Bruins have a simple plan to improve on defense: tackle better

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack (30) and defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (47) know that a better tackling will lead to a winning formula.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

UCLA’s defense has a simple game plan for Arizona, one not developed in the planning room: “Tackle better,” lineman Eddie Vanderdoes said.

Arizona’s spread offense will put the Bruins in one-on-one situations at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. In order to avoid a trampling, UCLA will need marked improvement in tackling.

Colorado had 233 yards rushing last Saturday, the third time in four games that the Bruins have allowed more than 200 yards on runs. Oregon had 258 yards and Utah 242. Colorado players repeatedly ran through tackle attempts in rallying from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit.

“Their offense caught a rhythm,” linebacker Myles Jack said. “Guys were going for the big hit rather than making the sure tackle and getting them on the ground.”


Asked which stung him more, rushing yards or passing yards, Jack said, “Giving them up on the ground. We feel more responsibility for that. We definitively take onus when they are running through us, getting first downs, getting eight yards on a carry. We take that personally.”

Arizona, No. 12 in the College Football Playoff ranking, is not a dominant running team, averaging 193.4 yards rushing per game, but the Wildcats do rack up yards and points.

They rank sixth nationally in total offense, averaging 541.9 yards per game, and 13th in scoring, averaging 40.6 points.

“What is underrated is their running game,” UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. “Last year, they ran for 239 yards against us. That’s the product of spreading you out to make you think pass and then here comes a run.”

It can also be a product of shoddy tackling, something the Bruins look to clean up this week.

“We have to get back to our technique,” Jack said.

Which is?

“Wrap up,” Vanderdoes said. “It’s pretty simple.”

A little help


Senior linebacker Eric Kendricks is coming off one of his best games. He had 16 tackles, 15 unassisted, and intercepted one pass against Colorado.

It was the product of a week of practice that Ulbrich said was, “probably the best week I have seen him have in Westwood.”

So the game plan is to get him off the field more … for his own good.

Kenny Young and Isaako Savaiinaea are in line for more work this week, according to Ulbrich.

“Eric is an amazing football player, we love him, but I got to find ways to help him out,” Ulbrich said. “If you are routinely getting 100 snaps per game, that’s not good as far as the entire season in regard to injury, but also in each particular game. Especially when I have guys like Isaako and Kenny who can come in and give him a blow.”

Role playing

Nate Iese has embraced his time at fullback after shuttling between offense and defense his first two seasons.

“I have a role now,” Iese said. “I’ve done this one before in high school. I enjoy it.”

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Iese may enjoy it more this week.

“I’d like to get him the ball more,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “I would really like to see him become more involved producing yards.”

Iese has 10 receptions, two for touchdowns.

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