UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week

After a star performance in UCLA’s 28-20 win over Virginia, linebacker Eric Kendricks was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week.

The senior recorded a game-high 16 tackles against the Cavaliers, but also made two more highlight plays: forcing a fumble that turned into a 75-yard touchdown return for safety Randall Goforth, and taking back a pick-six of his own a few minutes later.

Despite all that, he didn’t seem satisfied.

“I left a lot of stuff on the field,” Kendricks said Monday. “I can improve every week. I made a lot of little rookie mistakes. … If you watch the film, you’d see that I made some key mistakes in the pass game as far as drops and stuff like that, so I’m gonna get back to it.”

He also described what he saw on his 37-yard interception return late in the second quarter, UCLA’s third defensive touchdown of the day and one that gave the team a 21-3 lead.

“I knew I had him,” he said. But I knew whatever coverage I was in — I kind of made a break on the ball, and I kind of played on the hip. As soon as I made a break on the ball, I saw the ball squeak over the line and I broke on it. … A lot of it was — I don’t know, I can’t really explain it. I just did it.”

Kendricks took advantage, but that play really started when UCLA’s defense completely dominated broke down Virginia’s protection — getting four players right in front of quarterback Greyson Lambert. Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa said it was a schematic win: Bruins’ coaches had called for the defense to bait the offensive tackles into moving their feet.

“Once we got them moving one way, we came back under another way and four guys were in (Lambert’s) face,” Odighizuwa said. “He had to make a decision: ‘Either I get sacked by four guys, or I throw the ball now.’ He so happened to throw it right into Eric Kendricks’ hands.”