New Year’s Eve in San Francisco. There’s no place Angus McClure would rather be.
The UCLA special teams coordinator and San Francisco native returns with his Bruins to face Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday.
His fifth bowl in 20 years of coaching, McClure’s game plan will not vary greatly from preparation for a typical Saturday game. This nationally televised game, however, features a Big Ten Conference opponent that is hungry for a victory after winning its first six games of the season and dropping the last six.
The Bruins, despite playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Conference championship game, have also experienced a rocky season with a 6-7 overall record. Both teams fired their head coaches, Rick Neuheisel from UCLA and Ron Zook from Illinois.
McClure, 43, has experienced coaching transitions in the past, and he has too much on his plate this coming week to allow any distractions to jeopardize his focus.
But a man, particularly a 6-foot-3 former lineman, needs to eat. McClure has mapped out a few of his favorite local haunts. One evening after practice at City College of San Francisco, he’ll head over the hill for Steak a la Bruno at Joe’s of Westlake, and he’ll hit his favorite downtown restaurant, Tadich Grill, for Cioppino.
The third generation San Franciscan will have his dad, a USF grad, his mom, a “Mercy girl,” and 50-odd relatives in the stands Saturday. The excitement for the family will begin on Friday, walkthrough day at AT&T Park, when McClure’s sons, Hamish, 12, and Malcolm, 8, check out the dugout of their beloved Giants.
“I’m not afraid to wear my orange in the office,” McClure said. “I can hold my own on ‘Bruin walk’ with a Giants hat on.”
On the field, McClure, who also serves as the team’s director of recruiting, has faced some unique challenges in his first season as special teams coordinator.
“It’s been an interesting year,” McClure said of his kicking teams units that ended the Pac-12 season statistically in the middle of the conference. “We may be the first team ever to use three kickers and three holders.”
McClure recruited the Bruins’ soccer team manager, Tyler Gonzales, to fill in as place kicker after his first two kickers went down with injuries. Gonzales has hit 7 of 10 field goals since putting on the pads.
Win or lose, there will be a postgame celebration Saturday. The focus will shift from football to McClure’s mom, Mary Ellen, as a grand party is planned for her 70th birthday.
“She looks 39,” McClure said.
Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7)
WHEN: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: AT&T Park
HISTORY: UCLA has won six of the 11 previous meetings against Illinois, the most recent in 2004 a 35-17 Bruins victory