Sep 12, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UNLV Rebels quarterback Blake Decker (5) is tackled by a handful of UCLA Bruins defenders during the first quarter at Sam Boyd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
The Bruin defense was the bright spot in an otherwise lethargic UCLA performance at UNLV in Week 2.
Despite a game that seemed to have all the intensity of the 4th week of the NFL preseason, one unit on the field seemed nonetheless to be totally locked in and ready to battle in the desert heat: the Bruin defense. Dominant at the line of scrimmage and relentless in attacking the UNLV offense, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley‘s group was the trump card on Saturday night in Sin City.
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Against a team with UNLV’s limited skill level, it would have been worrying if a defense with UCLA’s talent and athleticism had been troubled in any way by what the Rebels had to throw at them. However, the Bruin defense passed the test with flying colors, dominating a far less talented opponent in the manner a playoff contender should. And the stats echo that sentiment, as UCLA held UNLV to 237 yards of total offense (including an absolutely microscopic 56 yards passing).
Even the 3 points that UCLA gave up to the Rebels weren’t on the defense, as those were a result of UNLV taking a Jerry Neuheisel interception into scoring range. However, the Bruin defense wouldn’t break, as it held the Rebels to a 3-and-out and a field goal that broke the goose egg that the Bruins had held UNLV to all night long.
UCLA’s defense vs. UNLV’s offense wasn’t a fair fight to begin with, but it became even more tilted when UNLV’s starting quarterback Blake Decker had to leave the game with a hamstring injury. Once the Rebels’ backup quarterback Kurt Palendech entered the game, the Bruin defense became an absolute wall, as it held the overmatched Palendech to 4 completions on 15 passing attempts… for a total of 4 yards through the air. In addition, the Bruins’ defensive line practically lived in the UNLV backfield, as it harrassed and confused Palendech into multiple negative plays, including a Kenny Young pick-six that, for all intents and purposes, ended the game as a competitive contest:
UCLA was just about as effective against the run as well. UNLV managed to rack up 181 yards of rushing on 43 attempts, but 71 of those yards came on two late carries against the backup defense. Otherwise, UCLA’s defense was rock solid against the run, as the Rebels could only muster an average of 2.7 yards per carry on their other 41 carries last night. The Bruins seemed to be as physical and ferocious as ever, as they essentially bullied UNLV at the line of scrimmage and punished any Rebel who dared to venture beyond with the ball.
All in all, it was a tremendous, if not unexpected, defensive showing from UCLA. Imbued with confidence from two stout showings in their first two games under Tom Bradley’s tutelage, the Bruins will be hoping to be just as dominant against a challenging opponent next week at the Rose Bowl in the notorious BYU Cougars, about whom we will have a lot more to say as we get closer to that game.