Muasau delivered a key play early with an interception on the first play of Stanford’s second drive, which set Charbonnet up for a 23-yard touchdown on the next snap to put UCLA ahead 14-3.
The middle linebacker said he picked up on the play after watching it on film during the bus ride to the stadium. He saw that Stanford ran it against Arizona State last week, trying to get linebackers to bite on the run. Muasau didn’t take the bait.
“He’s a really instinctive football player,” Kelly said. “He’s one of those guys that’s calling out plays before they happen because he studies tape so much.”
Muasau transferred to UCLA after back-to-back 100-tackle seasons at Hawaii. He is now UCLA’s second-leading tackler with 52 stops and leads the team with two interceptions. Kelly called him “the rock that we build everything around,” on defense.
UCLA churned out elite linebacker talent for years under the previous coaching staff but struggled to find stability at the position under Kelly, who has relied mostly in transfers like Muasau to plug the critical defensive role.
“It means a lot to me, taking this role,” Muasau said. “The mike ‘backer, I see it as the quarterback role on the defense. I take a lot of pride in that. I lead this defense. They call on me and I call on them. … I really try to show up every game for them. Not just for myself, for my teammates.”