Lou Spanos is UCLA's Defensive Coordinator.
Have you heard much about Lou? That's what I thought. Me either—until after those adjustments against Nebraska last week.
Even as an avid NFL fan, I didn't know that Lou had been an NFL assistant coach for the past 17 years. You'd think we would have heard more about him. During the last two seasons he was the linebackers' coach for the Washington Redskins before he came to UCLA.
He was a defensive assistant with the Steelers for 15 years. He coached nine Steeler linebackers, who combined, had 19 Pro Bowl appearances. Coaching in the NFL doesn't necessarily make you a good defensive coordinator in college football. In Spanos' case, it seems to be working very well so far.
UCLA has only played two games, but the difference between the first half and second half, in both games, was like night and day. The reason is the halftime adjustments made by Coach Spanos. In fact, somewhere in New Mexico, former UCLA Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker is watching UCLA highlights and thinking back about how he loved making those Spanos-adjustments for the Bruins.
When UCLA went to Texas to play Rice, expectations were not very high. Most UCLA fans were only hoping for a win, after all, Rice was expected to be only an average FBS team (after bumping off Kansas on the road last week, we now know that Rice is pretty good).
Rice has a balanced offense and made nearly as many yards passing as it did rushing in the UCLA game. The problem is that it made most of its yards in the first half.
Rice scored 24 points and gained 284 yards in the first half.
After defensive adjustments, like using more nickel packages on 3rd-and-long, Rice could not score in the second half. In fact, the Owls couldn't even manage 74 yards on six drives in the second half.
So in the second half, Rice used all three-and-outs and scored no points.
Rice could not stop UCLA and did not make good adjustments against the Bruins. UCLA had 342 yards in the first half and 304 yards in the second half. The Bruins scored 35 points in the first half, 14 in the second.
I remember thinking "good adjustments in that game." But what if Rice was a cupcake? We would see when the big bully No. 16 Nebraska came to town.
Nebraska did come and brought half the state with them. All that the student section could wonder was how Hundley was going to part the Red Sea?—Especially at halftime when the game was tied 24-24. The score was this close mostly because Spanos brought the heat with the blitz in the first half.
Also UCLA's first half, the defensive rotation in the front-seven was faster than a Gatling gun.
There were only a few big plays like Martinez's big TD run.
Bruin fans were getting hopeful but were still nervous. Could Spanos make good defensive adjustments in order to hold the Cornhuskers?
His answer was to get more pressure by rushing four. Spanos also mixed it up with different blitzes. Martinez was always looking around to find the pressure before the snap.
The UCLA defense got to him. This was a meaner and nastier defense than in 2011.
Spanos also made a call to have the secondary drop back a bit—and it led to an interception.
The bewildered Martinez could only manage six points against UCLA in the entire second half.
That is only 25 percent of the production that Nebraska had in the first half.
Spanos not only answered the question: Could he make good adjustments against Nebraska? - he also issued a statement that this defense breaks for no one!
Nebraska gained 334 yards in the first half but could only manage 105 yards in the second half—first half: 24 points, then second half: six points.
That is what coaches like DeWayne Walker dream about when thinking 'great adjustments'.
Will Spanos make great adjustments against Houston?
It doesn't matter if your mascot is an owl, a corn cob or a kitty cat: Spanos will find a way to stop you with his defense.
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