PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — UCLA's season began with promise, excitement and national rankings under new coach Jim Mora. A couple of losses later, the Bruins are in danger of sliding out of the Pac-12 title chase at midseason.
At least Utah is in an equally precarious position when the teams meet Saturday.
Both schools look to bounce back from discouraging defeats in the Utes' (2-3, 0-2 Pac-12) first visit to the Rose Bowl as a Pac-12 school. UCLA is smarting from a blowout loss at California, while Utah had an extra-long week to stew in a dismaying performance during Southern California's 38-28 win in Salt Lake City.
In the eighth season of his stellar tenure at Utah, coach Kyle Whittingham has a bit more experience than Mora in reversing the momentum swings that can hit college teams. A loss to UCLA would put the Utes in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time under Whittingham, and the veteran coach is confident they can get back on track.
"Both teams are in need of a win," Whittingham said. "We both have two conference losses. Obviously, it's a big game for both teams."
UCLA (4-2, 1-2) dropped out of the Top 25 after falling 43-17 in Berkeley, but Mora remains confident in his ability to fix his first college team. Mora paid close attention to his players' reaction to their first major setback of the season, and he was impressed by the Bruins' businesslike approach as they began the second half of their season.
"I was surprised when I turned on the film (of the Cal game) at how hard we played on defense," Mora said. "Because when you look at the score, you think we must not have played very hard. ... The conventional wisdom is they must have quit. But the reality of it is, it looks bad, but we didn't quit."
Mora also has faith in quarterback Brett Hundley and an offensive line that faces a stern test from Star Lotulelei, the prime NFL prospect on Utah's defensive line. The Bruins yielded five sacks at Cal, and have given up at least two in every game.
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