UCLA sophomore linebacker Kenny Young grew up on a college football rivalry, but it wasn’t UCLA vs. USC.
As a youth in Louisiana, there was nothing bigger, and more loaded with bitterness, than a Louisiana State-Alabama game.
“That is a different comparison,” Young said when asked about the two rivalries. “It’s [Southeastern Conference] football. You have die-hard Tiger fans and die-hard Alabama fans. I’ve been to Baton Rouge for an LSU-Alabama game. It’s crazy.”
Young, who played at River Ridge (La.) John Curtis High, said he nearly chose LSU just because of that rivalry. What he knew about West Coast football was limited.
“I didn’t know about UCLA until my junior year in high school,” Young said. “I just knew about the whole USC tradition.
“I asked last year, ‘Is this game that big?’ I was told, ‘It’s like the LSU-Alabama rivalry of the Pac-12.’”
Young was indoctrinated during UCLA’s 38-20 victory over USC last season.
“I won my first rivalry game, that was pretty dope,” Young said. “The whole vibe was different. Everybody was excited — professors, students, everyone hyped up for the game. It gives the team energy to go out with a bang.”
A perk this season is that the winner earns a spot in the Pac-12 Conference title game against Stanford on Dec. 5.
“To go out last year and win was awesome,” Young said. “If we win this year, it will be even more special because we go to the Pac-12 championship.
“That’s a moment I want to share with my coaches and teammates. We have been working for that.”
Left tackle Conor McDermott is not expected to play this week after suffering a severe knee injury against Utah on Saturday.
That leaves redshirt freshman Kolton Miller protecting quarterback Josh Rosen’s blind side. He already has some experience in that duty.
Miller was rushed into the game when McDermott injured his knee on Oct. 15 against Stanford. Miller started at left tackle the following week against California and the next three games at right tackle.
Miller was inserted into the lineup at right tackle when guard Alex Redmond left the Utah game with what Coach Jim Mora said was an injury. Caleb Benenoch moved from tackle to guard. When McDermott left the game, Miller was flipped to the left side.
“He is very dependable for how young he is,” center Jake Brendel said. “He understands the offense. He understands his role. You need a guy that knows what he needs to do and tries his hardest every single play.”
At a loss
UCLA had eight tackles for losses against Utah, giving the Bruins 20 in the last two games. They had 15 in the previous four games.
“We were in a rhythm,” tackle Eli Ankou said.
After wading through injuries earlier in the season, Ankou said, “we’ve come together as a group a lot better. We were always close, [the injuries have] brought us closer.”
The Bruins have 17 sacks in the last five games. They had 10 through the first six games.