Gameday Roundup: Taking Care of Business

Well, the expectations for today are pretty simple. Everyone is expecting a blow out win from Dorrell's team today. Even Dohn (just two games into this season) alludes to those expectations when discussing the questions swirling around Dorrell's offense heading into today's game:

Anything but a strong display for No. 11 UCLA (2-0) today at winless Utah (0-2) and those questions will grow exponentially, and the players already hear the grumbling.

"I think it's time for us to show everybody who we are as an offense," UCLA right tackle Brian Abraham said. "I keep hearing all these questions about us not being able to score points. I think it's time to show everyone and remove all that doubt from everyone's mind."

That was UCLA's plan from the outset, but Jay Norvell's first two games as UCLA's offensive coordinator brought more of the same questions. Namely, whether his complex version of the West Coast offense can succeed in college, where, unlike the NFL, practice time is limited.

Sure, the Bruins scored 45 points against hapless Stanford, but history proves that is an anomaly. It was the most points UCLA scored since the 2005 Sun Bowl.

In the high-scoring world of college football, the 20 points the offense was responsible for against BYU would not put them in the nation's top 80 teams if it were on a per-game basis, and the execution against the Cougars was sloppy.

"We need to play at a higher level," Norvell said. "We wanted to move the ball consistently. We wanted to score when we had the ball in red zone. We just didn't sustain drives and convert on third down. We wanted to be more effective on first down, and we didn't throw the ball at the level we wanted to."
Well, that kind of woulda coulda shoulda talk is not going to work after today's game. As Kuwada from the OC Register confirms what we have been saying most of this week: the Utes present the perfect opportunity for UCLA offense to get well:
The Utes might afford Olson and the Bruins an opportunity to improve. After struggling against Brigham Young defense that is designed to limit big plays and force opponent's into sustaining drives, they face a team in Utah that employs a far more aggressive style of defense.

The Utes, though weak against the run, will blitz, play some man-to-man on the outside. As proven in the opening, 45-17 victory at Stanford, the Bruins are better when they can move forward off big plays (UCLA had runs of 59, 31, 24 and 16 yards in their victory over the Cardinal as well as pass plays of 77, 49, 27 and 22 yards).

There should be ample opportunity for the Bruins to make plays against the Utes, who have allowed 5.4 yards per rushing play and will have to stop the run first.
We will see how it works out today. I don't think the Bruins could ask for a better opponent to get the anemic offense clicking heading into the main Pac-10 season. Also, from the same article, in which Kuwada has a unit comparison, I thought this was pretty amusing:
COACHING
UCLA merits an edge, with DeWayne Walker and Jay Norvell calling the defense and the offense. But this game, for the Bruins, comes down to the players and their ability to execute, which was an issue against BYU. That of course falls to Coach Karl Dorrell and his staff, but how good is a perfectly prepared steak if the waiter drops it on the way to the table? Edge:UCLA.
Man I really feel sorry for any fanbase who has to put up with a coaching staff over which Karl Dorrell's crew can be perceived to have some kind of "edge." That is saying something.

Going back to us, this is a game in which our coaches and players simply have to take care of business in order to ameliorate the concerns that have surfaced after the BYU game. It's a theme that is echoed in Foster's game day report in the LA Times:
"If we're the team everybody thinks we are, and that we think we can be, this is a game we should win," Bruins cornerback Rodney Van said. "I'm not saying we should win big. I'm not saying it should be a blowout. But this is a game you should take care of. In the back of your mind, you know and everybody knows this is a game we should win."
Anyways, Dohn has more notes on the team, including some interesting comments from Harwell's Dad, Joe Williams:
"He told me, `I'm not coming back unless I feel I can come back and be healthy,' " said Williams, who gained legal custody of Harwell before high school. "He said, `I'm not going to let them force me to come back.' When it gets closer, I will talk to (UCLA) coach (Karl) Dorrell and (offensive line) coach (Todd) Howard."

UCLA has not made Harwell available to speak to the media since he was injured last Saturday against BYU.

"If he can be an asset and help the team later in the season, of course, he's going to do that," Williams said. "All he can do is try to get the knee better. We talked about redshirting, and that is an option."
I wonder who Harwell is referring to when he mentioned not letting them force him to come back. I think this is a story we have to keep a very close eye on. Also, from the same report, Dohn notes that Price is still out for at least another week and will not be ready for the Washington game. Again, as we have mentioned before, this is a detail everyone should hold Dorrell accountable for.

It doesn't matter how injury issues play out the rest of the season. Dorrell needs to come up with wins and take care of business. Check out this comment from Whittingham on injury issues in the LA Times report linked above:
"The reality is, at a Southeastern Conference or Pac-10 school, you have two or three blue-chip players at every position. In the Mountain West, your first 22 [players] are very good, but it is the depth that makes it difficult. You lose a couple key guys and it hurts."
And that's our point. If Dorrell truly has built a BCS caliber program by his 5th season, injury issues simply shouldn't matter at this point. The Bruins will have to plug in whoever is available, and come up with wins. Last time I checked, UCLA is not a MWC level program where losing some key players can effect the overall team's performance. The injury excuse simply will not fly in Dorrell's fifth season, because if someone raises it, it would mean Dorrell hasn't been able to get the job done on the recruiting trail since he has arrived in Westwood.

Anyways, Dorrell can help take care of all these concerns by going out there and taking care of business, which means put together a convincing win today.

GO BRUINS.
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