By Will Martin
Virginia Tech Hokies vs #17 UCLA Bruins
Tuesday – December 31 – 1:00 PM
Sun Bowl – El Paso
Last year as UCLA went into bowl mode in hopes of reaching a ten win season, their first since 2005 they ran into a derailment in the name of Baylor. A 49-26 Holiday Bowl defeat that ended the 2012 season with a three game losing streak.
Fast forward to 2013. Jim Mora now committed to remaining in Los Angeles for some time to come and hopeful he can reach the ten win mark. With #17 UCLA now having locked up a six year contract with the Bruins the rumors continue that Mora is next in line to replace Mack Brown at Texas. A rumor Jim Mora shrugs off.
“Rumors. It’s flattering,” Mora said. “I think it says a lot about our program and the direction we’re heading, but I am very, very, very extremely delightfully happy to be the head coach at UCLA, and want to be for a very long time.”
Brett Hundley will be the man to handle the offense for UCLA. 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and 2,845 yards. In his last five games only one pick offset by eight scores by throw.
Hundley is also a threat to run with the ball. 587 yards and nine touchdowns which included two in the season finale over #23 USC. The main drawback to his season is the number of sacks he has taken. Second most in the conference.
Frank Beamer enters his 21st straight year in a bowl game. Second only to Florida State in longevity (32). His Virginia Tech squad fields a very tough defense.
So much so that Virginia Tech (8-4) leads the ACC in sacks (37), Top 10 against the rush (103.8 yards per game), pass (168.5) and interceptions (19).
None of this is old news to Jim Mora.
“They play great special teams, they play outstanding defense. That’s what they do,” Mora said. “They play hard. They play with discipline. You don’t see technique errors. You don’t see missed assignments. You see a bunch of guys who know what they’re supposed to do with a lot of certainty, and they do it fast and they do it with bad intentions.
“It’s an impressive team to watch.”
Logan Thomas will be making his third bowl start for the Hokies. In two previous appearances Logan has gone 34 of 67 passing with one touchdown and three interceptions. Trey Edmunds will get the lions share of the touches in the backfield with a 4.1 yards per carry for 675 yards, 10 touchdowns on 166 carries.
One matchup to keep an eye on will be freshman Pac 12 Player Of The Year Bruin Myles Jack going head to head with linebacker with Hokie linebacker Jack Tyler. The middle man has his own incentive for wanting to play this bowl game.
“It’s exciting for us to go against offenses like that. It’s a good test for us,” Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler said. “That’s the most exciting and energetic part of this thing is that we get to go play a team like UCLA.
“If you beat a team like UCLA, everybody seems to think this year is a success. If you go and lose, then everyone thinks the opposite.”
UCLA has allowed 194 yards a game on the ground in their last seven games. While all the statistical numbers favor UCLA to win going away I have a theory about coaches who play in bowl games year and year out.
As Brett Hundley goes so goes UCLA. Hokies special teams will be a pleasant surprise this game.
Prediction: Bruins in a close defensive battle 24-20.