PROVO When your offense plasters 59 points on the scoreboard, it will garner, as expected, most of the notoriety.
But the effort turned in Saturday by BYU's defense against a Pac-10 team that's historically been among the best football programs in the country is certainly hard to ignore.
The Cougars' 59-0 shellacking of UCLA was the Bruins' first shutout loss in the last eight years. Even more impressive, it was the third-worst loss in school history and the worst since the USC Trojans pounded the Bruins 76-0 in 1929. That's 79 years worth of football games put to shame on one visit to Provo.
And BYU's defense had a lot to do with it. Only twice did the Bruins get inside the BYU 20-yard line, and only once inside the 10. Never did UCLA sniff a touchdown. The closest the Bruins came to scoring was when Kai Forbath missed a 27-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. Two quarters earlier, a 32-yard attempt by Forbath was blocked by BYU's Russel Tialavea.
"They played terrifically," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said of BYU's defenders. "They were able to play everything in front of them because of the lead, and we weren't able to execute to the level that we need to be able to execute when we are playing this caliber of an opponent."
There's one other notch in the Cougars' defensive belt. In looking through scoring histories, this appears to be the first time ever that an offense directed by Norm Chow, at the college level, has been shut out.
"I think we're on the right track, but we can get even better," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
The most impressive defensive statistic is the 9-yard total that UCLA gained on the ground. The Bruins managed only 13 first downs, and converted only two of 10 third-down plays. Twice UCLA went for it on fourth down, and both times the Cougars denied the Bruins.
Also, the four turnovers that resulted in points for BYU each time were not as much giveaways for UCLA as they were takeaways by the Cougars.
"We came out with a full passion bucket today," defensive end Jan Jorgensen said. "We were flying around and hitting people. It was amazing, and I think refreshing for us to finally get some takeaways."
Mendenhall said his defense took a huge step forward from the Northern Iowa and Washington games. After giving up four touchdowns last week, a few changes in personnel were implemented, mainly because of injuries to the linebacker corps. For example, normal cornerback Scott Johnson lined up in several different positions on Saturday, giving the Cougars a much-quicker defensive backfield.
Overall, Mendenhall thought his defense was more confident and more precise on Saturday, and that they played with a lot more energy. He felt the real difference in the game was how physical the Cougars played."It sounded different. It was fierce, and it was aggressive, and it was dominating in terms of tenacity of play. And that's what I like," Mendenhall said.