UCLA's defense came up big in a 31-26 win over Arizona on Saturday night in Tucson.
Linebacker Myles Jack, performing out of an offensive set UCLA put in just this week because of injuries, gained 120 yards in six carries, including a 66-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that provided the Bruins with their margin of victory.
With backs Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Damien Thigpen all unavailable because of injuries -- Thigpen played Saturday but was sidelines most of the second half -- UCLA employed a three-back set that included Jack and fellow linebacker Jordan Zumwalt.
Zumwalt didn't get a carry, but he had a key 12-yard pass reception on a Bruins scoring drive.
Jack also made eight tackles and recovered a fumble in the end zone that was forced by Zumwalt.
That play -- midway through the third quarter -- also could have been the difference in victory or defeat for the Bruins.
Arizona did not score a touchdown in four possessions inside the UCLA 10. The Wildcats were stopped once on downs, Ka'Deem Carey fumbled into the end zone inside the one-yard line, and Arizona was held to field goals on two other occasions.
With all that, though, UCLA's win was not secured until Ishmael Adams picked off a desperation fourth-down pass by Arizona's B.J. Denker deep in UCLA territory with two minutes to play.
The Bruins then ran out the clock.
The win kept UCLA in the hunt in the Pac-12 Conference's South Division. UCLA is 7-2 overall, 4-2 in conference play, and are one game back of Arizona State, which rallied to defeat Utah on Saturday.
UCLA is tied with USC, which rolled past California to improve to 7-3 overall, 4-2 in the Pac-12.
Arizona fell to 6-3 overall, 3-3 in conference play.
Brett Hundley completed 18 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns -- both to Shaquelle Evans, who had four catches for 97 yards.
Denker completed 20 of 33 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns for Arizona. The Wildcats also got 148 yards rushing in 28 carries from Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher.
Brett Hundley is sacked trying to get away a third-and-four pass, and after a punt Arizona takes over at its own 12 with 2:33 left in regulation.
UCLA's defense holds and Bruins have the ball back at their own 15 with 4:57 left in regulation.
UCLA went a long time without a penalty in this game, but now the Bruins are hurting themselves.
Brett Hundley scrambled for a six-yard gain on a third-and-four play, only to have it called back for a holding penalty.
Then, on the next play, in a third-and-14 situation, Shaquelle Evans dropped a pass right at the first-down mark -- but even if he had made the catch, there was offensive pass interference on that play.
So the Bruins have punted and Arizona is the ball at its own 28 with 6:06 left in regulation.
UCLA 31, Arizona 27 (8:02 left in fourth quarter)
Everytime you think UCLA has seized momentum and Arizona is about to fall out of it, the Wildcats pull right back within striking distance.
B.J. Denker connected with freshman Nate Phillips on a 14-yard scoring pass -- the second time they've hooked up on a touchdown pass this half.
Denker, a senior from Torrance, has completed 20 of 29 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns.
UCLA 31, Arizona 20 (10:46 left in fourth quarter)
The Bruins are Jackin' up Arizona.
Linebacker Myles Jack, who has seven tackles and a fumble recovery, came on in a short yardage situation -- third-and-one -- and broke loose for 66 yards for a touchdown.
Jack, a freshman, has gained 120 yards rushing in six carries in his first appearances on offense.
UCLA, because it was down running backs because of injuries, has gone several times to a three-back backfield, employing Jack and fellow linebacker Jordan Zumwalt on offense.
UCLA 24, Arizona 20 (11:46 left in fourth quarter)
Ka'Deem Carey is the real deal. The senior from Tucson is showing why he's the nation's leading rusher, and he also threw a crushing block to enable quarterback B.J. Denker to throw a touchdown pass.
Arizona drove 88 yards in eight plays as Carey ran for 61 yards in five carries, going over the 100-yard mark in rushing for the 12th consecutive game.
The touchdown came on a 15-yard pass from Denker to freshman Nate Phillips.
