Sunday, May 20

UCLA football focuses on defense to alleviate flagging running game


UCLA is ranked 28th nationally in yards allowed per game, but senior linebacker Jayon Brown said that the defense has to limit opposing offenses even more to help the Bruins' struggling run game. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)

UCLA is ranked 28th nationally in yards allowed per game, but senior linebacker Jayon Brown said that the defense has to limit opposing offenses even more to help the Bruins' struggling run game. (Miriam Bribiesca/Photo editor)


It’s not just an offensive problem anymore.

After UCLA’s (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) third loss in four weeks, coach Jim Mora said he’s re-examining all parts of the game plan.

The core of the Bruins’ struggle is the run game, which had just 43 yards on 25 carries against Washington State last weekend.

[Related: Football still looking for offensive solutions after loss to Cougars]

However, at Monday’s press conference, Mora and several players pointed out areas on defense and special teams that could ease the pressure from the offense.

“We think we’ve identified some things that can help us run the football and throw it more effectively,” Mora said “Certainly we had some things that went well the other night and things that didn’t. We didn’t punt as well as we’d like, cover the kickoffs like we’d like.”

Punter Austin Kent’s first kick of the night went for negative yardage and the freshman came off the field to an irate Mora.

But frustrations are rippling throughout all three units, even in a defense ranked 28th nationally in yards allowed per game.

Senior linebacker Jayon Brown said it’s imperative that the Bruins don’t fall into the trap of blaming each other for the four close losses.

Three of the four games were decided by a single possession, with the Pac-12 opener against Stanford also coming down to the final seconds.

UCLA had two chances to upset Washington State late in the fourth, but redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jordan Lasley fumbled and redshirt senior quarterback Mike Fafaul threw an interception to seal the game for the Cougars.

“We’re only losing by one possession, I believe, so once they get it right (on offense), I feel like we can blow teams out,” Brown said.

Whether Fafaul or sophomore Josh Rosen starts at quarterback for Saturday’s game against the No. 19 Utah Utes (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12), Brown said the defense will have to help the running game along.

[Related: Backup Mike Fafaul faces same offensive struggles as Josh Rosen]

The linebacker was surprised at the struggles in the run game and said that pushed the defense to be even better to take the load off of the running backs.

“Gotta limit points put on the board so the offense doesn’t have to work as hard” Brown said. “We’re just not playing good team football right now.”

But Mora believes good football is just around the corner.

“I’ve been in this game and a lot of times, there is not always immediate fixes,” Mora said. “I know it’s frustrating for our fans, it’s equally frustrating for us. Believe me. Hang in there, you’ll see some good football.”

 

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