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UCLA's secondary answers some questions

The Bruins intercepted six passes against Utah, four by defensive backs, including two by safety Anthony Jefferson.

October 06, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA safety Anthony Jefferson spearheaded a strong pass-protection effort in the Bruins' victory over Utah on Thursday.
UCLA safety Anthony Jefferson spearheaded a strong pass-protection effort… (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

There seems to be a difference of opinion about why UCLA's secondary kept taking the ball from Utah in a 34-27 victory Thursday.

The Bruins intercepted six passes, four by defensive backs, including two by safety Anthony Jefferson.

It was the work of great individual efforts.

"We did what the coaches told us to do," said safety Randall Goforth, who had an interception. "They said balls would come to us, and they did."

OK, so it was plotting and planning by the staff.

"I don't want to say it was all scheme," said defensive coordinator Lou Spanos. "You have to make the play at the point of attack. They did a great job making the plays."

Regardless of who was responsible, one thing was certain: Questions about the Bruins' secondary have been answered … for now.

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was the test those who wondered about UCLA's secondary were awaiting. Wilson threw for 288 yards, but the Bruins kept taking the ball from him. True, Wilson was the victim of some deflected passes, but as Spanos said, "Our guys did a great job of tipping the ball."

It wasn't just that the Bruins were in the right place at the right time. They also forced the issue.

Cornerback Ishmael Adams wrestled the ball away from receiver Anthony Denham on Utah's first possession of the second half.

Jefferson was savvy enough to know the ball wobbling toward him had been tipped. He knocked down receiver Jake Murphy and picked off the pass — you can hit a receiver if the ball has been tipped.

"These guys are very versatile," Spanos said. "We demand a lot from them. They rose to the occasion."

The Bruins blitzed often, trying to pressure Wilson. They dangled their cornerbacks like bait in one-on-one coverage.

"Across the board, Ishmael, Fabian [Moreau], Brandon Sermons, they stepped up," Spanos said.

So the concerns about the UCLA secondary have been put to rest.

Except …

The Bruins play California this week. The Bears may be 1-4 this season, but they are certainly not shy about throwing the ball around.

Only Southern Methodist, which averages 58.4 pass attempts, has thrown more than the Bears, who average 55.2 passes.

So on to the next test.

"We don't worry about what people say about us," Goforth said. "We know what we're capable of."

Poll watch

UCLA moved up to 11th in the Associated Press poll. It's the highest the Bruins have been since they were ranked 11th before a 44-6 loss to Utah in 2007.

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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