Spaulding Roundup: Cleared Locker, Wet Weather & Other UCLA Notes

Number 12 has a big opportunity to pick up his first road win of his young UCLA career.

So it's official. Just in case anyone here was foolishly holding his or her breath, here is the official word from Steve Sarkisian:

Jake Locker is cleared to play! Let's make sure Husky Stadium is rockin' for the entire nation to see. Go Dawgs!

Bob Condotta from the Seattle Time has the toplines on breaking news of the sun rising in the East:

Locker practiced all week after sitting out the previous two weeks of workouts, and a game at Oregon on Nov. 6, with a broken rib. And after Tuesday's practice, doctors examined Locker one more time and pronounced him good to go.

Locker practiced all week after sitting out the previous two weeks of workouts, and a game at Oregon on Nov. 6, with a broken rib. And after Tuesday's practice, doctors examined Locker one more time and pronounced him good to go.

Of course none of this should be a surprise. All of us including Coach Rick Neuheisel knew all along that Sarkisian was going to start Locker for this game notwithstanding all the elaborate coach speak around issues of medical clearance. Apparently Sarkisian at least on paper got a little snarky about people not falling for the media show:

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, however, has said repeatedly all week he expects Locker to play.

Responded Sarkisian: "Well, he probably knows our doctors pretty well. Maybe he knows more than I know.''

Anyway, thankfully the nonsense is over. Bruins can now completely lock into the game plan for attacking Locker. We have talked about how our defense needs to be ruthless in the way they come after Locker (without being cheap shot artists). They need to make every effort to break his will early and disrupt him from getting into any kind of rhythm.

I think the key for the Bruins will to make sure to keep Locker contained and throttled in the pocket, and force him to attempt to beat us with his arms rather than his legs. Bruins have had a tough time all season with mobile QBs. Hopefully they have learned their lesson by now and are well prepared for this latest test on national TV.

Neuheisel met the press for the last time this game week as the Bruins had their final Spaulding practice before tomorrow night's game. He essentially laughed (for good reasons) at all the melodrama around whether Locker will start "the biggest joke of all time":

Neuheisel also talked about the need for the Bruins to get off to a "good start." Although he then droned about needing to "hang around" with Washington, I hope he will be coaching with the mindset to go for the throat early. Huskies are coming off three straight demoralizing and blowout defeats. I think the best thing for the Bruins will be to come out strong, take the lead and step on their neck to crush their will early.

As for practice here are some tidbits from Jon Gold:

* A lot of special team work today, a lot of passing against scout team, and Richard Brehaut looked really sharp. He had one pass to Josh Smith on the side of the end zone that he just wouldn't have made a few weeks ago.

* Nelson Rosario and Sheldon Price will see increased action, but I don't anticipate too much Steve Sloan as he works his way back in.

The news about Brehaut is encouraging. Hopefully he gets into a good rhythm early. Interestingly during a conversation with ESPN710 in Seattle Sarkisian mentioned how the Huskies are preparing for play action and down field throws:

"The origin of the pistol really is one that is a hybrid of a quarterback being under center and running the normal runs that you have with your quarterback under center - whether it be the zone play or the power play or the stretch play - combined with the shotgun run, zone read game where the back is offset next to the quarterback, working the zone read stuff."

Sarkisian said another key is stopping the run, which would put pressure on UCLA's quarterback Richard Brehaut, a sophomore who has thrown for over 200 yards just once in six games this season.

"They've got good coaches, too," Sarkisian said. "(Head coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow), they're going to have a nice game plan together. They're aware of the fact that our first goal on defense is to stop the run. So we've got to be prepared for the play-action pass and their ability to really throw it down the field over our heads. We've got to be smart, we've got to be sound, and we've got to tackle extremely well."

We will see I guess. It will be a shock if the Huskies do not come out and stack the box early fully committed to stopping our running attack. As he mentioned in the video above, Neuheisel essentially telegraphed what the coaches are planning to do in Seattle:

With the forecast for Thursday's matchup including heavy rain, UCLA knows throwing the ball could present a problem. Then again, a dry football hasn't been a cure-all for the Bruins, who have struggled in the throwing game for much of the season.

"We've been able to be successful without much in the way of throwing the ball," Neuheisel said. "We'll see if we can do it again. Usually wet doesn't necessarily mean you can't throw the ball, it just means you've got to keep the ball dry. But the ability to run the ball becomes more important, no question."

More on the weather issue from the LA Times:

The forecast for UCLA's game against Washington on Thursday calls for temperatures in the 40s and a 50% chance of rain. UCLA long snapper Christian Yount prepared for potentially soggy conditions in practice Tuesday by repeatedly squirting the contents of a water bottle on the football before snapping it to holder Danny Rees.

Though Neuheisel said the running game becomes more important in wet weather, "wet doesn't necessarily mean you can't throw it, it just means you have to keep the ball dry."

I think the wet ball could become a dicey issue for guys like Jet Ski (and possibly with Malcolm Jones as well) given what we have seen last couple of years. Then again keep in mind that the Huskies also have lot of kids who are from Southern California, including their primary ball carrier RB Chris Polk. So the issue could even out. What UCLA cannot do though is appear to be predictable and conservative early on. If the Bruins remain in a conservative posture of playing not to lose, they will face the danger of falling behind against a Husky team, which is going to come out in a frenzied emotion.

Speaking of the weather, Tony Dye is looking forward to playing in the rain (HT Blair Angulo from ESPNLA):

Dye is also looking to "push the distraction" of "black out" to the side. Interestingly Tony noted that they players were begging the coaches to respond with their own "white out" but the coaches weren't really going for it. Come to think of it UCLA football uniforms in white pants (either at home or on the road) could be pretty cool.

Tony Dye and the Bruin secondary will need to be very aggressive against the Huskies. Peter Yoon from ESPNLA reports:

The Bruins have been using an aggressive substitution pattern in the defensive backfield, so much so that it is difficult to tell who is getting first team reps and who is with the second team. Aaron Hester, Andrew Abbott, Sheldon Price and Courtney Viney have all been playing at corner. Tony Dye and Rahim Moore are the first team safeties, but Dietrich Riley, Dalton Hilliard, Stan McKay and Alex Mascarenas have gotten an uptick in reps.

"We're fortunate that we've developed some depth with attrition," Neuheisel said. "Some other guys have had to step up and become really good players for us so we want to make sure we keep everybody fresh. We know that [the Huskies are] a big play offense. They've got a lot of balls down the field type of air show and it's important that we stay fresh."

I am excited to have Dalton Hilliard back in the mix. He adds an element of physicality into our defensive secondary. Both he and Riley have the ability to level those intimidating, bone crunching hits that could change the tone and complexion of an entire game. We saw that in our last game when Riley destroyed the Quizz, and it could be really helpful if our defense can send that kind of message early on Thursday night.

No doubt the Bruins are going to be in a tough situation and they are going to play in weather condition that will freak out an average Southern Californian (who haven't lived outside of the Golden State). Yet as Neuheisel mentioned (and noted by the LA Times), Bruins have done more than OK in very recent past in tough weather conditions. They handled the freezing temperatures here in DC (it was ridiculous even for the Washingtonians) and then cruised to a victory with a focused performance in Pullman. They have the talent and potential to put together a good performance on Thursday night and build on the momentum from Oregon State. Let's hope they take full advantage of this opportunity and turn the "black out" into a funeral for the Huskies.

GO BRUINS.

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