UCLA Bruins looking solid in Jim Mora's 1st season


UCLA Bruins looking solid in Jim Mora's 1st season

LOS ANGELES (AP) Eight games into his tenure at UCLA, Jim Mora still can't believe the kooky numbers on the stat sheets after the average Pac-12 game.

As long as his 25th-ranked Bruins keep ending up on the right side of those digits, he's likely to be happy with an impressive debut season.

A few hours after the Bruins finished off Arizona State last Saturday with Ka'imi Fairbairn's game-ending field goal in a 45-43 barnburner, the new coach had to shake off his natural concerns about the 535 yards allowed by his defense. With No. 24 Arizona's prolific offense visiting Pasadena this weekend, there's no time for lamenting.

``These college games are wild sometimes,'' Mora said Monday. ``It's a new experience for me, some of these shootouts and some of the numbers that are getting put up.''

Mora is figuring out the college game on the fly, but the Bruins are getting it all together quite quickly. With the same record as archrival Southern California, UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) is bowl-eligible in October for the first time since 2005 after knocking off the Sun Devils.

What's more, the Bruins must leave the Rose Bowl only once more in the regular season, starting with a visit Saturday from the high-scoring Wildcats, who knocked off USC last weekend.

As a longtime NFL defensive coach, Mora prides himself on tough-nosed defenses - and yet he was thrilled after UCLA yielded 535 yards and 43 points in Tempe, saying yards are a useless statistic in measuring a defense's effectiveness. The Bruins have been tough, but their coach isn't immune to head-scratching and exhaustion after trying to keep up with a fast-paced Pac-12 offense.

``A lot of it has to do with the number of plays that get run,'' Mora said. ``You look at our Arizona State game the other day, I think they ran 94 offensive plays. That's a lot of plays. There were 106 (combined) running plays in our game on Saturday. That's beyond anything I've ever heard of or imagined before. It's just a different game. It takes a little getting used to.''

Mora is getting used to it just fine, and he's making enough correct moves to keep the Bruins moving forward in a remarkable debut season. UCLA has beaten Nebraska, Houston and Utah along the way, moving a half-game behind the Trojans in the Pac-12 South standings with a chance for a memorable November.

Mora is trying to be comfortable with the frenetic pace and wacky twists of college ball. UCLA fell behind by 14 points in the opening minutes against Arizona State, and the Bruins blew a nine-point lead before freshman quarterback Brett Hundley confidently directed a drive ending in Fairbairn's game-winner.

A fan base that grew accustomed to road disasters in the past decade under previous coaches Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel could barely believe the Bruins were celebrating at Sun Devil Stadium.

``It's nice to know when things are on the line, we can move the ball and get our kicker in position for a game-winning field goal,'' Hundley said. ``During the drive, I didn't really think much of it.''

Hundley's teammates are still wildly impressed by the confident teenager who already has set the UCLA record for touchdown passes by a freshman while racking up 2,457 total yards, 10th-best among all Bruins in school history. With four games to play, he's 1,195 yards behind Cade McNown's UCLA record for total offense.

The Bruins all realize they can't afford to look too far ahead in the record books or the Pac-12 schedule, although a seventh win would allow them to match Neuheisel's best season at UCLA in 2009. UCLA finishes the regular season with home showdowns against USC and Stanford - two more games that might be won by whoever scores last.

``It was a shootout last game, but I have a lot of confidence in our defense,'' Hundley said. ``I always expect them to come out and shut down an offense.''

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers


Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.


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George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final


George McPhee's Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights pushed their remarkable expansion season into the Stanley Cup Final, beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues -- when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West -- to get to the final.

Vegas will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Game 1, but Vegas snatched home ice with a 3-1 victory in Game 2 before picking up 4-2 and 3-2 wins at T-Mobile Arena.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place -- not to mention the thousands of fans outside the arena attending a street party on a sun-drenched spring afternoon -- were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

The Jets were tentative to start and it got worse after the opener as Vegas dominated the next couple of shifts, forcing some good saves from Hellebuyck before Winnipeg got its feet moving.

After being outshot 7-1 in the first 7 minutes, the Jets finally pushed back and turned the tide with the next nine attempts on goal, culminating with Morrissey making amends for his early gaffe with 2:46 left in the period.

Bryan Little won a faceoff in the offensive zone straight back to second-year defenseman, who blasted his first career playoff goal past Fleury's glove.

One of Winnipeg's downfalls in the series through four games was an inability to maintain momentum. The Knights scored within 1:28 of a Jets' goal in each of the first four games -- a crushing 12 seconds after Winnipeg tied Game 3, and an equally gut-wrenching 43 seconds after the Jets knotted Game 4 -- but they managed to take the game to the locker rooms tied 1-1.

Both teams had chances in the second period before Reaves made it 2-1, with Jets center Mathieu Perrault just missing on a pass from Little that had too much speed.

Right after Reaves scored the second playoff goal of his career -- and first since 2015 with St. Louis -- Winnipeg's Nikolaj Ehlers rang a shot off the post on Fleury.