— Thuc Nhi Nguyen (@thucnhi21) April 12, 2017
Despite having to replace six starters, the UCLA defense has been the consistent winners of spring practice so far. The defense added another victory to its tally Wednesday.
The prize for winning practice? Running.
The unit that wins the day has to run the width of the field and back. It’s a weird way to reward the winners, but one that the defense relishes.
“I think it’s just because Coach Mora wants them to watch us get better while they just stand around and do nothing,” defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa said of why the winning team has to run. “There’s just like jokes going around in the locker room, like, ‘Defense, let’s just lose this one,’ but it’s all jokes.”
Here are notes/observations from the day:
— Although the defense won the day, the offense shows some good signs of progress. The No. 1 offense scored its first touchdowns in a team period.
— First team period: Drive near the red zone
— Josh Rosen threw an interception on third down that killed the No. 1 offense’s first drive. It came from a great play from Nate Meadors, who tipped a pass into the waiting arms of Jaleel Wadood, who would have been able to take it for a pick-6. On its second drive, the No. 1 offense came within inches of scoring. Rosen and Co. got what I believe was their first first down of the spring on a pass from Rosen to Eldridge Massington. Meadors got lost in coverage on the play. Nate Starks brought the offense to the 1-yard line, rushing for two yards on third-and-3, but Bolu Olorunfunmi got stopped on fourth down.
— Devon Modster’s first drive ended in made 47-yard field goal from J.J. Molson. It’s been a few days in a row in which Modster’s led the No. 2 offense, so it looks like he’s starting to take a hold of that backup job.
— Matt Lynch’s No. 3 offense scored the first touchdown of the day as the quarterback got some help from Damian Alloway. Alloway made a big first-down catch, getting down to secure a low throw inside the 5-yard line. Khalil Muhammad capped the drive with a touchdown run.
— Second team period: Goal line
— Viewing was not ideal for this period as the team was on the opposite end of the field. But it looked like drives were starting inside the 10-yard line. The No. 1 offense scored touchdowns on both of its drives, the first one coming on a run from Soso Jamabo. The No. 2 defense scored a touchdown on a pass from Modster to Caleb Wilson. It didn’t look like the No. 3 offense scored.
— Third team period: Open field (drives started about 60-70 yards away)
— The No. 1 offense really got rolling in this period. Rosen led a two touchdown drives. On the first drive, Adarius Pickett and Josh Woods combined for a bone-crushing hit on Nate Starks that left the running back down on the field for a few extra moments. He eventually got up and jogged off to the side. Olorunfunmi finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run that stretched to the sideline as he tucked the ball inside the front corner of the end zone. On the unit’s second drive, Rosen hooked up with Jordan Lasley for a 15-yard completion after Lasley made a good adjustment to the ball that was a little behind him. Rosen found Massington on a back shoulder throw for the touchdown as Massington went against Denzel Fisher on the outside on fourth down. Between the second and third periods, the No. 1 offense seemed to score on four consecutive drives.
— Neither the No. 2 nor No. 3 offenses scored in the final team period. Modster had a good completion to Audie Omotosho near the sideline that the receiver caught while going down to a knee. When Modster looked for Omotosho later in the drive, Mossi Johnson, playing corner, shut down the receiver and Will Lockett provided good support coming over from his safety position.
— Jamabo had a very rough day in pass protection drills as Kenny Young and Lokeni Toailoa each beat the running back in consecutive reps. After Toailoa blew through Jamabo, the Texas native threw his helmet to the ground in frustration. Jamabo got two more reps and did better, but didn’t look like he necessarily won either one.
— On the flipside, Nate Starks again showed his worth in pass protection. He obliterated Krys Barnes on a rep that drew ohs and ahs from the offense. Barnes then went to the sideline to discuss different techniques with Woods, who typically excels at the drill.
— Caleb Wilson also had a positive day in pass protection, stuffing Breland Brandt on back-to-back reps.
— Austin Roberts remained on the exercise bikes after yesterday. It’s unsure what is ailing him at this point.
— Poasi Moala (hip surgery) again observed the first walk-through period in shorts on the field before going back to the exercise bikes.
— Darren Andrews had a lighter day of work as he sat out most of the individual/position drills. He resurfaced during 7-on-7s and the team periods.
— Neither Molson nor Andrew Strauch missed a kick. Along with his 47-yarder during the team period and a made extra point, Molson was 3-for-3 at the end of practice, so 5-for-5 on the day. Strauch was 2-for-2 at the end of practice (3-for-3 on the day with a made PAT during team period). Crawford Pierson was 2-for-4.