Jeff Ulbrich had a plan, and it lacked any subtlety.
UCLA’s defensive coordinator wanted the Bruins to put Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters in the turf in Friday’s Alamo Bowl — bury him under it if they could — seeing a weakness he thought his team could exploit up front.
That meant eight players in the box on the Wildcats’ first snap. That meant Butkus Award winner Eric Hendricks coming at Waters from all different angles.
Seven UCLA sacks, 12 tackles for loss and one 40-35 victory later, it’s safe to say the plan worked like gangbusters.
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“We committed to that early on, to forcing the issue,” Ulbrich said. “We wanted to get after them a little bit, and we ended up getting to them quite a few times.”
Start to finish, K-State had no answer for UCLA’s first two levels of defenders — Kendricks finished with 10 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss on his way to Alamo Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player honors.
Sophomore Deon Hollins, just 6-foot and 225 pounds, ran circles around K-State offensive tackle Matt Kleinsorge, who was benched and replaced by center B.J. Finney in the second half.
Hollins also got to Finney, getting past him on a deft rip move for a sack in the fourth quarter.
“It was absolutely tremendous, the whole bowl preparation I worked on having a great plan for going against a great offensive line,” Hollins said. “It worked perfectly.”
Kendricks opened the game with a sack on K-State’s first offensive play for an 8-yard loss, and Hollins’ hurry on the second play forced a Waters incompletion.
“I think my offensive line played really well, except for a few plays,” Waters said. “They were doing everything they could out there.”
Hollins picked up two sacks in the second quarter, including one deep in UCLA territory on third-and-7 that forced K-State to kick a field goal.
“I just wanted to help my team,” Hollins said. “I started cramping up when (K-State) starting coming back, so I just wanted to get back out there and help my team.”
Hollins said the Bruins’ dominance up front led to some frustration on K-State’s part.
“Things started to get a little chippy out there, they started throwing some late blows,” Hollins said. “Things got chippy. I tried to shake hands with (K-State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair) after the game and he wanted nothing to do with it. Walked right by me.”
UCLA offered no apologies afterward.
“We definitely played with an aggressive style this game, which was what Coach (Jim) Mora and Coach Ulbrich have been preaching all season,” said UCLA defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who had one sack. “Today’s game was a testament to our commitment to the game plan.”
“Deon is just a freak, isn’t he?” Ulbrich said. “He’s got some crazy pass-rush moves. The future is bright for that kid.”
It wasn’t just K-State’s offensive line that struggled, either. UCLA’s offensive line paved the way for 331 rushing yards, led by sophomore Paul Perkins’ 194 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for the Bruins.
“Everything came together for them tonight,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “You saw them hitting those blocks, getting to the next level and Paul running through these huge holes.”