UCLA’s Datone Jones couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The junior defensive end was told last week that his 6-foot-5, 275-pound presence was required elsewhere.
With defensive tackle Cassius Marsh serving a two-game suspension, Jones was shifted inside for the game against California on Saturday.
“I always saw myself as a defensive end,” Jones said. “That’s been my position. But they needed someone to fill a void.”
“I love it,” Jones said.
Jones was part of the massaging defensive coordinator Joe Tresey did last week in an effort to shore up the defense. Jones responded with six tackles, his highest single-game total of the season. He also doubled his sack total by getting to Zach Maynard twice.
“Coach told me they weren’t looking for anyone to dominate, they just needed someone really strong,” Jones said. “The job is to not get knocked off the line and let someone else make the play. It was fun.”
Tresey employed other players in different roles. Freshman linebacker Aramide Olaniyan took a turn on the defensive front as a pass rusher in UCLA’s nickel defense. The 6-2, 212 Olaniyan made one tackle, but it was a doozy.
With the Bears facing third and 14 at the UCLA 21, Maynard tried to scramble. Olaniyan dropped him for a four-yard loss.
Giorgio Tavecchio’s 42-yard field-goal try sailed just wide and UCLA maintained a 17-14 lead.
The defense walked off with its best performance of the season in a 31-14 victory. In all, Tresey used 22 players.
“It was a little more a boutique defense than we would normally do,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “It was something where we found a combination we liked. We certainly won’t hesitate if the circumstances are the same.”
Jones would be happy with that.
“I have always been good in space,” Jones said. “You have to be more aggressive inside, and I like that. If they need me there, I’m ready to fill it.”
With Jones inside, the Bruins were also able to use defensive end Keenan Graham more. He had the Bruins’ other sack against California.
“I told everyone on the coaching staff to keep churning the soil with respect to their personnel,” Neuheisel said. “We have to find ways to get our good players on the field, but not necessarily in the position they play.”
The victory over California means UCLA can become bowl-eligible without having to beat No. 20 Arizona State or No. 21 USC.
The Bruins play Colorado (1-8) on Nov. 19. So bowl eligibility cold hinge on beating Utah (and former Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow) in Salt Lake City on Nov. 12.
The Utes picked up their first Pacific 12 Conference victory, beating Oregon State on Saturday.
Defensive end Iuta Tepa suffered a back injury in Saturday’s game and is iffy for the Arizona State game this week. … Cornerback Andrew Abbott sprained an ankle Saturday but is expected to play this week. … Safety Tevin McDonald, who intercepted three passes Saturday, was selected the conference’s defensive player of the week.