Gameday recap: Tennessee 15, UCLA 19
The UCLA game plan was simple: Put the ball in Jonathan Crompton's hands and make him beat you.
"We knew the run was their strength,'' said Bruins' middle linebacker Reggie Carter, who led UCLA with 14 tackles, "and if we forced them to throw they couldn't win.''
That's pretty much how it played out in the Bruins' 19-15 victory over Tennessee before a crowd of 102,239 at Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon.
UCLA bowed up with a goal-line stand with two minutes left, stopping Montario Hardesty on a fourth-and-2 at the Bruins' 2-yard line with 1:49 remaining.
"It was a gut-check job by our defense to keep them out of the end zone,'' UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said.
UT forced a safety and got the ball back with 1:37 left, but the Vols were unable to pick up a first down and the Bruins regained possession and ran out the clock.
UCLA's defense was stout throughout the day, forcing three Crompton interceptions and limiting the Vols' senior quarterback to 93 yards on 13-of-26 passing.
UCLA senior cornerback Alterraun Verner said UT's offense didn't do anything to confuse the Bruins.
"They had to keep it simple for their quarterback knowing they had strong running backs in Bryce Brown and Hardesty,'' Verner said. "That let us adjust to play the run.
"I was very surprised they didn't take a couple shots (deep passes) downfield, but we got in their (receivers') faces and got to the quarterback.''
The Bruins recorded three sacks and kept the pressure on Crompton throughout as the Vols' pass protection faltered against UCLA's experienced front seven.
"We really didn't blitz much at all,'' Carter said. "They called it a couple times, and they hit us with a big run, so I told them to quit calling it.''
Neuheisel said UCLA kept things more conservative on offense as the game wore on.
"I felt like our defense was taking over the game, so it wasn't necessary to be real risky offensively,'' Neuheisel said. "There's no question I was relying on the defense.
"I kind of put the handcuffs on Norm (Chow),'' Neuheisel said, referring to the Bruins' celebrated offensive coordinator. "Once we made it a two-score game (19-10, 2:39 in the third quarter), it was putting pressure on their offense, and I liked that match up.''
UCLA's offense, meanwhile, did its job to keep the Bruins' defense fresh by holding a considerable advantage in time of possession (25:56 to 19:04) as the teams entered the final quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince completed 11 of 23 passes for 101 yards, but more importantly, Prince avoided throwing any interceptions.
"I was a little timid at first,'' Prince admitted. "But I kept thinking of it as an opportunity to show the nation UCLA football. At halftime, Coach Chow told us we could hang with these guys.
"The second half I didn't get hit nearly as much. They did a little more zone (coverage) in the second half, and they did some things to close up the run.''
Neuheisel indicated that Vols' defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin didn't show as many looks over the final 30 minutes.
"The old fox Monte Kiffin, you knew he'd have some stuff and challenge us early in the first half,'' Neuheisel said. "You could tell how wiley he was because he never used any of it again in the second half.
"He lets you go in and make your adjustments, and then you never see it again.''