Bruins thriving on use of two-way players

PASADENA, Calif. — A quick recap of No. 13 UCLA’s 41-31 win over Washington: The game involved a historic rushing performance, a starting quarterback went down and his replacement promptly engineered a touchdown drive and teams used blocked kicks, fake punts and everything in their arsenal.

But other than linebacker Myles Jack’s four-touchdown performance, the most glaring stat was something you won’t find on the box score. Going back to the Bruins’ win at Arizona last week, six straight touchdowns were scored by defensive players.

And here’s the thing: They were scored while playing on offense.

It wasn’t until the final 10 minutes when Brett Hundley and Devin Lucien hooked up for a 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown that an offensive player actually scored for the offense.

“To me, that just speaks to Noel and this whole staff, their creativity and their willingness to use whatever talent we have in whatever capacity,” Mora said. “I think it speaks to the selflessness of our players. Not only the guys that help you go in and score, but the guys that come off the field.”

It’s the second game in row the Bruins have utilized their defensive playmakers to make plays on the other side of the ball and it seems to be working: The defense accounted for
the jumbo package that consists primarily of linebackers and defensive ends proved especially effective. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone dialed it up a notch in the first half throwing just about every twist he could at the Huskies utilizing his biggest guys to put a big scare in the Huskies’ defense.

“It’s fun to be able to attack the defense,” said defensive end Cassius Marsh, who caught his second career touchdown in the first quarter to give UCLA an early 14-0 lead.

“I think it’s just the fact that we have a bunch of big guys in there and they know that we’re probably going to run… They do look frustrated out there. It’s fun. I love it.”

Mazzone has long coveted Marsh to play tight end and Jack to play running back. It’s been a running joke in training camp for the last two seasons that Mazzone always wants to steal Lou Spanos’ defensive players and convert them to offensive skill players.

In this system, both coordinators get their way.

“It’s so fun because those defensive guys, they get so fired up. Now they all want to catch a ball,” Mazzone said. “Our team is all unselfish. They do whatever they can do to win as a team, not as a defense or an offense.”

Just a few weeks ago, the offense was seemingly in a state of disarray and Mazzone’s job as a play-caller was in question. It seems as though the pieces have been put back together but it’s the new ones that are the most successful.

And for that, there are no gripes. Offensive players that are losing playing time and statistics are sacrificing for wins.

“There’s no hard feelings,” Lucien said. “We love when they’re out there on the field and it just takes some pressure off of us.”

“You don’t see any griping or complaining,” Mora said. “Offense players who are going to be on the field want to score offensive touchdowns. But the most important thing is winning and they’ve embraced it.”