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UCLA's defense goes in expecting more

UCLA FOOTBALL

Players say there are better than they showed in loss to Houston, and they will show more communication and stepped-up tackling against San Jose State.

September 08, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA linebacker Patrick Larimore says the Bruins need to communicate better on defense against San Jose State than they did last week against Houston.
UCLA linebacker Patrick Larimore says the Bruins need to communicate better… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

UCLA is hoping that San Jose State provides a feel-good game for its defense this week, after the Bruins were carved up by Houston.

"We are a better defense than we showed last week," defensive end Datone Jones said. "We're attacking more. It's a whole new mentality."

Maybe. But last week that resulted in a same-old result. In a 38-34 loss, UCLA was torched for 469 total yards, with Houston quarterback Case Keenum throwing for 310. The Cougars also gained 159 yards rushing, a worrisome statistic for the Bruins, who ranked 108th among 120 major-college teams last year against the run.

Why would this week be different?

"No. 1, we're going to communicate better," linebacker Patrick Larimore said. "There were times last week, whether it was tempo or fatigue, that we didn't make the checks and calls. And No. 2 is tackling. We're going to do a better job of wrapping up."

Reason No. 3 would be San Jose State. The Spartans had 27 yards rushing, averaging 0.8 yards per carry, in a 57-3 loss to Stanford Saturday. Only three teams in Football Bowl Championship Division had worse days on the ground.

San Jose State Coach Mike MacIntyre's assessment of playing UCLA after sixth-ranked Stanford: "One thing that will help us is they don't have as big and strong defensive ends and linebackers who have played really well against the run."

Stanford, MacIntyre said, "wrapped us up pretty good."

UCLA did more gift-wrapping than wrapping up against Houston, including three missed tackles on a touchdown run by the Cougars' Michael Hayes.

"We've got to be better at tackling," Jones said. "Some of that was having the jitters, guys playing their first game."

But the main problem was Keenum. "He was getting rid of the ball in 1.2 seconds sometimes," Jones said. "We were relying on linebackers and defensive backs to make all the plays."

Quarterback juggling

Coach Rick Neuheisel said Richard Brehaut would "probably start" against San Jose State. Kevin Prince, who suffered a sprained shoulder against Houston, is also expected to be available.

Prince threw only one pass — a wide receiver screen — during preparation work against the scout team Thursday.

"Kevin is fine, we were just resting him," Neuheisel said. "He could have ripped it around today. We're just giving him another 24 hours. We'll throw a little bit tomorrow."

Quick hits

F-back Damien Thigpen, out four weeks with a hamstring injury, had a minor setback this week. When he will return is unknown.… San Jose State has lost 17 consecutive games to teams from the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. The Spartans' last victory over a BCS team was against Illinois in 2002.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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