Spaulding Roundup: Guerrerro Steps Up

Sooooo. What a way to wake up this Friday morning.

I am sure all of you have something else on your mind today, but I need to keep the focus on our Bruins at least to start our day. We will end this game week by closing the loop on all the discussion re. UCLA Athletic Department’s unconventional and bizarre (to put it charitably) marketing blitz around tomorrow’s game. I hadn’t really formulated any thoughts on it because I thought sooner or later DG would step up and address the situation head on. Well DG didn’t disappoint and stepped up yesterday:

Guerrero said, "We expect 70,000 fans and maybe 60,000 in blue. There is a fine line between what the [marketing department's] charge is and balancing that toward talking about marketing to the enemy, if you will."

Guerrero said, "You will see a different approach from this point forward on how we market the team. I'm not throwing anyone under the bus . . . but some things work and some things don't."

Pat Hill, Fresno State's coach, said he expected 20,000 to 25,000 Fresno State fans to attend the game. Fresno has already sold out their allotment of 9,700 tickets.

UCLA's marketing department also has run an ad saying "the college football monopoly in Los Angeles is over," and another that reminded Bruins fans that there was still room on "the bandwagon."

I think it is now crystal clear that CRN had nothing to do with that “monopoly” ad even though he took all the potshots from all corners of the country. In some sense it is very comforting to see how CRN did not throw any one under the bus when that monopoly ad became national news, and instead tried to make the best out of the awkward situation the marketing department put him in, by using that ad to reignite the Bruins. Then again, that ad might not be too far off, given what we saw last night. But … time for us to talk about that game will come later this Fall.

As for the ad campaign leading up to tomorrow’s game, Brian Dohn has more on DG’s thoughts:

Guerrero said it was his understanding "everything was pulled" in relation to the marketing campaign in the central valley, but damage was already done.

Not only was there a quarter-page ad in the Fresno Bee, in which UCLA originally planned to use a photo of Bulldogs quarterback Tom Brandstater, which Fresno State asked UCLA to change, but radio sports were also purchased.

"I can assure you, from my prospective as we move forward, you'll see a different approach to our marketing efforts this season," Guerrero said.

"I don't micro-manage. Those types of things don't usually come to me unless there's an issue. Obviously, there have been issues that have been raised relative to the approach that our marketing folks have taken, and so as a result of that I'm involved.

"I want to make certain we allow them to do their jobs, but we do it in a manner that doesn't compromise our ability to fill our seats. But on the other hand we don't want to give the impression at all that this is designed to bring the enemy (to the Rose Bowl) against our team."

That works for me and I think it is best that we just move forward from this issue. That explanation and pledge from DG is enough for me.

Speaking of tomorrow’s game, Kevin Pearson from PE.com zeroes in on concerns re. repeated breakdown in our punt coverage:

UCLA ranks 105th in Division I-A in punt return defense, allowing a staggering 19 yards per return, a problem that has been addressed this week in practice as the Bruins look for an explanation to their struggles.

Last season the Bruins were stellar in punt coverage, holding opponents to a 6.7-yard average on 38 returns. UCLA has allowed 247 return yards in three games this season, nearly eclipsing last season's total of 263 in 13 games.

"We always have confidence in our punt coverage, and there are some things we need to clean up and emphasize a little bit more, but aside from that, we're confident we will improve," said senior Michael Norris, who serves as the gunner on punt coverage.

Aaron Perez ranks sixth nationally with a 46.3-yard average on his 21 punts. He tied a school record with 11 punts last week against Arizona and dropped his first two inside the 2-yard line.

But some struggles with open-field tackling led to a rough day for the coverage team. Arizona finished with seven returns for 162 yards, including a 55-yarder late in the game.

"I'm not making any excuses," Perez said. "It's on us for not covering the punts. I have to kick better and get the ball in the air and place it better, and when we have a chance to make a tackle, we have to make it.

"When it comes down to it, it's a matter of being a football player and going down and making a tackle. If the offense is struggling, it would help if the punt team is doing its job."

I made a mistake when writing down my notes on Fresno State couple of nights ago. I thought I read that Fresno State was averaging (a staggering) 44 yards per punt return this season. I went back and looked at the numbers again. I goofed up and was reading the column on yards/punt instead of the one for punt returns. FSU is not averaging a lot in their punt returns (3.8 yards per return). But that doesn’t mean the special teams can take it easy tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully they can use tomorrow’s game as an opportunity to get better for rest of this conference season.

Also, in terms of personnel issues, injuries continue to dog the team, as we will now be without FB Theriot, who is out for the reason. Chane Moline will take over at FB. From the OC Register:

“It’s a tough loss, because he was valuable on special teams as well,” UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. “Trevor’s a great kid. He’ll rally and be back next fall.”

Theriot, nicknamed “Moose,” will undergo arthroscopic surgery in the coming weeks, though a date has not been set. He will be replaced against Fresno State by Chane Moline, who moves from the tailback position.

Switching Moline could leave the Bruins thin in the backfield. Starter Kahlil Bell has been slow to return from an ankle injury. While expected to play Saturday, Bell might be limited.

That leaves the Bruins with two other tailbacks, Raymond Carter and Derrick Coleman (Troy High). Aundre Dean is expected to return in time for next week’s Washington State game. Neuheisel said Bell is “over 90 percent,” recovered from a high ankle sprain.

Theriot, a junior, injured his knee late in Wednesday’s practice during team drills. A former walk-on, Theriot was awarded his first athletic scholarship last spring. He was used primarily as a blocker and had not carried the ball this season.

Theriot already used his redshirt season, so he retains one more season of eligibility.

Best wishes to TT. As for the rejiggering, it might actually work out well. I kind of like the idea of Moline at his natural position, while being able to utilize the speed and explosiveness of either Bell, Carter (provided they are in full form) and Coleman at the TB spot. Hopefully they can break through tomorrow afternoon. Perhaps they were watching some game last night that will get them extra fired up and inspired for tomorrow.

GO BRUINS.

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