If UCLA pulls out of this two-game tailspin and Jim Mora survives to someday coach a championship season, the school may want to clear space for a plaque.
They could put this plaque inside the school’s beautiful hall-of fame, adjacent the reconstructed replica of John Wooden’s home office.
Or, maybe, tack it on a nail across from Jack Robinson’s locker.
Casey Wasserman, naturally, will pay for all of this.
What would be on this plaque?
Inscribed would be the words Mora spoke after Saturday night’s massacre at Stanford, the 58-34 loss that put everything in peril for the 2017 campaign.
As speeches go, this is not Winston Churchill on Dunkirk.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and on the streets…”
Mora’s intonation reminded me more of quarterback Tim Tebow after Mississippi.
Florida had just lost at home, to Ole Miss, putting the entire 2008 campaign in jeopardy.
Tebow entered the press room after that defeat and delivered a talk that will forever resonate in Gator lore.
It was called “The Promise.” Tebow was visibly shaken to the core.
“I promise you one thing,” Tebow said, “A lot of good will come out of this.”
You could almost hear Hans Zimmer as he continued.
“You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season, and you will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season, and you will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless.”
Drop mic, exit stage.
Tebow’s words dripped with power, sincerity and backbone.
No player played harder, or pushed his teammates harder. Florida did not lose again and capped a national championship season with a win over Oklahoma.
I’m not saying UCLA will win the rest of its games and win the national title.
But what Mora said, after the program’s 10th straight loss to Stanford, should stop boosters from rounding up a list of potential replacement candidates.
Not yet at least.
You know words mean something when they jump off the page. I did not hear Mora’s post-game, but rather came across them via transcript while rummaging through the CSI of the Palo Alto event.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The power of the words should be enough to keep the wolves at bay through this week’s game versus Colorado.
“I promise UCLA fans we will rise up,” Mora said. “We will absolutely rise up.”
Mora spoke as Stanford was cheering down the hall.
“We hear them down there celebrating,” he said. “It’s excruciating. But I promise this too, every man in that room, every woman that comes on this trip with us, every female, every male, we’re all doing our best and we just got to find a way to be better and so we’ll continue to look at everything like we always do and we’ll rise up. I can promise you that. We will rise up.”
Promises are promises--hollow and empty until fulfilled.
Mora, one month into his sixth season, 43-26, has yet to deliver UCLA a conference title or defeat either Stanford, or Oregon.
He is in the third season with Josh Rosen, a generational quarterback, so they say, but has yet to deliver a bowl bid better than Foster Farms.
Mora, everyone knows, is emotional, passionate and not, as a coach, to be fully trusted. He rants about rules and regulations and his latest crusade is “targeting.”
I was on a Rose Bowl panel in August with Mike Pereira, the former NFL president of officiating, who now works with FOX.
Pereira said Mora, while coaching the Atlanta Falcons, once called him at NFL headquarters to complain about a call.
That wasn’t unusual. The unusual part was Mora called from the locker room, during halftime of the game--a first for Pereira's "complaints received" department..
Passion is great, but it needs to produce results. Gerry Faust was a passionate coach at Notre Dame.
Mora has three weeks, to my mind, to get this train turned around. It starts Saturday at home against Colorado.
That’s a winnable game, as is the following week at Arizona. Next comes another home game, Oct. 21, against Oregon, the other school Mora has not defeated.
He might want to notch that one, too.
Mora is right when he says the season is salvageable. But, unlike Tebow after his speech, Mora can’t go out and play.
He must lead and motivate from the sideline. He must coax some sort of cohesion from coordinator Tom Bradley's suddenly abomination of a defense. And we’ll see about that.
For now, though, Mora is doing his best to keep hope alive.
“Here’s my philosophy in life and in coaching and this is will never change,” he said. “I got to work every day and have for the last, whatever, 30-something years. And do the very, very best that I can. Every day. I’ve never cheated a day and I’ll never cheat a day. And I can live with that. And I’ll never cheat this university. I’ll never cheat this team, I’ll never cheat these fans, I’ll never cheat the alums, I’ll never cheat the students. I’ll give them my very, very best every single day that I’m here.”
Tim Tebow made history with his speech. He was a "promise keeper."
Jim Mora, when it comes to his time and place, is still on the clock. [/membership]