UCLA gets defensive against the Cougars

PASADENA, Calif. (News4usonline) – The UCLA Bruins had two weeks to prepare for the Washington State Cougars. The extra time putting in work at practice paid dividends for the Bruins in their matinee matchup at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California. UCLA’s defense surrendered just 10 points to the Cougars in the Bruins’ 25-17 upset win. 

“I just want to start out by giving credit to UCLA,” Washington State head coach Jake Dickert said. “We knew coming into this game it was going to be a real challenge, obviously playing the elements, playing the heat, and it was just a gritty game out there. I thought their front seven controlled us and kept us off balance.” 

UCLA’s defense bottled up Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) in the Bruins’s 25-17 win at the Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 7, 2023. Ward finished the game completing 19 of 39 passes (48 percent) for 197 yards, a touchdown, while also throwing a pair of interceptions. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“We really couldn’t catch a rhythm on offense,” Dickert added. “I think defense made just enough plays to keep us in it, but we ended up falling short, and that’s a credit to them. We win as a team, we lose as a team, that’s what hurts. But I know our guys left it all out there and I’m proud of them.”

The win by UCLA knocked Washington State from the unbeaten ranks and improved the overall record of the Bruins to 4-1. More than anything, it was a stunning win by the Bruins against this heralded Pac-12 Conference rival. Washington State came into the game having one of the more prolific offenses in the country, led by quarterback Cameron Ward, who is considered to be a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. 

Ward was coming off a game against Oregon State in which he threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-35 win for the Cougars. UCLA’s defense made life miserable for Ward all game long, holding Washington State’s signal-caller to 197 yards on 48 percent passing. Ward was also picked off two times by the Bruins’ defense. 

The immediate takeaway from this game was that defense triumphed over offense. Ward and Washington State found themselves on the short end of that stick. With that said UCLA head coach Chip Kelly talked about his team’s defensive efforts to stifle Ward’s explosive play-making ability.        

“I think Cam Ward is one of the really special quarterbacks,” Kelly said after the game. “I think that he was 19 of 39 and he hadn’t thrown a pick on the season. To pick them twice, we knew that was going to be a challenge. But I think it was both – the coverage on the back end and that was a question earlier in the week with how those guys would hold up, and then the pressure that our front provided and our linebackers provided. 

“There were a bunch of them. That was the cool part about today that there were so many guys that contributed, specifically on that side. And it was impressive to see. You know, they play hard and for each other, and that was really impressive. I think that was really the story, in terms of shutting them down. I think that it was a total team defense that shut them down.”

The UCLA defense the tone of what was to come from the beginning to end. Washington State scored one touchdown in the game, and that was in the third quarter, courtesy of a 9-yard touchdown run by Nakia Watson.

The Cougars’ other TD came at the end of the second quarter when Kapena Gushiken stepped in front of a Dante Moore pass, intercepted it, and ran it back 88 yards for the touchdown. Outside of that short-lived victory by the Cougars, UCLA’s defense dominated the game from start to finish.

A dominate UCLA defense held Washington State to just 12 yards rushing in the Bruins' 25-17 win at the Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4sonline
A dominant UCLA defense held Washington State to just 12 yards rushing in the Bruins’ 25-17 win at the Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4sonline

Washington State was grounded to just 11 first downs for the game and accumulated 216 yards in total offense and was limited to holding the ball for just under 22 minutes (21:38) in the ballgame compared to the 38 minutes, 22 seconds that UCLA held onto the ball. 

“Cam Ward, everyone knows he is a good, top-five quarterback,” UCLA defensive lineman Carl Jones Jr. said. “Our game plan was literally to get after him, let our front seven go. I was the spy this week, so my job was to make sure I had Cam Ward in front. Within that, my boys […] were able to get loose in our three-man rush and I could just protect them. For the most part, we did our job. He got frustrated a lot, and we came out with the victory.”

Top Image caption: A UCLA defender gets in the face of Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) during the Bruins’ 25-17 win at the Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 7, 2023. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline