LOS ANGELES — The UCLA football team reserves its Force 5 award for the player who made the biggest impact that week. The award honors Kenny Easley, a recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and a UCLA legend renowned for his tenacity and toughness.
It’s only given out after wins, and the winner receives a helmet sticker and a strip of leather to put on his facemask. The little trophies aren’t flashy and usually go unnoticed on the field, which makes last week’s honorees the perfect recipients.
The team recognized its often-overlooked offensive line this week for its contribution to UCLA’s win over Arizona State last Saturday. The group blocked for a season-high 192 rushing yards and allowed no sacks.
“It’s nice once in a while to get recognition,” right guard Michael Alves said. “(Coach Jim Mora) said that we worked really hard, and not a lot of people see that.”
During an injury-riddled season, the UCLA offensive line has been the only unit without a change in the starting lineup. The Bruins have trotted out the same starting five for nine consecutive games: Kolton Miller at left tackle, Najee Toran at left guard, Scott Quessenberry at center, Alves at right guard and Andre James at right tackle. The only major hiccup came when Toran hurt his knee in the second quarter against Colorado, but he was back for the next game. The rare consistency is starting to reveal positive results for the Bruins (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12).
“I think the cohesiveness of the unit,” offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said when asked about the offensive line’s biggest improvements. “The communication, the ability to make calls quicker, which allows you to play faster and which in turn kind of eliminates some of the mental errors that have occurred.”
Fisch said the offensive line’s performance against Arizona State was its best of the year. The Bruins neutralized an ASU defense that was averaging 3.33 sacks per game.
Quarterback Josh Rosen wiggled out of a few…