Arizona tried for a two-point conversion, but Denker's pass fell incomplete.
Arizona had not had much success inside the UCLA 10, despite several chances. The Wildcats were stopped once on downs and also fumbled inside the one. Arizona did convert on two earlier field goals.
Carey has 144 yards in 25 carries.
Ka'Deem Carey is over 100 yards rushing after a 22-yard carry at the start of the fourth quarter.
Carey, who came into this game as the nation's leading rusher with an average of 153.1 yards per game, has 108 yards in 22 carries.
UCLA and Arizona are headed to the fourth quarter with the Bruins holding onto a 24-13 lead.
And lately, the lead is about the only thing UCLA is holding on to.
Officials on the field ruled that Tra'Mayne Bondurant stripped UCLA reciever Devin Lucien of the ball after a 28-yard pass reception, but the ruling was changed after a review. Replay officials said Lucien was down before the ball came loose.
So, on the next play, quarterback Brett Hundley fumbled at the conclusion of a run. But he fell on it and the Bruins maintained possession.
After a UCLA punt, Arizona has the ball at its own 12.
UCLA 24, Arizona 13 (2:15 left in third quarter)
Arizona's offense had the ball inside the UCLA 5 and seemed in rythm -- until Jordan Zumwalt came blowing into the Wildcats' backfield to sack quarterback B.J. Denker on a key third-down play.
So Arizona settled for a 27-yard field goal by Jake Smith.
Mazzone probably wasn't thinking about this: a fumble by Damien Thigpen has given Arizona the ball at UCLA's 28 with a little more than four minutes left in the third quarter.
Every time there's a pause in the game, I find myself wondering what Noel Mazzone might be thinking of next.
An impressive drive by Arizona ended in a fumble at the goal line and a touchback award to UCLA.
Ka'Deem Carey launched himself toward the end zone, but while he was airborne, UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt -- you remember him from his first-down reception on offense earlier in the third quarter -- knocked the ball loose and Myles Jack -- the Bruins' leading rusher this game -- recovered in the end zone.
UCLA 24, Arizona 10 (10:30 left in third quarter)
Noel Mazzone, UCLA's offensive coordinator, is having too much fun.
Not content to merely use defensive players on offense, he had a wide receiver take a snap under center on a key third-down play.
And it worked.
Y-back Darius Bell went in motion, stopped under center, took the snap, and surged ahead for the first down.
The drive stalled at the Arizona 16, but Ka'imi Fairbairn converted a 34-yard field goal.
Some halftime statistics as UCLA leads Arizona, 21-10, in Tucson:
Brett Hundley has completed 11 of 14 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns -- both to Shaquelle Evans, covering 66 and four yards. Evans has three catches for 85 yards.
UCLA's leading rusher is linebacker Myles Jack, who has gained 54 yards in five carries. Hundley has run for 53 yards in nine carries, including a 15-yard touchdown.
UCLA has outgained Arizona, 272 yards to 163.
Ka'Deem Carey, the nation's leading rusher, has 58 yards and a touchdown in 16 carries. He has 11 consecutive 100-yard rushing games and is averaging 153.1 yards per game this season.
Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker, a senior from Torrance, has completed nine of 16 passes for 66 yards.
UCLA 21, Arizona 10 (16 seconds left in second quarter)
UCLA ran 16 plays and gained 90 yards -- 37 yards by the defense.
Yes, that's right. The defense.
Linebackers if you want to get even more precise.
Myles Jack ran for 25 yards in four carries, earning two first downs on tough runs.
Jordan Zumwalt hauled in a 12-yard pass for a first down.
The touchdown came on a spectacular catch by Shaquelle Evans, who was covered well by Arizona's Jonathan McKnight.
McKnight tipped Brett Hundley's pass, but Evans managed to stay with it and hauled the ball in while managing to just barely get his toes down in the end zone.
Props to the punter.
Arizona's Drew Riggleman has it going. His last two punts have gone 58 yards and 56 yards, pushing UCLA back toward its own goal line.
Bruins from their own 10 with 6:32 left in the first half.
Another three and out for the UCLA offense.
Maybe Brett Hundley will spare my typing-blistered fingers after all.
Arizona's defense looks vastly improved over the unit that was pummeled in a 66-10 rout by the Bruins last season.
Arizona has been able to run the ball somewhat effectively, but the Wildcats haven't been able to sustain drives.
Ka'Deem Carey has run for 55 of Arizona's 100 yards rushing.
UCLA has the ball at its own 26 with 8:22 left in the second quarter.
UCLA seems intent on showcasing freshman Myles Jack, and as talented as he is, that's a pretty good idea.
An overthrown pass on a fake punt cost Jack a first-down reception, but when UCLA got the ball back it used him as a runner.
On third-and-one, Jack took a handoff into the middle of the line, was stacked up, broke a tackle, burst toward the left sideline, broke another tackle, and rambled for a 29-yard gain.
We know he's also a very good linebacker. Wonder if he can kick.
UCLA 14, Arizona 10 (12:55 left in second quarter)
OK, so what was Jim Mora thinking?
UCLA is in control of the game, and on UCLA's own 25-yard line, Mora calls for a fake punt.
Punter Sean Covington had freshman linebacker Myles Jack wide open in the flat, but he overthrew him and Arizona took over on downs.
Four plays later, Ka'Deem Carey scores on a four-yard run and it's a ballgame again.
Mora has done a great job as UCLA's coach, but that was baffling -- even though Jack was wide open.
End of the first quarter at Tucson.
UCLA leads, 14-3, and Brett Hundley has the football equivalent of a perfect game going.
He has completed all seven of his passes for 98 yards, including a 66-yard scoring strike to Shaquelle Evans on UCLA's first play from scrimmage.
Hundley has also run twice for 33 yards, including a spectacular 15-yard scoring run.
UCLA has the ball at its own 26 starting the quarter.
UCLA 14, Arizona 3 (1:23 left in first quarter)
Why do I have the feeling that Brett Hundley is going to leave my fingers bleeding at the end of this game?
The Bruins sophomore scored on a spectacular 15-yard run, breaking several tackles along the way.
The scoring play came a couple of plays after Hundley kept the 84-yard drive alive by hitting Shaquelle Evans with a 15-yard pass on a third-and-14 play.
Hundley has completed all six of his passes for 95 yards and has run twice for 33 yards.
The UCLA defense comes up big.
Arizona had driven from its own 25 to the UCLA 15, but was stopped when Randall Goforth dumped Ka'Deem Carey behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-inches run.
UCLA 7, Arizona 3 (10:41 left in first quarter)
Welcome home, Brett Hundley, and don't waste any time showing the local folks what they're missing.
Hundley, who played at Chandler (Ariz.) High, hit Shaquelle Evans in stride down the right sideline with a bomb on UCLA's first play from scrimmage.
One play, one pass, 66 yards, touchdown. What's that quarterback rating?
Arizona 3, UCLA 0 (10:58 left in first quarter)
UCLA won the coin toss but deferred.
Arizona took the ball, ran 11 plays, and scored on a 44-yard field goal by Jake Smith.
Ka'Deem Carey ran six times for 17 yards on the drive.
Chris Foster, who is in Tucson covering the game for The Times, reports that it's a picture perfect desert night.
It will stay that way for either UCLA or Arizona, because the winner will keep pace in the Pac-12 Conference South Division. But the loser will be all but eliminated from the title chase.
Arizona State improved to 7-2 overall, 5-1 in Pac-12 play by rallying for a 20-19 victory over Utah in Salt Lake City Saturday. The Sun Devils started the day with a one-game lead over UCLA, Arizona and USC, which improved to 7-3 overall, 4-2 in conference play by drubbing California, 62-28.
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