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Alterraun Verner sets the tone for UCLA

UCLA FOOTBALL NOTES

Cornerback's interception return for a touchdown gives Bruins the early lead.

November 22, 2009|By Chris Foster
  • Bruins cornerback Alterraun Verner brings down Sun Devils wide receiver Kerry Taylor in the second half Saturday.
Bruins cornerback Alterraun Verner brings down Sun Devils wide receiver… (Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire )

UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner looked up and there was the ball, just like the one he dropped against Oregon State on Halloween.

"That did cross my mind for a second," Verner said.

Seconds later, Verner was crossing the goal line. His 68-yard interception return gave UCLA a 7-0 lead against Arizona State a little more than three minutes into the game, "which relaxed us because we weren't going to be playing from behind."

It was also the fourth career interception that Verner has returned for a touchdown, a UCLA record. He has five touchdowns in his career -- he returned a blocked field-goal try for a touchdown this season -- tying a UCLA record.

"I keep trying to get myself over to the offense a couple times," Verner said. "They told me no, they need me over on defense."

Verner's interception was one of two touchdowns scored by the defense in the 23-13 victory. After defensive tackle Brian Price forced Arizona State quarterback Samson Szakacsy to fumble, Akeem Ayers picked the ball up and navigated nine yards for a touchdown, stretching to get the ball over the goal line.

"The lineman pulled me down by the collar, so I was just worried about getting back on my feet," Ayers said. "I saw Brian knock the ball out, so I just scooped and scored. We practice that every day."

Defense sparkles

Price had four tackles for a loss, including two sacks.

"It's just hard to block him," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. "He's a powerful guy."

Ayers had two tackles for a loss, one of which was a sack. Bullough used him at defensive end at times, as Korey Bosworth was hampered by a sprained ankle.

"Sometimes he gives you that burst off the edge," Bullough said. "You want to put in him in spots like that because he can be successful."

The Bruins' defense bent a little but held the Sun Devils to 315 yards and forced six turnovers.

The Bruins had only 292 yards, as Arizona State came into the game as the Pacific 10 Conference's top defense.

"They were the best defense in the conference coming in, we just wanted to be the best one today," Bullough said.

Moline shines

Senior Chane Moline came to UCLA as a tailback and scored five touchdowns as a short-yardage back as a freshman. He has played fullback this season, but Saturday he was back at tailback, grinding out 84 yards in 25 carries.

The move was made after the Bruins had trouble with fumbles in recent weeks.

"We have been using Chane in bits and pieces and decided maybe we should do it on an every-down basis," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "It was fun to watch us slug it out."

Forbath on top

Kicker Kai Forbath's three field goals gave him 26 and allowed him to pass Alabama's Leigh Tiffin for most in the nation. Forbath has made 35 consecutive field goals from 50 yards and closer.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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