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UCLA FOOTBALL

Bruins need to improve defense against Houston

Cougars won last year, 38-34, but they have made some big changes since then.

September 12, 2012|By Chris Foster
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UCLA's game against Houston in 2011 was memorable for the Bruins. "It felt like a track meet," cornerback Sheldon Price said. "They got some guys who can run all day."

And seemed to that day.

UCLA ran up 554 total yards … and lost, 38-34.

The loss rested squarely on the shoulders of Bruins defenders, who seemed to view tackling as an option while giving up 469 yards.

"It's crucial that if they catch the ball, we wrap them up," Price said.

The Bruins face an almost entirely new cast this season. Houston's biggest change is at quarterback, where sophomore David Piland has taken over for Case Keenum, who finished seventh in last year's Heisman Trophy voting.

New trigger guy or not, the Bruins know the Cougars can be trouble.

"We have to take away the easy throws and get this quarterback to hold on to the ball a little bit so our pressure can get there," UCLA safety Andrew Abbott said.

That is easier said than done. Piland threw 77 passes against Louisiana Tech in a 56-49 loss and was sacked only twice.

"He gets the ball out faster than Keenum," Price said.

The Bruins sacked Keenum only once. But Piland is not Keenum in other areas.

"Keenum was a sixth-year senior," UCLA safety Tevin McDonald said. "He came to the line, looked at what we were doing and would make the perfect change."

Piland is less experienced, but Abbott said, "He makes a lot of quick throws and gets the ball to guys in space."

Houston also has a new head coach and new offensive coordinator. But Price said that the Cougars' offense "pretty much runs the same stuff, with a couple different twists."

No matter the differences, UCLA Coach Jim Mora stuck with the tried-and-true coaching stance.

"We have to get them off the field on third down so they don't get to throw 77 passes," Mora said.

Ah, Capella

UCLA guard Greg Capella had mostly been in the background since suffering a concussion in training camp. But he was there when the Bruins needed him against Nebraska on Saturday.

Capella replaced guard Jeff Baca, who left the game because of an undisclosed injury. "I kept watching film and prepared like I was going to start," Capella said. "You never know when you have to go in. This week, I'll be ready."

Whether he's needed remains to be seen. UCLA does not allow the media to report about injuries.

Hundley update

Quarterback Brett Hundley injured his right ankle against Nebraska. Mora addressed the situation Wednesday, saying, "He's doing great."

Asked whether there were any concerns, Mora said, "Not with me."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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