LOS ANGELES >> It wasn’t the blown assignment that bothered Jim Mora. The thing that irked the UCLA head coach most about the play that led to Memphis receiver Tony Pollard scoring a 42-yard touchdown on a short screen pass was the hoard of UCLA defenders jogging behind the play. It was lack of effort.
That is not the way UCLA sent 12 defensive players, including six linebackers, through the NFL Draft during the past five years. The Bruins hope to recapture that type of effort against Stanford at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
“We need to go back to hunting and playing the way we play,” linebacker Josh Woods said. “I tell them (effort) is something you can control. Even if you don’t understand what you’re doing or you’re lost in the funk, just go 110 percent to the ball and things like that will erase themselves.”
Woods said effort was the main focus of the linebackers this week. The junior was forced to watch the first half of last week’s game from the referees’ locker room due to a one-half suspension, and without senior Kenny Young due to injury, the Bruins started two sophomores at linebacker against Memphis. Youth may have played a role in the lack of effort from the linebackers, Woods admits, but it was not an excuse.
UCLA (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12) is hoping to get Young back soon – he missed last week while still recovering from head trauma suffered against Hawaii. Sophomores Lokeni Toailoa and Krys Barnes combined for nine tackles against Memphis. Barnes’ six tackles were the second-most on the team and he leads Bruins with 18 on the season.
“They got thrown right into the fire,” Wood said. “They’re definitely going to get better with the more reps they get. I’m proud of them for stepping up when they needed to.”
In preparing for Stanford, Mora studied the defensive performances of USC and San Diego State, the Cardinal’s previous two opponents, and noticed a simple commonality that helped the Trojans and Aztecs pull off wins.
“Maniacal effort is what won it for those teams,” the coach said. “Their schemes were fine, but they weren’t complex. They didn’t pressure a lot, but they were on them. So that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Jump in line
He’s the lone new starter on the offensive line, but Michael Alves is not looking for special treatment. The redshirt freshman would prefer to be treated as any other lineman, and so far, he’s blended seamlessly into UCLA’s starting group.