Spaulding Roundup: The Eugene Challenge

Bruins are off to their second road trip of this season and lot of folks are probably wondering whether they are going to get BYUed  up in Eugene. Right now the Bruins are somewhere between 16 to 21 point underdogs. No one is feeling confident about Bruins given their recent history on the road. With the backdrop in mind, Neuheisel has been talking about a young team’s need to block out distractions on the road:

The Bruins have lost 11 of their last 14 road games and in the losses have been outscored 423-160.

Coach Rick Neuheisel said the key to a team, especially a young team, succeeding away from home is blocking out distractions.

"Not letting the bells and whistles that exist outside the field of play get your attention, not letting the crowd start to disrupt you and affect your attention to details," he said, "that's the key."

So was it a bell-ringing, whistle-blowing crowd at BYU that was the problem?

"I have to give credit where credit is due," Neuheisel said. "I thought BYU played really well. I don't know that there were a lot of bells and whistles. I think we went out there and thought we could just feel our way into that game and we caught an explosion. And then we added insult to injury with the three turnovers and blocked kick in four successive series. So it was over before it started."

Just how crucial is it for UCLA to eliminate mistakes? Check out these numbers courtesy of John Hunt in the Oregonian:

More familiarity means fewer turnovers, and that would be a good thing for UCLA, which is 24-2 since 2003 when it wins the turnover battle and 13-29 in that time when it does not. The Bruins forced four turnovers in last year's 16-0 win over Oregon at the Rose Bowl - a game the Ducks would like to forget as much as last week's 44-10 loss at USC.

It was the early turnovers that devastated Bruins up in Provo too. Bruins were heavy underdogs in that game. But they gave away any chances they had to fight in that game by coughing up the ball early and often. If they want to remain competitive in Eugene, they will have to eliminate those mistakes.

Speaking of staying competitive with Oregon, DeWayne Walker is faced with the challenge of containing Oregon’s explosive (spread) offense. Brian Dohn reports on Walker’s headache:

Oregon running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount both have as many rushing yards as UCLA's offense, and in six games the Ducks are averaging almost half as many points as the Bruins scored this season.

And Oregon's passing game, which is expected to be led by the quarterback tandem of Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper, is also explosive and balanced, with four players making at least 22 catches.

It has made for a headache of a week for UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, charged with slowing down Oregon when the Bruins play Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

"I think (Ducks offensive coordinator) Chip Kelly does a great job. They've got a good scheme, good running backs, a darn good tight end," Walker said. "They've got receivers that know the system and can make plays. I've read all the yards they gained, other than their last game, and it's ridiculous numbers. Ridiculous numbers."

UCLA defensive end Korey Bosworth said sticking to assignments is paramount to stopping the Ducks' spread offense. He said the quarterbacks mask the ball well, and defenses are easily confused if they are caught looking for the football rather than taking care of their assignment.

"If you try to make a play too fast, or too soon, you're going to get your (butt) kicked," Bosworth said. "You really have to stick with your blocks, and get off them when you need to get a pass rush."

While Bosworth and co will have to stay disciplined and stick with their assignments, they will also need to get a little creative I think. I don’t think this is the kind of game where Walker can afford to sit back and let the Oregon offense carve his defense up underneath. The Bruins will need to bring pressure and show a mix of blitz packages.

Yesterday I read about some concern about moving Carter out of MLB. I have to disagree respectfully because I agree with Walker's decision to put him at WLB (btw I also read Carter’s comment in the PE.com as a total tongue and cheek complaining about coach’s decision to move him to WLB). The two killer Bs (Price and Harwell) are clogging up the run up the middle. However, where Bruins need help is containing opposing rushing attack from the outside. It sure helps to have someone line Carter to help with his speed and athleticism on the outside. We haven't been able to replace the explosiveness Bruce Davis brought as a DE from  the outside. Since we are not getting that from our current DEs,it helps to have someone of Carter's caliber to help out on the outside.  I think the LB corp will become more effective if we see more and more of Ayer’s speed at SLB. I also think Steve Sloan has done a pretty decent job at MLB in last three games. That's how I am seeing it ... but if you have other ides/suggestions ... of course feel free to fire away.

Anyway, going back to the main point, it will be interesting to see whether our defensive scheme differs a little from what we saw up in Provo. Meanwhile, up in Eugene, Oregon is looking to get its offensive groove back by running all over UCLA’s rush defense:

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has emphasized the importance of getting the Ducks' running attack back on track Saturday night when UCLA visits Autzen Stadium. Despite the zero yards from Blount and 45 yards from senior Jeremiah Johnson against USC, the Ducks remain the Pacific-10 Conference's top rushing offense -- and the seventh-best in the nation.

They figure to have plenty of opportunities to run against the Bruins, who rank seventh in the Pac-10 in rushing defense. A year ago, Oregon was held to 43 yards on the ground in a 16-0 loss at UCLA, and it finished with 60 yards rushing against USC last week.

"I feel we have a wake-up call to answer," Bellotti said.

Hopefully Price, Harwell, Carter, Bosworth and rest of the Bruins defense are up and ready for the challenge.

Lastly, Crissman is having surgery today  "to repair a frayed labrum in his throwing shoulder." Hope it all goes well. Here is to Nick having a successful rehab next few month. It will be great to have him back at Spaulding when he is at full strength and ready to compete with other young Bruin guns next season.

GO BRUINS.

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