Thursday, January 23

UCLA football defense plays to potential, finding footing in Stanford matchup


Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Odua Isibor and UCLA football's defense posted a season-high seven sacks in the Bruins' win over Stanford on Thursday. Isibor has tallied six tackles and 2.5 sacks for the 2019 season. (Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin senior staff)


While the Bruins’ offense put up 34 points Thursday night, the defense was the unit that posted a season-best performance.

UCLA football (2-5, 2-2 Pac-12) managed to keep the Stanford offense out of the end zone until there was 2:50 left to go in the fourth quarter. The Bruins held the Cardinal to under 200 total yards for the night, something the squad hadn’t achieved since the 2009 season against Washington State.

UCLA racked up seven sacks on Stanford third-string quarterback Jack West, something redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Odua Isibor attributed to the Bruins’ game plan of penetrating the backfield.

“We definitely tried to attack more,” Isibor said. “The D-line tried to dent the line of scrimmage as much as possible, and we tried to affect the game because that’s something we’ve been lacking before then.”

Isibor also said the Bruins’ aggressiveness up front has always been a part of their game plan, but it hadn’t translated in the box score in the first half of the season. In its previous six games, UCLA allowed an average of about 503 total offensive yards from its opponents and averaged a total of just 1.5 sacks per game over that time period.

“It’s the mindset,” Isibor said. “As a D-line, we just need to focus and do what we’re being told to do. Our coach tells us to dent the line of scrimmage, penetrate, wreak havoc in the backfield, and when we do that, we are successful.”

The Bruin secondary also posted season-best results, holding the Cardinal passing offense to just 143 receiving yards.

Junior cornerback Darnay Holmes led the secondary with two pass deflections and sophomore defensive back Stephan Blaylock led the team in tackles with nine.

“Before the game, we just told each other to play free,” Blaylock said. “Our coaches tell us, ‘Go out there and play instinct football,’ and that’s what we went out there and did.”

Coach Chip Kelly said he saw improvement within his defense as a whole, as solid coverage in the secondary allowed for pass rushers to disrupt the Cardinal’s pass plays.

“I think we covered really well on the back end,” Kelly said. “When guys aren’t open, the quarterback has to hold the ball a little more, so if you can take away his first or second read, it gives you an ability for your rushers to get home.”

Kelly also said the Bruins’ secondary has matured with each game this season. In Thursday’s game, UCLA held West to 15-of-32 passing and didn’t allow any touchdowns through the air.

Through its first six games, UCLA allowed an average of 3.5 passing touchdowns, including five against Oregon State.

“I think (the secondary) is just maturing,” Kelly said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys back there that are playing for the first time. (Redshirt freshman defensive back Rayshad Williams) is playing well and Blaylock is really coming into his own. I think it’s just a combination of maturity and growth at the back end.”

UCLA will face Arizona State at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 26. The Sun Devils rank among the bottom half of FBS schools in total offense and were held to just three points in their matchup with No. 12 Utah last week.

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Assistant Sports editor

Tay is currently an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, men's tennis, cross country and women's tennis beats. He was previously a reporter on the men's tennis beat.


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  • Ted T

    It was very nice to get a win and to break the drought against the Cardinal last Thursday. Hopefully that momentum will carry forward and propel this team towards a strong finish and who know maybe a Pac 12 South Title.

    But as a former coach you have to place value on both wins and losses (Win Loss Value). What I mean by that is simply that each win and loss needs to be evaluated with a ‘Win Loss Value’ assigned specifically based on
    who your playing and how your team performed in said win or loss. Conceivably a team could have less value in a win in which the team played poorly or down to it’s competition eking out the proverbial ugly win. Conversely a team could be assigned a higher value in a loss where that team played and executed well against a team that was, at the end of the day, simply better.

    Coaches speak of quality wins all the time, this is very common. What you don’t hear much is coaches mentioning that they were pleased with the teams play in a loss; a ‘Quality Loss’. They don’t talk about it much in the media but I promise you they are thinking about it as they gauge their teams performance and progress during the course of a season.

    In summation the Stanford win had a ‘Low Win Value’ for me.

    Why?

    I’m glad you asked!

    Stanford was down to their third string QB and it was apparent the moment was too big for the young man. That’s not to say that he won’t be a great college QB or play in the NFL one day but on this day in question he was not ready. Making matters worse was the Stanford Offensive Line that resembled, well, UCLA’s Offensive Line from earlier this season. The pressure that the kid faced was unrelenting and who knows maybe it didn’t matter who was under center, John Elway himself might not have made a difference.

    Now from an Offensive perspective the team did look sharp for the better part of the game and as far as I know Stanford wasn’t depleted on that side of the ball so the “O” gets a Higher ‘Win Value’ than the “D”.

    What does ‘Win Loss Value’ really mean? The answer is not much other than to Coach’s and their continual assessment of their teams and individual player performances. I also tend to think that Athletic Directors and General Managers (NFL) do look at ‘Win Loss Value when determining whether to retain or fire a Head Coach.

    Lastly ‘Win Loss Value’ is more than likely internally coveted by it’s teams supporters, fans , and a alumni more than anyone else. The old proverbial moral victory can keep a teams faithful hoping for the best in a season that hasn’t gone the way they had hoped.

    This win has restored my hope to a small degree and as I mentioned earlier a Pac 12 South run might not be altogether out of the question.

    Go Bruins!!!