The UCLA football team looked to enter the 2018 season with a very aggressive defense. Though the stats have not shown it this team is making a lot of progress and are getting better.
The cupboard was not bare for the UCLA football team, especially on defense. Chip Kelly might have been using a plethora of freshmen to get his side of the ball going, but Jerry Azzinaro has been using veterans to jump-start his defense.
Last season, UCLA had one of the worst defenses in the country, just look at these numbers:
Total Def: 483.7 yards | Rush Def: 287.4 | Pass Def: 196.3 | Scoring Def: 36.6 pts
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This needed to change and we saw glimpses of an evolution through the spring and fall. There was an aggressive new vibe being sent through the ranks and it looked as if it was going to have a positive effect on the team as a whole.
Unfortunately, it has taken time to get everything moving in the right direction, especially when the Bruins have had to endure one of the toughest schedules in the nation led by some of the best offenses in Division I football.
The defense has held their own, but big numbers were being put on them through the first four weeks of the season. We saw flashes of brilliance with several members of UCLA’s defense, but it was not translating to the win and stat column. That has shifted in the last two weeks.
In those games, the Bruins limited Washington’s offense and flat-out destroyed Cal, showing what we have been expecting of this team since last April. Let us take a look at four of the Bruins’ major defensive stats through their first six games and compare them to their last two.
Total Defensive Yards
- Season Avg (Nat’l Ranking): 408.3 (75th)
- Last 2 games (Approx. Nat’l Rank): 386.0 (39th)
Defensive Rushing Yards
- Season Avg (Nat’l Ranking): 175.3 (77th)
- Last 2 games (Approx. Nat’l Rank): 164.0 (72nd)
Defensive Passing Yards
- Season Avg (Nat’l Ranking): 233.0 (71st)
- Last 2 games (Approx. Nat’l Rank): 222.0 (52nd)
Scoring Defense (Points)
- Season Avg (Nat’l Ranking): 31.5 (86th)
- Last 2 games (Approx. Nat’l Rank): 19.0 (20th)
Though the improvements have been small, they are in fact improvements., but notice that the stats from the last two games are significantly less than what the Bruins allowed last season, except for pass defense. It should be noted that in 2017, teams knew that they could run all over the Bruins, which accounted for the smaller average in terms of pass yards allowed.
The reason it is higher this year, as stated above, is that UCLA has faced several top-tier offenses this season led by very good quarterbacks. And not to make excuses, but the Bruins have been taking hits in the injury department. The Bruins’ linebacking corps has four players out at the moment, two of which are starters that are done for the season.
With all of that in mind, UCLA is still getting after their opponents. It does not matter who is the next man up, Azzinaro is going to keep the pressure on which will help out the Bruins’ overall production. We saw that against Cal. UCLA had five takeaways against the Golden Bears, three of which resulted in points for the Bruins.
There is plenty of reason to get excited about the UCLA defense. They are still going to face several good teams in their last six games and will hit some bumps in the road, but you can expect them to continue to get after their opponents. This team is getting better, they are showing no signs of quitting and they continue to fight, fight, fight.