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Tuesday, September 2, 2008
How about that Pac-10 defense?


Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
 UCLA's tenacious defense kept the Bruins in the game, despite a weak performance from the offense in the first half.

PASADENA, Calif. -- The final score sheet said Tennessee piled up 366 yards, but that doesn't tell the story of a UCLA defense that was the cornerstone of the Bruins' 27-24 overtime victory.

Despite four first-half interceptions tossed by Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft, including one returned for a touchdown, UCLA only trailed 14-7 at the break.

Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker also was working with marching orders to play conservatively and not take high-risk, high-reward chances because the offense, it was thought, wouldn't be able to make up the difference.

"DeWayne's defense kept us in the game," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We came into the game with an idea of how to manage field position. I told him to be a little more conservative on their end of the field and if they get to the 50, now use your tricks."

The defense produced two takeaways, including one on a critical Arian Foster fumble on the Bruins' 6-yard line.

It only had one sack, but it consistently pressured and rattled Vols QB Jonathan Crompton, who completed only 18 of 40 passes for 184 yards with an interception. At one point in the fourth quarter, Crompton had missed on nine of 10 passes.

Up front, the Bruins more than handled what was reputed to be the SEC's best offensive line.

"They think the Pac-10 is soft," senior tackle Brigham Harwell said. "We let the people talk and talk and talk. But talk is cheap. We had to prove it."

The Bruins produced eight tackles for a loss. Cornerback Alterraun Verner, who Walker reserved special praise for, had six tackles to go with his interception. End Korey Bosworth had the lone sack.

Walker wasn't happy about giving up 177 yards rushing, but he was happy about how the group held together while repeatedly finding itself in binds created by the offense.

"What I like about these guys is how they all care about each other -- they care about the offensive guys, not only the defensive guys," Walker said. "They know our job is to keep them out of the end zone regardless of how many times we have to go out on the field."

And that end result made it all worthwhile.

"Besides the USC win my junior year, this is the biggest win of my career and for our program," Harwell said.