Playing the nation's #13 team is never easy, but at least the Bruins won't be facing the legs that killed them last year in Jeremiah Masoli and they will be getting their starting QB back as Kevin Prince puts his helmet (and mouthpiece) back on. Oregon's starter for this weekend though, Nate Costa, can really sling it and will test the UCLA secondary so it's not as if the defense has the night off. The Bruins are 3-1, but 0-1 in Pac-10 play and don't want to put themselves in a two game hole so this weekend holds extra importance. What three things do they have to do to win it though?
1) Stretch the Field- I'm not talking about throwing the ball deep here so this isn't your conventional stretch the field. It's not as if a few deep balls aren't in the game plan, but more improtant that stretching the field longways is stretching it sideways. The Bruins do have dynamic playmakers. We've seem Damien Thigpen's speed, Randall Carroll's too and Terrance Austin is quick, while Milton Knox and Jonathan Franklin have big play ability too. For those guys to make plays though, they need to get the ball in space and that just isn't happening.
The UCLA offense has been very narrow, allowing defenses to guard 40 yards wide instead of the 53 they should be responsible for. It's made it tough for the offense to find space, both in the running game and in the passing game. Whether it be by tosses and stretches in the run game, bubble screens, quick hitches or outs in the passing game, the field has to get wider and make the defense responsible 53 yards.
2) Do Your Job- This isn't a game where a defensive player can be Mr. Everything. Oregon utilizes some misdirection, they give themselves options and overpursuit can become six points all too easily. With their spread option, Oregon forces all 11 defenders to do their job or risk opening up a hole for their playmakers, who they have in spades.
Defensive ends play a huge role in stopping the spread option and it's important that they make sure they are well positioned and don't go ball chasing. Ball chasing will only lead to gaps in the defense, which the Ducks will exploit, even with Costa at QB. Sometimes you see a defensive player dominate a game, but this won't be one of them. If the Bruins are to come out on top, it will have to be a defensive team getting it done, from player #1 to player #11.
3) Be Opportunistic- The Ducks have shown a propensity to give the ball away. They turned the ball over 11 times in their first four games and that was despite playing three of those at home. With a new QB this week, there could be a chance for some more giveaways as Costa won't have had the reps with the first team that Masoli has had. When opportunities present themselves, UCLA needs to make sure they get the ball and turn them into touchdowns. Six touchdowns in 12 red zone trips this year isn't good enough.