Kenny Young is asked about how the UCLA defense wilted after one quarter against Utah last week. Then he’s asked about the slow growth of UCLA’s young players. Then he’s asked about the injuries that have decimated his linebacker group.
“So negative,” the senior linebacker says while shaking his head and chuckling. “So negative. Be positive.”
Young finds a way to put a happy face on UCLA’s defense that is on pace to shatter school records in futility and an offense that has lost its top two pass-catchers due to season-ending injuries. This year is likely far from the one the New Orleans native envisioned as his final ride in Westwood, but he’ll try to salvage every last scrap of positivity until the end.
“No one has given up right now,” Young said. “There’s still hope. We still can make a bowl game. And that’s what our focus is right now.”
Young is guaranteed three more games of his collegiate career, starting when UCLA (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) faces Arizona State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. For the senior to make it four more games, the Bruins have to win twice in the next three weeks.
When UCLA has the ball
The Bruins are painfully familiar with Arizona State’s ability to rush the quarterback. The image of Josh Rosen curled up in the fetal position at Sun Devil Stadium clutching his right shoulder is still the defining moment of last year’s struggles.
This year, the Sun Devils (5-4, 4-2 Pac-12) are even better.
Under first-year defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, a 39-year coaching veteran whose career before Tempe includes six years as a head coach at SMU and eight coordinator stops at eight different schools, ASU is second in the Pac-12 and eight in the country with 3.3 sacks per game.
Head coach Todd Graham’s teams often got to the quarterback using exotic blitz packages, but under Bennett, UCLA head coach Jim Mora is noticing a change. In ASU’s 13-7 upset win over, the Sun Devils rarely blitzed, relying on three- or four-man rushes and sticky coverage in the secondary, he said. It worked as the Sun Devils sacked Washington quarterback Jake Browning five times.
“Sometimes aggression or attacking can be mistook for blitzing,” Mora said. “You can play with an attacking mindset and an attacking mentality without blitzing all the time so I see them still playing with that mindset.”
The Sun Devils have six players with three or more sacks, led by linebacker Alani Latu, whose six sacks in seven games…