UCLA’s defense resulted in a 34–16 Pac-12 South Division victory over Arizona, but the players are unwilling to rest on their laurels.
The Bruins were able to prevent Arizona from producing the kind of explosive pass plays that have plagued the secondary in recent weeks.
“We are never satisfied and there is always room for improvement,” said safety Stephen Blaylock. “When we come to man coverage we just have to work hard and in zone coverage we have to make sure we get into the right zone.”
The Wildcats’ first three offensive drives each consisted of 12 plays or more and a capture of at least four minutes and 30 seconds. The Bruins held the Wildcats for a field goal on each of the first two drives and forced the Wildcats to turn the ball down on the third.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly considered it big for the defense to “bend over and catch them for a field goal” after offense from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins countered with a touchdown after each field goal.
Arizona coach Jade Fisch played aggressively enough to help UCLA match the points generated in the first half. Quarterback Jordan McCloud attempted to accelerate from the UCLA 28-yard line to fourth and -1 in the middle, but to no avail by Blaylock and safety Kenny Churchwell III.
“It was really big,” Blaylock said. “I want to say on the last third down play that I could have made the same game and I didn’t, so when the opportunity presented itself again I knew I had to take it.”
The ability to engage multiple Bruins in a tackle, especially in a short yardage position, is consistent with the “herd to the ball” mentality of emphasis by the team.
“We place a great emphasis on running the ball in practice to motivate the ball to run into play,” Blalock said. “We (can continue) to create drama as we do that.”
The Bruins have been known to put under heavy pressure this season, but as opposing teams began to pick up on their defensive style of play, adjustments made in the second half paid off as they held Arizona to three points. Gave.
“We make adjustments at halftime too,” Kelly said. “I think the crowd near us finally started going home … and we got into the quarterback a little bit.”
The phrase “getting home” was used frequently by the Bruins in recent weeks when asked why they didn’t have as much success as the Rush to start the season.
McCloud failed the football in the fourth quarter after being sacked by defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnea, who also recovered the ball.
“We picked up the pace in the second half,” said outside linebacker Miles Jackson. “We knew it would be a tough game, but we knew that the team that played longer would come out with a win.”
The defense would spend the rest of the week preparing for the Washington offense.
Washington coach Jimmy Lake spoke to reporters on Monday about how rewarding a goodbye week has been for the program.
The Huskies were able to recover and spent some time breaking up their first five games this season to look for areas of improvement.
“From a whole team perspective, the biggest thing we have to decide is our turnover ratio which just isn’t great,” Lake said. “We know that the turnover ratio is a big indicator of win and lose. We need to protect football better.”
The Huskies have thrown six interceptions and lost four fumbles.