The Bruins are finishing games on the defensive end.
After a seven-point loss to then-No. 10 Washington and a 30-point victory over California, coach Chip Kelly said he is starting to see the defense make progress within his system.
“I think we’re tackling better,” Kelly said. “It’s something that we always try to emphasize – and I think everybody emphasizes – but you need to see it, and from an execution standpoint, I think our guys have a better understanding of where they fit schemewise.”
UCLA football (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12) forced a combined four turnovers in its first four games of the season, but the Bruins have been the beneficiary of six turnovers in their last two contests, including five against the Golden Bears on Saturday.
Kelly said the defense is getting more comfortable now that players are understanding how to take meaningful reps in practice.
“You don’t rep it until you do it right, you rep it until you can’t do it wrong, so I think that’s part of the experience over time that those guys are getting,” Kelly said.
Sophomore cornerback Darnay Holmes said he and the rest of the UCLA secondary have adopted a next-play mentality. He said the new approach has helped players focus on their assignments rather than previous plays they have messed up on.
“We’ve just been living in the moment,” Holmes said. “You know, bad play happened before but we’re just sticking to the script … making sure that we’re dialed in on our assignments and our jobs and just try to be the best teammates and players that we can be.”
UCLA’s defensive backs put that attitude on display Saturday, allowing just 168 passing yards to Cal quarterback Brandon McIlwain – the second-fewest passing yards UCLA has allowed all season.
This weekend against Arizona, the Bruins will not have to worry about Wildcats star quarterback Khalil Tate, who suffered an ankle injury last week. Tate has started the last 15 games for Arizona.
“I want him to win a Heisman (Trophy) this year but it’s not going that way,” Holmes said. “He’s definitely a guy who’s going to get back to his mojo and get back to the player that he is. I wanted to face him because he did us real dirty last year – that’s my boy – so I wanted to get revenge.”
Tate threw for 148 yards and ran for another 230 in Arizona’s 47-30 win over UCLA last season.
Olorunfunmi and Moore out
Kelly informed the media Wednesday that senior running back Bolu Olorunfunmi will miss the remainder of the season with a concussion. He is the third Bruin this week to be ruled out for the year due to a concussion.
Sophomore linebacker Jaelan Phillips and senior running back Soso Jamabo are the other two players with season-ending concussions.
Olorunfunmi had 85 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries in 2018.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Marcus Moore will also miss time after being suspended indefinitely for a “violation of team standards,” Kelly said.
Moore had three tackles in four appearances this season.