Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive Coordinator Lou Spanos
One incredibly vital component of college football is the ability to make adjustments on the fly during a game. The side that can do it best in a tight contest will more than likely win the game.
For two straight weeks, defensive coordinator Lou Spanos has shown the wherewithal to do just that.
In UCLA's season opener against Rice, it relinquished 24 points in the first half. In the second half? The Bruins pitched a shutout.
Against Nebraska, quarterback Taylor Martinez was hurting the Bruins on zone reads. He was able to fake out the defense and scamper for a 92-yard touchdown in the first half. The Cornhuskers were running the ball well, and thus also scored 24 points in the first half.
Similar to what they did against Rice, Spanos switched up his defense and played primarily a dime package. It gave him an extra defensive back on the field, and it made the defense faster overall.
Predominantly in the second half, the defensive line of the Bruins' defense (namely Datone Jones and Owa Odighizuwa) was getting consistent pressure on Martinez. As a result, it made the Nebraska quarterback flustered—which led to erratic decision-making and eventually an interception.
Spanos came to the realization that he didn't need to bring a ton of pressure. He did that in the first halves of both games, and it opened up running lanes for the mobile quarterbacks in the center of the field.
The defensive line is a definite strength of the team, and its constant pressure afforded Spanos to sit back and diagnose the game differently. It also allowed for outside linebackers Jordan Zumwalt and Anthony Barr to rush effectively up field from different spots.
Nebraska only scored six points in the second half. It was the defensive effort in the second stanza that won the game for the Bruins.