Injuries to UCLA’s defensive players change goal-line offense

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack powers the ball down to the Virginia one-yard line in the second half of the season opener, moments before scoring a touchdown.

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack powers the ball down to the Virginia one-yard line in the second half of the season opener, moments before scoring a touchdown.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It was a formidable formation.

UCLA’s offense leaned heavily on its defense in goal-line situations. The backfield consisted of 305-pound defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and 310-pound nose tackle Kenny Clark blocking in front of 245-pound linebacker Myles Jack.

Jack had scored 11 rushing touchdowns in a little more than two seasons. Clark caught a touchdown pass this season and Vanderdoes scored on a one-yard run in 2014.

But those hefty days are over, at least for now. Vanderdoes and Jack have suffered season-ending knee injuries.

“That was kind of our signature thing, playing a lot of defensive kids in short-yardage situations on the goal line,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “With Eddie and Kenny, you got a couple of 300-pounders coming out of the backfield lead blocking on linebackers instead of a 235-pound kid. Basically, it’s about physics. Big is big.”


Add the speedy Jack, who hit opponents as hard as a running back as he did as a linebacker, and you had a running scheme that was hard to handle.

“Being a spread offense, we don’t have an overabundance of big, skilled guys — tight ends, big backs,” Mazzone said. “So using defensive linemen and linebackers was really a plus for us. We’re going to miss those guys.”

What the Bruins do have is Paul Perkins, who added weight during the off-season and is up to 210 pounds. He has demonstrated a grind-it-out ability in short-yardage situations this season.

Perkins bullied his way to a one-yard touchdown run against Arizona. He had a similar moment against Brigham Young, when he carried the ball five consecutive times with the Bruins on the 17-yard line and scored on a five-yard run.

“One of the unnoticed things about Paul is he has really taken leaps and bounds in those two- and three-yard runs,” Mazzone said. “Everyone sees the 70-yarder, but he has become really good at getting his pads down and finding that little crease. You need that to be a good short-yardage or goal-line runner.”

Injury report


Linebacker Jayon Brown (back) remains questionable for Saturday’s game against Arizona State at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins are so thin at linebacker that fullback Taylor Legace was moved to defense this week. Legace, a junior, came to UCLA as a linebacker.

UCLA’s offensive line also took a hit. Poasi Moala, a key reserve, suffered a broken hand this week, though he still might play.

Payton’s place

Receiver Jordan Payton had seven receptions for 136 yards and one touchdown against Arizona. It left him with 142 career receptions, tying him for sixth with Sean LaChapelle (1989-92) on UCLA’s all-time list.

Payton is 52 receptions shy of becoming UCLA’s career leader. Craig Bragg had 193 receptions from 2001 to ’04.

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