UCLA football returned to practice Tuesday after its disastrous trip to the Bay Area. Intent to leave the loss behind them, the team focused on shoring up the areas where the game is said to start and end: the lines.
After giving up a season-high 43 points to the unranked Golden Bears, UCLA (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) came back to Westwood with a renewed sense of defensive urgency.
“I was a little more physical today,” Said head coach Jim Mora. “I don’t think that was by design. It was good; I think that it shows they’re serious and focused after a tough loss.
While the defense worked on swarming the football, the offensive line got back to basics.
The concern seems to be the veteran defensive line that UCLA will facing Saturday against Utah. The Utes have depth and experience at the position, utilizing as many as 12 players on the line, including Star Lotulelei, who won the 2011 award for the Pac-12’s top defensive lineman, the Morris Award.
A defensive force, Mora saw pro-style skills in the game film of Lotulelei.
“Like I said yesterday, you watch their nose tackle play and you think you’re watching a five-year NFL vet, that’s how good he is,” Mora said.
Another defensive force, Dave Kruger led the Utes with six tackles against USC last week. And the depth far from ends there; the defensive line is arguably one of Utah’s strongest assets and Mora wants to make sure a young offensive line isn’t overmatched.
Personnel issues will be secondary, as the Bruins will try to stick to a game plan and make adjustments as needed.
“You just do the best you can in practice working them. You try to emphasize the fundamentals,” Mora said. “I think sometimes you can over-coach, rather than (put the) emphasis on the other guy. I think Adrian (Klemm) does a really good job of bringing back our fundamentals, our technique, our calls, playing the way we’re supposed to play, not making it so much about them.”
Redshirt freshman Jake Brendel has been calling the signs for quarterback Brett Hundley, but it’s redshirt senior Jeff Baca that truly anchors the O-line, serving as the glue-guy at left guard.
“The communication in the front is amazing; it’s intricate, it’s detailed and it changes all the time when you’re playing a defensive front like (Utah’s), where they do move around a lot,” Mora said. “Having Jeff in there helps because at least then, we’re a little bit quicker with the calls.”
For Utah’s part, the focus is also on the defense. After a 2-3 start to the season and an 0-2 start in conference play, the Utes are looking to try and get something started during a tough Pac-12 stretch.
“Both teams in need of a win; we both have two conference losses. Obviously it’s a big game for both teams,” Said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’re excited about another opportunity, and we’ll go down and play in the Rose Bowl, which will be a great experience for our players. Last time we were down there was not a great experience, so hopefully we can change that.”