Ivan McLennan turns DB and comes up clutch

ON THE 13-PLAY, fourth quarter UCLA drive that resulted in a field goal that narrowed Washington State's lead to 24-19 on Saturday, Cougar rush linebacker Ivan McLennan made a play likely to get lost in the sea of twists and turns in a game this exciting but which will prove upon further review to have been key to the Cougars' 31-27 victory.

On the 12th play of this impressive Bruin drive, a third-and-15 situation at the WSU 20, UCLA QB Seth Rosen fired a pass to standout running back Paul Perkins at the right-front of the goal-line.

McLennan (yes, the same guy who stripped Christian McCaffrey of the ball in that controversial call against Stanford) was defending Perkins one-on-one.

Six points right there would have pulled the Bruins to within two and a subsequent two-point conversion would of course have tied matters up.

Mind you now, this is Paul Perkins we're talking about -- the 2014 Pac-12 rushing king and one of the conference's most prolific all-purpose performers this season.

In other words, he's the kind of talent who shouldn't have too much trouble shaking a guy who specializes in bull-rushing quarterbacks.

And he was in the midst of a great night. When all was said and done, Perkins gashed the Cougars for 149 combined ground and air yards.

As Rosen lofted his third-down pass toward the star running back with 7:14 remaining in the game, hoping to gash some more, it quickly became clear Perkins wasn't being covered by a 175-pound cornerback or 200-pound safety.

The white jersey running with Perkins was too big.

Indeed, it was the 6-foot-4, 233-pound McLennan who was on him -- every step off the way, it turns out.

The senior from nearby Lawndale, Calif., blanketed Perkins, the pass was broken up, and the Bruins were forced to kick the field goal.

On a night filled with momentous plays, this one was as crucial as they come to the four-point final margin.

The fact one of the top 20 sack masters in the Pac-12 was in coverage on the play -- one-on-one, no less -- speaks both to McLennan's versatility and the creative work of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

On the official stat sheet, it looks so humble -- the numeral one next to McLennan's name under the letters BR. That translates to one pass breakup. For Cougar Nation, though, it was one for the ages.

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