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Spring football report: Defense steps up

A few tidbits from Sunday afternoon's scrimmage at Spaulding Field:

  • The defense bounced back from its poor showing Thursday, limiting Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley to a combined 100 yards on 21 pass attempts. The only touchdown -- a three-yard run by Jordon James -- came late. The down field coverage was a particular strong point -- Courtney Viney beat out Jerry Rice Jr. for an interception at the goal line -- and Jordan Zumwalt absolutely flattened Malcolm Jones for a loss on a fourth-down dive. "I thought our defense really responded to some challenges of the offensive success on Thursday," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "I was pleased with the way they kept us out of the end zone. They really made the big plays when they had to."

  • Brehaut and Hundley overthrew their receiver on what would have been sure touchdowns. On his first drive, Hundley faked a pair of hand-offs before launching a pass to Josh Smith, who was streaking across the field. The ball sailed well past Smith's reach. Brehaut, meanwhile, missed Randall Carroll down the left sideline after Carroll had sped past the coverage. "We missed some balls that shouldn't be missed," Neuheisel said. "We had unforced errors. That to me is disappointing. You've got to get to a place as a quarterback where you don't miss those."

  • Brehaut finished with 38 yards on 4-for-8 passing; Hundley had 62 yards on 6-for-13 even though he had to improvise on a number of high snaps from lineman Kody Innes, who has been filling in for center Kai Maiava (ankle). "We're playing with an inexperienced center and this is a timing offense," Neuheisel said. "Brett doesn't get fazed very often. I thought he had a good day. I thought he did some really good things."

  • Redshirt freshman Kip Smith made just one of his four field goal attempts. He was good from 31 yards out, but missed on his final three attempts from 48, 52 and 37. UCLA is replacing former Lou Groza Award winner Kai Forbath, along with long snapper Christian Yount and place holder Danny Rees. "[Smith] made the first one and it was a beautiful thing," Neuheisel said. "And then the second one looked good but it kind of just twisted right. What we have to have is him being consistent enough that when he misses one he can go back out and hit the next one. The most disappointing one was just after he barely misses. The next one was horrible. We need better than that."

  • Neuheisel reflected on his trip to Alabama, where he attended the funeral of former UCLA offensive coordinator Homer Smith, saying, "The service was just exactly how you would want it to be. Some great stories, the church was filled with laughter. ... A tornado touched down on Tuscaloosa the day of -- that's typical Homer. He's going to go out with a bang."