Despite Noel Mazzone’s departure to Texas A&M, UCLA coach Jim Mora continues to keep in touch with his former offensive coordinator. They texted regularly this spring and summer, but that communication has stopped this week.
It’s game week.
“As good of friends as we are, I want to kick his tail and he wants to kick mine,” Mora said Tuesday as the Bruins prepare for their season opener against the Aggies on Sunday. “And after the game, we’ll give each other a handshake and a hug and wish each other good luck the rest of the way, but there will be no ‘good lucks’ before the game.”
The Bruins are preparing to face Mazzone for the second consecutive year in a season opener. The coordinator helped the Aggies to a 31-24 overtime victory in 2016 after he spent four seasons with UCLA. Despite their familiarity with Mazzone, the Bruins know they won’t face the same offense he ran in Westwood or even the one he used a year ago.
“They’ll have wrinkles we haven’t prepared for because they’re going to do different things too, just like we are,” said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, who coached one year with Mazzone at UCLA. “So it will be just back and forth a little bit to see exactly how they settle into what their plan is and how soon they’ll show what their plan is.”
HEARTS IN HOUSTON
The families of UCLA’s two Houston natives, offensive lineman Najee Toran and defensive back Will Lockett, are “safe and sound,” Mora said Tuesday in the midst of massive flooding in the area due to Hurricane Harvey.
Mora admitted the players seemed rightfully distracted for the past couple days as images of flooded highways and water rising above homes came across social media, but Toran and Lockett are now “focused and feel comfortable with things,” after confirming their families are OK.
FLINTOFT WINS PUNTING COMPETITION
Redshirt junior Stefan Flintoft is the winner of the punting battle as Mora announced the walk-on will be UCLA’s starting punter against Texas A&M.
Flintoft beat out sophomore Austin Kent in a long competition that spanned the spring and fall camps.
“I think that through the spring and through the fall, Stefan has proven himself to be very consistent,” Mora said. “He’s worked very hard, our players have confidence in him and we’re going to go with him.”
The redshirt junior from Loyola High took over punting responsibilities midway through last season. He averaged 40.3 yards per kick and put eight of…