Bruins disappointed after dropping to No. 11 in AP poll after win

It’s a tale of two lines for UCLA as the team preps for Saturday’s home opener against Memphis. The Bruins saw some of the best of one and what they hope was the worst of another against Virginia.

UCLA’s defensive line held up its end, regularly pressuring Virginia’s quarterbacks and limiting the Cavaliers’ ground game in a standout performance. As for their offensive counterparts? Not so much.

The Bruins’ offensive line struggled mightily as redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley was sacked five times and faced near-constant pressure. The offensive line was also penalized six times, four of them false starts.

The group’s play frustrated offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who called the O-line’s performance one of the worst he had been a part of as a player or coach.

The Bruins were without redshirt junior center Jake Brendel, and his 27 career starts. They also had three players – sophomore center Scott Quessenberry, freshman guard NaJee Toran and redshirt senior tackle Malcolm Bunche – making their UCLA debut. Klemm said that the group struggled with the mental side of the game, and that the communication and focus weren’t where they need to be.

“I knew we’d struggle a little bit, but I didn’t think it’d be to that degree,” Klemm said. “If they aren’t talking about us, its a good thing. And they were talking about us too much last week because of sacks, false starts and different things of that nature … We need to get on track.”

Voters apparently agree with Klemm, as UCLA dropped four spots in the AP poll. The Bruins now sit at No. 11 after a 28-20 win over a Cavaliers team they were favored to beat by nearly three touchdowns.

But the Bruins’ optimism heading into the rest of the season should be buoyed by the stalwart play of their defensive line. UCLA held Virginia to an average of 3.1 yards-per-carry, and limited Virginia’s lone 1,000-yard rusher from last year – Kevin Parks – to just 55 yards on the ground.

Sophomore nose tackle Kenny Clark led UCLA up front with eight tackles against Virginia – an impressive amount for a player whose job is usually to take on multiple blockers to allow other defenders to make plays. But on Saturday it was Clark who stood out.

“He’d hit a double and then the double would have to come off to the linebacker and when they’d come off, Kenny would make the tackle,” Mora said. “He was a dominant force in there, he had a great game.”

The Bruins defensive front delivered an equally strong performance against the Cavaliers’ quarterbacks. Redshirt senior defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and sophomore linebacker Deon Hollins consistently pressured off the edges, while Clark and sophomore defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes penetrated gaps and rushed up the middle.

On both of the Bruins’ interceptions, UCLA was able to crowd the backfield and reach Virginia quarterback Greyson Lambert with only four players. And by sufficiently pressuring Lambert and his replacement Matt Johns without sending extra defenders, the rest of the Bruins’ defense was able to remain in coverage and stifle the Cavaliers’ passing attack for the majority of the game.

“When we can do that as a D-line, it’s just going to help the defense in a huge way,” Odighizuwa said. “That’s why (redshirt senior linebacker) Eric Kendricks had a phenomenal game – because we were able to do our job up front; (we) allow (sophomore linebacker) Myles Jack to cover receivers and poke the ball out at the end of the game and (allow) the secondary to do their thing”.

Manfro Injured

Redshirt junior running back Steven Manfro was carted off the practice field Tuesday after sustaining a leg injury. While Mora said he did not want to speculate on the injury, the initial impression was less than positive.

“I don’t know if its serious or not, sometimes they don’t end up being as serious as they look, but that looked pretty serious to me,” Mora said. “Hopefully he is okay.”

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