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UCLA FYI

Bruins seniors resolve to start stopping foes

Cracks in UCLA's defense have been exposed in a three-game losing streak.

October 20, 2009|Chris Foster

Chuck Bullough, UCLA's defensive coordinator, gathered the Bruins' senior players on defense after meetings Sunday to seek a solution.

UCLA's defense has been run over, run around and outrun in the last three games, a big reason for a three-game skid that has dimmed the team's chances of a bowl-game appearance.

"We're on a three-game losing streak and we should have a better record right now," senior cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "You can't turn a program around overnight, but we have only six games left. This is our last go-round. So we're going to take the blame for people not doing what they're supposed to do."

The defense, foundation for the season's hopes, had enormous cracks exposed by California, Oregon and Stanford.

The Bruins allowed 684 yards rushing in those games. Included were nine plays of 40 yards or longer. UCLA gave up three plays of 40 yards or more the two previous seasons.

"The past couple of weeks there has been a recurring theme -- we are just not playing sound, fundamental football," Verner said. "I mean tackling and playing within the structure of the defense."

Verner admitted his own culpability. He was beaten deep on a 43-yard touchdown pass by Cal. "I was expecting something different and took myself out of the play," he said.

Verner added, "A lot of our scheme is making sure everyone does what they are supposed to do, because if even one piece is off then the whole play explodes." That, Verner said, comes down to practice.

"It's a cliche, but practice makes perfect," he said. "Some guys in practice are like, 'Oh man, I just want to get this done.' No. You use practice as a learning tool and get ready for the game. There are no excuses."

Verner said the seniors on the defense would deliver that message before today's practice, with linebacker Reggie Carter taking the lead.

"Reggie keeps telling us, 'You never know when you won't be able to play this game anymore, so don't go through the motions,' " Verner said. "We have to drill that into their heads and drill that into their hearts."

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Knox denies rumor

Bruins tailback Milton Knox debunked a rumor that he is considering transferring.

"Everyone has been asking me about that," Knox said Monday. "I'm still here and I'm just waiting for my shot so I can show what I can do."

Knox currently is fifth on the Bruins' depth chart.

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Red (zone) alert

UCLA's offense was perfect in the red zone Saturday against California. Percentage-wise, anyway. The Bruins were four for four scoring -- but three were field goals by Kai Forbath, while the Bears were scoring touchdowns.

The Bruins have scored points 16 of 19 times they have been in the red zone, but only six scores have been touchdowns. Only New Mexico, with four, has fewer among the nation's 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

The solution? "You look and see what you are capable of doing," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We all have memories of great red-zone offense, things we can throw and patterns that have worked. But then you have to ask individuals who play the positions to execute those particular diagrams."

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Quick hits

With guard Eddie Williams out with a fractured ankle, senior Nick Ekbatani and freshman Stan Hasiak are expected to share the starting spot -- provided Hasiak recovers from a sprained ankle. . . . UCLA's game at Oregon State on Oct. 31 will start at 1 p.m., with no television now scheduled.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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