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    UCLA’s ‘creatures’ giving opposing offenses nightmares
    • October 10, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — Washington State coach Jake Dickert had a vivid reaction when faced with UCLA’s defense Saturday afternoon.

    “They just have waves of these guys coming in and they’re creatures,” Dickert said during a postgame press conference. “And I don’t say that in a bad way. They’re big, long, they can rush the passer, they have aggressive schemes. And when you know you gotta pass, I think that’s when they pinned their ears back.”

    The Bruins defense allowed just 216 yards and only 12 on the ground in a 25-17 win over the Cougars. It was also the fourth consecutive game in which UCLA (4-1, 1-1), now ranked 18th in the country, gave up less than 300 yards of total offense. The defense has multiple tried-and-true pieces, but transfers are adding to the unit’s capabilities as well.

    Oluwafemi Oladejo and Jordan Anderson each forced turnovers against Washington State, which was ranked 13th in the country, with an interception and two forced fumbles, respectively.

    “I almost dropped it, but thank god we got it,” Oladejo said of his interception.

    Oladejo, a linebacker who transferred from California, and Anderson, a defensive back who transferred from Bowling Green, shared feelings after practice Tuesday of having to prove themselves.

    “Everybody wants to get the opportunity to do it,” Anderson said. “When the opportunity is called, you know you’ve got to make the best of it. But we’re a family. So once everybody is doing everything good for the defense, we’re all cheering for each other so when that time is called, we’re going to make our time shine.”

    UCLA’s defense is ranked in the top 10 in the nation in team sacks (tied for eighth with 18), tackles for loss per game (fifth with 8.8) and total defense (fifth with 254.2 yards per game).

    As if Oladejo’s 17 tackles for Cal in last year’s 35-28 UCLA victory weren’t enough, redshirt senior linebacker Darius Muasau was won over by Oladejo shortly after he arrived from Berkeley.

    “’Femi earned my respect,” said Muasau, who leads the Bruins with 26 total tackles and is second with four sacks. “He’s a hard-working dude. He comes in every day ready to work. He puts in the work in the weight room and on the field. He’s a great young man. I love to watch his growth as he progresses.”

    The linebacker drills are completed with enthusiastic aggression each morning, and although he’s not leading off the drills, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Oladejo embodies the UCLA defense. His feet are quick and each hit seems to land with a pop rather than a thud.

    UCLA faces No. 15 Oregon State (5-1, 2-1) on Saturday in Corvallis. The Beavers average 205.5 rushing yards per game. Oladejo said, as a linebacker, these are the games that get him excited.

    “Play fast, hit, get aggressive, trigger,” the junior said. “It’s going to be fun.”

    Matavao feeling confident

    Oregon transfer Moliki Matavao had his most productive game of the season Saturday when the 6-foot-6 tight end caught three passes for 76 yards.

    “I thought (Matavao) was huge,” coach Chip Kelly said after the Washington State game. “He came up really big.”

    Matavao, a redshirt sophomore, spoke to media after practice Tuesday and said his confidence has grown as he’s adjusted to UCLA’s offense and become more fluid in his route running. He’s still maintaining a level head ahead of Oregon State.

    “We just had a good game, but we can’t be too high, can’t be too low,” he said. “I’ve gotta be steady and focused and it’s on to the next week.”

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    Schedule changes

    UCLA football announced updates to its 2024 and 2032 schedules Tuesday morning.

    The Bruins will now play Fresno State on Nov. 30, 2024, instead of the originally slated date of Sept. 14, 2024. UCLA will also travel to Fresno State’s Valley Children’s Stadium for the first time for a game Sept. 4, 2032.

    UCLA is 6-4 all-time against the Bulldogs, with nine of the contests held at the Rose Bowl.

    ​ Orange County Register