The first half Saturday night looked like more of the same for UCLA football’s defense.
The Bruins allowed 203 rushing yards on 39 carries, on course to blow their average of 303 rushing yards allowed per game.
But a mental reset for the defense at halftime led to Arizona State only gaining 91 rushing yards in the second half as UCLA ran away with a 44-37 win in the Rose Bowl.
“There were no major adjustments,” said sophomore linebacker Krys Barnes. “We just kind of talked to ourselves at half and said we have to buckle down, … stay in our gaps, fill it up (and) fire around.”
The Bruins’ defense allowed its opponents to rush for 5.98 yards per carry in the first nine games of the season, but led by Barnes’ game-high 12 tackles, it held the Sun Devils to only 4.8 yards per carry.
A huge reason for UCLA’s success in that category, in the eyes of defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, was the return of redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Rick Wade, who tallied four tackles and one tackle for loss.
“I thought he played a pretty darn solid football game,” Bradley said postgame. “Early in the game he might have missed a tackle. He found his balance soon enough right after that, and I thought he was playing really well and he’s one of those guys that stands out.”
Redshirt freshman defensive end Marcus Moore also stood out Saturday. On what he called a game-changing play, he read Arizona State’s screen pass and got his left hand on quarterback Manny Wilkins’ pass, leading to junior cornerback Nate Meadors’ pick six. After stepping into the defensive rotation against Oregon, Moore has recorded 16 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
He’s another contingent component of Bruin underclassmen forced into action because of injuries to more experienced players.
“I see a defensive line that at this point is starting to get it,” said coach Jim Mora. “I’ve seen things start to slow down (for them). I see it in practice on a consistent basis and I’m starting to see it in games on a more consistent basis.”
Mora’s Monday injury updates
Barnes’ performance against Arizona State almost didn’t happen.
Mora said the sophomore wasn’t even going to play as of Thursday because an infection, coupled with his asthma that left him unable to breathe properly. But after missing Thursday’s practice, the team’s medical staff gave Barnes medication that settled down his lungs and allowed him to play 97 of 98 defensive snaps.
Additionally, freshman defensive end Jaelan Phillips is making his way through the concussion protocol and senior safety Jaleel Wadood is recovering from a neck injury that knocked him out Saturday.
Mora also said he would have gone with redshirt freshman third-string quarterback Matt Lynch to start the game had junior quarterback Josh Rosen not completed the concussion protocol in time for Saturday’s game. Redshirt freshman backup Devon Modster continues to recover from a nondisplaced fracture in his right thumb, and he’s still unable to fully grip a football.
“The swelling has gone down and the pain is subsiding,” Mora said. “We would’ve put him in in an emergency role to hand off so we wouldn’t have to burn (freshman quarterback Austin Burton’s) redshirt.”