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UCLA FYI

Regardless of quarterback, UCLA defense knows its role

Whether it's Brehaut or Craft calling signals, the players on the other side of the ball for the Bruins understand they must step up.

September 19, 2009|Chris Foster

Whomever is UCLA's quarterback tonight, he will have at least one advantage -- the guys who will be on the field while the offense is standing on the sidelines.

The Bruins' offense will be guided by either freshman Richard Brehaut or senior Kevin Craft, and that has the defense even more focused. Or so goes the talk heading into the game against Kansas State at the Rose Bowl.

"We don't know what to expect," linebacker Reggie Carter said. "All we know is it will either be a guy making his first start this season or a guy making the first start of his career. We've got to definitely go out there and make it easier on them."

The way the Bruins have played defense so far, status quo should suffice.

UCLA ranks 27th in the nation in total defense, giving up 242.5 yards a game; 30th in rush defense, giving up 77.0 yards a game; and is tied for 33rd in scoring defense, giving up 14.5 points a game.

The Bruins also are tied for fourth in forcing turnovers, with seven. Safety Rahim Moore is responsible for the bulk of that, having intercepted five passes.

"We've got to take the ball away and don't let them score," Carter said. "That way whoever is at quarterback can be a little more comfortable, knowing that if he does happen to make a mistake we have his back."

A couple of touchdowns by the defense would help as well, the Bruins say. Cornerback Alterraun Verner has returned a blocked field-goal attempt for a touchdown this season and four UCLA defenders have touchdowns in their careers.

Verner has four -- three on interception returns. Defensive end Korey Bosworth recovered a fumble for a touchdown. Linebacker Sean Westgate and strong safety Glenn Love have touchdowns off blocked punts.

"The only thing we can do is carry our weight," Bosworth said. "But if need be, we can carry little bit on the offensive side and put some points up ourselves.

"Whatever we need to do, we have to get it done because we have two guys coming in who weren't declared the starter [at quarterback] at the beginning of the season."

Consistently inconsistent

The Bruins have followed big wins with big losses throughout their recent history.

Last season, they beat Tennessee in the opener, then were routed by Brigham Young, 59-0.

In 2007, UCLA upset 10th-ranked California, then went to Washington State and was beaten, 27-7.

And in 2006, the Bruins shocked second-ranked USC, then were blown out, 44-27, by Florida State in the Emerald Bowl.

That two-steps-forward, three-steps-back pattern was on Coach Rick Neuheisel's mind after Thursday's practice. "We're going to talk about that right now," he said before heading to the locker room.

Neuheisel said his stay-focused pitch would include the question, "What do you want to be? We get to decide what we want to be because we're the ones doing the work."

Youth group

The victory in Tennessee may have aged some UCLA players, but the team remains babes in Westwood.

How young are the Bruins? The active leader in career touchdowns is fullback Chane Moline with seven, followed by tight end Ryan Moya with six and cornerback Verner with four.

If a defensive back is fourth on that list, you are either really bad or really young.

Injury report

Kansas State may have problems on its defensive front. End Brandon Harold is out with what is believed to be a knee injury. Defensive end Kadero Terrell is listed at the top of the depth chart at one defensive end but has yet to play this season because of a leg injury.

The status of UCLA tailback Christian Ramirez (ankle) and wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (hamstring) is questionable, Neuheisel said.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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