he enjoyed the catbird seat in the Apple Cup while at Washington (he won four of five), Sarkisian seems to be the one to beat in L.A. The Trojans are historically the more dominant program there, one whose reach isn’t compromised by two losses to the Bruins.
Winning or losing in the Apple Cup rarely sways prospects, and even after UCLA had its second straight win over USC, Sarkisian, in his first recruiting class last February, spirited away local prizes Adoree Jackson, Damien Mama and Juju Smith on signing day.
“I don’t think kids make decisions based on one game,” he said Tuesday, when I asked him on the Pac-12 teleconference about rivalries and recruiting. “If they do, I’m not sure I want them in my locker room.”
What matters, he said, is longterm success. And Mora has at least a beachhead in a series that has alternately seen iron-fisted rule. UCLA won eight straight from 1991-98, USC won 12 of the next 13 (mostly under Pete Carroll), and the Bruins have nabbed the past two.
Could there be some posturing and gamesmanship by the coaches as they dutifully indulge the story lines? Asked Tuesday about the “dialogue” he and Mora had around the UW in 2011 about the college game, Sark sounded impatient and said curtly, “There was a good amount of dialogue about it.”
When I asked Mora about the notion of “owning L.A.,” he said, “We don’t talk about it. There have been plays on it in the past. They have a mural in their building that says, ‘We own this town.’ It’s not something we talk about.”
No, not unless you’re Mora, and as your team enters the locker room after a 35-14 win last year over USC, you holler, “We own L.A.!”
So they go at it Saturday night in Pasadena, Sark and Mora. May the better ex-Sounder win.
And what’s more
• What’s a kicking game worth? Utah’s Aussie punter Tom Hackett allowed a total of 2 yards in returns on 24 boots against UCLA’s Ishmael Adams, USC’s Nelson Agholor and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, three of the best returners in the nation.
• In five games against ranked teams, Stanford’s belching offense has scored six touchdowns in regulation.
• He’ll get big catcalls from the SEC West, but Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre says, “I think we’re in the toughest division in college football, period.” Indeed, the Pac-12 South is a brier patch for the 0-7 Buffs; in the playoff rankings, their cohorts are Nos. 9, 13, 15, 17 and 19.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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