LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins put on their pads Saturday and practiced for the first time since losing the Pac-12 championship game against the Stanford Cardinal last week, beginning the run up to the Holiday Bowl with a renewed excitement.
It took a week to get over the disappointment of not playing in the Rose Bowl, which would have been UCLA's destination if they had won at Stanford on Nov. 30, but a game against the Baylor Bears in the Holiday Bowl and one last chance to play together as a team has the Bruins focused.
"I got that sense," coach Jim Mora said. "They had a lot of energy today. What’s great about this age group is that they just love playing ball. There was a lot of disappointment about not making the Rose Bowl, but they like hanging out together and playing ball together so we’ll go make the best of it."
The Bruins had hopes of making to a BCS Bowl after defeating USC to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game, but came up short in a 27-24 loss to the Cardinal. Mora said it was the kind of loss that sticks with you for a while and so it took a couple of team meetings and a few light workouts last week to get it out of their systems.
"The first couple of days after that loss it was tough," linebacker Anthony Barr said. "We came back as a team and regrouped and talked about the season and the accomplishments we made. We put that behind us and looked forward to this game."
The Bruins learned that they would be facing Baylor, which boasts the No. 1 offense in the nation, so that was enough to get their competitive juices flowing again. And getting to play their bowl game in San Diego, only 135 miles away, made the disappointment of not making the Rose Bowl easier to swallow.
"Once we lost in the Pac-12 championship, I sulked for a week and then I got over it," defensive lineman Datone Jones said. "Once I heard we were playing against Baylor, I got excited. Even though it wasn’t the Rose Bowl, we got a good bowl and it's in San Diego which is close to home, so it’s good for us."
And finding motivation won't be difficult, especially for the seniors, Jones said.
"It’s my last game and the last game for a lot of other seniors so it’s a big game for us," he said. "It's the most important game.This is the last time we’ll all be on the same team together so it’s real important to go out with a good memory. We’ve formed a special bond. We’re all brothers for life and to get some last practices as a Bruin, this is a special time in our lives"