A new day for UCLA’s defense?

The opener against Bowling Green certainly offered plenty of positives on the defensive side of the football. In the debut of new defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, UCLA posted nine tackles for loss and held the Falcons under 40 yards rushing. The defense played with aggression.

Defensive lineman Gary Smith III said that’s how it should be every time they step on the field.

“Just getting to see the intensity we played with. I feel like we played with a dog mentality and that’s how every defense should look anytime we step on the field,” he said, according to The OC Register’s James H. Williams.

Smith finished with a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. You can see in the above video he says he felt he left a few plays on the field, though. The message from the defense after the game has been that they remain hungry.

That’s an encouraging sign. Yes, Bowling Green scored 17 points on the Bruins, but seven of those came directly from special teams and another three came via a possession that began on the UCLA 11-yard-line because of a turnover. Bowling Green gained five yards after a muffed punt set them up in prime scoring position and was forced to kick a field goal.

Put the defense on the hook for seven points.

“I liked their effort and how hard they played,” coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “For us to do what we did, hold them to under 200 yards and really seven points, that was really impressive to start the season. And hopefully we can build upon that.”

The Bruins face Alabama State on Saturday, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Network.