Mora says it's his 'best year of coaching'

SAN DIEGO -- Qualcomm Stadium was where Jim Mora made his NFL coaching debut as a San Diego Chargers assistant but don't expect to see him there again any time soon after the Holiday Bowl.

Mora, who will lead the UCLA Bruins against the Baylor Bears on Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium, refused to answer questions gauging his interest in coaching the Chargers but strongly hinted he would not be interested in the job should it become open.

"This has been the best year of coaching that I've ever had," Mora said. "I'm not talking about on the field, wins and losses, I'm talking about the satisfaction of working with these young men. ... I like it when a kid comes into my office and is able to share either something great that has happened in his life or needs my help with something. That's a satisfying feeling.

"I've got 110 of those guys that I have made a commitment to and their parents to help them become the men that their families want them to be and I take it very seriously. It's been very rewarding. There's a purity, a passion, an enthusiasm at this level that is very unique."

The Chargers (6-9) will finish the season Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, but will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. There has been speculation that coach Norv Turner will be fired as soon as the season ends and Mora's name has surfaced as a possible replacement. Mora on Wednesday would not respond to the speculation.

"The Chargers have a head coach who is a very good friend of mine so I'm not going to disrespect him by saying anything about that job," Mora said.

Making their points in San Diego?

Much of the prognostication surrounding the Holiday Bowl points to a high-scoring affair because of Baylor's No. 1-ranked offense and the Bears' No. 119 defense. Mora even talked about the possibility of a high-scoring game Wednesday, but then added that those types of statements tend to fire up defensive players.

"It challenges them," Mora said. "When people predict a shootout and the head coach is standing up here talking about a shootout, if you're a defensive guy you bow up a little bit."

Certainly the numbers point to an offensive showcase, however, as Baylor is averaging 44.08 points and UCLA is averaging 35.08. Last year, Baylor and Washington played in the Alamo Bowl and Baylor won, 67-56, as the teams combined for 1,397 total yards.

"I think it's going to be fun," Mora said. "We'll compete to the end and they'll compete to the end and somebody will win. It'll be a great night to be at Qualcomm watching football or tuning in to ESPN and watching football because you're going to see some quality football and some exciting football."

Special dinner guest

UCLA football players must have avoided Santa's naughty list because the man in the red suit showed up bearing gifts at the team Christmas dinner Tuesday night.

Each player received gift certificates from Best Buy and Maui Jim sunglasses as well as a watch and a hat as part of their bowl gift package. To receive the gifts, however, each player had to sit on Santa's lap and have his picture taken.

"It was actually Santa," Mora said when asked who donned the Kris Kringle attire. "He came down from the North pole."

Big crowd expected

Holiday Bowl officials said Wednesday they are expecting a crowd of approximately 55,000 for the 6:45 p.m. PT game Thursday and advised fans to carpool and arrive early to Qualcomm Stadium.

The parking lot opens at 11 a.m. but is expected to be filled long before kickoff. Public Transportation is also an option as the San Diego Trolley runs to and from the stadium. Visit www.sdmts.com for more information.