Defense to Encounter Tougher Test

Coming off of a stellar defensive performance against Arizona last week, the Cougars set to square off against a potent UCLA offensive unit. Though they dominated the Arizona offense, the Cougar defenders are well aware that the competition will get much tougher this coming week.

"They execute a lot better offensively than Arizona does," said linebacker Bryan Kehl. "They're tough and a lot more physical offensively than Arizona was. They're going to be tough, but I think we're up to the challenge."

The Bruins present an offense that racked up well over 600 total yards, to go along with 45 points, against Stanford a week ago. UCLA made yards-a-plenty by utilizing a balanced attack.

"[UCLA] can run it well and throw it for yards," cornerback Kayle Buchanan. "They're probably more physical up front and they'll try and beat you in the air and over the top. We just have to be ready for more stuff than we probably were last week."

Despite whatever angst watching UCLA's potent attack on tape may cause, the players feel very confident in their system and the coaching staff's ability to formulate an effective game plan. Those two aspects don't change regardless of the opponent.

"The system is strong," said linebacker Chris Bolden. "We of course knew what type of team Arizona was coming in and I don't think it will be much different against UCLA. We'll get the right game plan this week and we'll learn how to best defend against UCLA this Saturday. We know that if we prepare right we have what it takes to defend well against anyone."

Run First

Stopping the run first is always the chief concern for the defense, but this week it will take on even greater importance, as UCLA is stocked with a very potent run game, led by Kahlil Bell. Bell shredded Stanford's defense, gaining 195 yards on the ground last week.

"[Bell's] tough," said Kehl. "He and the other guy he rotates with, those guys are legit and they'll be a challenge for sure. UCLA is definitely more physical up front than Arizona was, so stopping the run is definitely the most important thing we have to do to be successful this week or in any other week."

Pass Second

While stopping the run effectively is first and foremost in any defensive game plan, stopping the pass is also very important. The Cougars will face off against an offense that gained 286 yards through the air, as well as five touchdown passes thrown by quarterback Ben Olson.

"They'll definitely provide more of a challenge outside to their receivers," said Buchanan. "They have some speed there. They're athletic, probably not any more athletic than Arizona from what I've seen, but they execute better, so we'll have to be on top of our game."

UCLA relied a lot on quick-hitters, in which the Bruin receivers would make most of their yards on most given passes after the catch. Sure-tackling and keeping everything in front of them is what the defense will focus on to neutralize the effectiveness shown against Stanford.

"We need to make sure we wrap up in the open field like we did so well last week," said Kehl. "This defense is all about keeping the play in front of you, and we'll concentrate on doing that against UCLA. Stopping the run, tackling well in the open field, and keeping everything in front of us defensively will be the key this week like it is every week."

Sounds simple? Well, it is in the minds of the Cougar defenders. Through coaching and practicing in the now-not-so-new 3-4 system, the players have learned to keep it simple and stay within themselves defensively, concentrating on fulfilling their assignments in making plays.

"That's what it is, just staying within the system, trusting the system," said Kehl. "If we just concentrate on our assignments and not play outside of the system, trying to do more individually than our scheme calls for, we'll be successful against anyone no matter how good they may be offensively. We may not be the best athletes, but we're better than most think. What we are is assignment-sound and we're going to get it done this Saturday by fulfilling our assignments in every situation."

"We're confident," added Bolden. "We know that the system works…We trust each other, we trust the game plan put together by the coaches, and we know we'll have success every week because of those things."


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