A matter of defense for Bruins

Coming back to earth: A UCLA defender sacks Colorado quarterback Sefo LuFau in the game's waning moments on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

PASADENA-UCLA fans and alumni were treated to a great win by its football team on Halloween Saturday. The Colorado Buffaloes got tricked into thinking they could pull off the upset. And it all came down down to defense. For the Bruins, coming through with solid defensive play at the right times, like they executed against Colorado in their 35-31 win at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena,  is the key moving forward.

UCLA got the best of those key moments at the end of the game against Colorado when freshman Nate Meadors went Richard Sherman on the Buffaloes and snatched a sideline pass with just over a minute left and turned it into a game-saving interception.

The Bruins are going to need more of those moments for the rest of the season. Considering the Bruins are thinned out already in the defense department due to injuries, it may take  quite a few plays like Meadors to keep UCLA afloat in order to contend for the Pac-12 Conference South Division title. They got the right number of plays against the Buffaloes when they needed them to count.

Closing the deal: The UCLA Bruins got enough defense to close out Colorado with a 35-31 Pac-12 win at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Closing the deal: The UCLA Bruins got enough defense to close out Colorado with a 35-31 Pac-12 win at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

For most of the afternoon, Colorado had its way with UCLA’s defense, splicing through the Bruins for 554 total yards. Colorado owned the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for over 41 minutes to the Bruins’ 18 minutes. That’s not the sort of defense that’s going to win any brownie points, let alone keep a team in contention to win any type of championship.

The Buffaloes ran, passed and bullied the Bruins like they were the home team.

It became a smash-mouth football contest, and the Bruins were coming out on the short of the stick. Four times in the first half, Colorado had its way and marched down the field into the red zone. But in those four trips, UCLA’s defense tightened up. This is where UCLA won the ballgame. Meadors’ pick just sealed the victory.

The Buffaloes’ first trip to the red zone wound with a missed field goal after a 15-play, 57-yard drive. The next trip to red zone became even more nightmarish for the Buffaloes. Colorado saw its 16-play, 59-yard drive go up in smoke when UCLA’s Ismael Adams went pick six with a 96-yard interception return off of a Sefo LiuFau pass. Those two drives coast the Buffaloes at least six points. Colorado lost the game by four points.

You can do the math. That was pretty much the game in a nutshell. The Buffaloes ended up scoring two more field goals before the first half, but those possessions were essential in keeping UCLA’s hopes up for a Pac-12 South title up. Coach Jim Mora can thank his defense for saving the day in this one. Timing is everything. For a defense that bent, relented and moved backwards thanks to the physical play of the Buffaloes, UCLA’s unit showed some moxie when they needed to.

The challenge now becomes how do the Bruins’ defensive unit pull out of what is left in the tank to finish the season strong as it did against Colorado? Mora will find a way.

 

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1213 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.