We will start our Friday picking up on our previous discussion on Norm Chow's vanilla offense at UCLA. The numbers are hideous. Our passing offense is ranked 117th, scoring offense 96th and our total offense is ranked 103rd in the nation. Except for our rushing offense (which is now ranked 26th but has been on a downward trend in last 3 games) our offense has taken major step backwards this season to date.
While there are legitimate injury issues this offense has had to deal with that are beyond our coaches' control, the numbers and offensive production have not been acceptable. While none of us were expecting UCLA to field an elite and explosive offense this year, we certainly didn't expect it to be so pedestrian. As a result we have been raising questions about Norm Chow in recent weeks. Chow in response given unclear and vague answers to Jon Gold:
"You have to pattern your stuff to what your kids can do," Chow said. "We have to put our guys in position for them to be successful. You can't run 50 plays if they just understand 10. Then you just have to run 10.
"Does it work all the time? No. But if they feel good about it, it'll be OK."
That explanation doesn't make a lot of sense. Chow has never been good with press (a characteristic that probably has played a factor in him never getting a HCing gig). We understand that. Still the answer he gave seems to give the vibe that he just doesn't trust the talent in our program (it's a mindset we also see prevalent over at the defensive side of our football team).
I don't think anyone here is asking Chow to run 50 different kind of plays. What we are asking him is to trust the talent level in our football team and find a way to put together an offensive scheme that incorporates the talent we have on our team. If the talent is raw, then it is up to him and his staff (he has full control over our offense) to coach up that talent and get them up to speed (pun intended). Bruins have a major opportunity in next few games to upgrade their offensive stats. I certainly hope Chow and his staff get our offensive moving towards the right direction, starting this weekend.
Tracy Pierson from BruinReportOnline.com also believes Bruins have a "good shot" at beating Oregon State this weekend and he also sees a big opportunity for the UCLA offense. From his game preview (which is not behind a subscription firewall):
We are almost compelled to actually give the nod to the UCLA offense here, surprisingly enough. But you're basically in a crapshoot when you have the nation's 103rd-ranked offense going up against the nation's 94th-ranked defense. Most of the time when the units are evenly matched you'd give the advantage to the offense since it has the element of surprise, but UCLA's offense tends to not exploit that natural advantage much.
We also have to tend to think that the OSU defense's performance against Cal last week is a bit of an aberration. It had consistently given up about 31 points per game until last week when it yielded just 7 to the Bears. As we said, Cal is horrible on the road and was without its starting quarterback, so Oregon State was able to play Cal as a one-dimensional offense and stacked the box to stop Cal's running game.
It's a good match-up for UCLA. Against a poor rushing defense UCLA's rushing game should be able to look more like it did earlier in the year. It will help quite a bit that it will have its best chance of being successful throwing the ball against the OSU defense than it's had against any defense yet this season. So, OSU will try to stack the box, and then so much will be decided on whether UCLA can counter-adjust and be aggressive throwing the ball. The UCLA offensive coaches haven't shown a penchant for adjustment, but if there was ever a game - coming off the Arizona game and facing the OSU passing defense - where you'd think UCLA could finally be more dedicated to throwing the ball, this is it.
Emphasis added as I can't agree more with TP. He did pick Oregon State to beat the Bruins by a point but Tracy (who is not shaving until the Bruins put together a winning streak) also has his own little idiosyncrasies when it comes to cooking Bruin mojo. More power to him.
Rick Neuheisel's post-practice interview yesterday was short:
Nice to hear that he was "pleased" with a "crisp" practice and that his guys are ready to "play their tails off" with a "good plan." Hope it materializes on game day against Oregon State.
As for Oregon State not surprisingly the focus is on the Quizz:
Rodgers will face a defense that revisited the tackling issues that plagued it earlier in the season when Arizona rolled up 264 yards rushing Saturday.
"That game tape was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch," UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers said. "We missed big plays, big plays that would have had a significant impact on the game."
Rodgers averages 105.7 yards a game. He had 112 yards against the Bruins last season and 144 in 2008, both Oregon State victories.
"He's strong," said Chuck Bullough, UCLA's defensive coordinator. "You look at him in person, he's got big calves. He's short, but he's muscular."
Said Ayers: "He is able to find those small holes and has lateral quickness to get through them. He's a small back who is hard to find."
Moore also spoke about the Oregon State star with reverence:
"I don't say this about many players, but he has no weaknesses," UCLA safety Rahim Moore said. "He's tough, quick, fast. Patience. He can catch the ball and throw touchdowns. It's going to take all 11 of us to get to him because if we don't, he's going to be running for days."
But Quizz is not the only guy Bruins will have to keep an eye on Saturday:
Stephen Paea, DL, Sr.--This returning All Pac-10 selection is one of the premier defensive linemen in the nation. At 6-1, 311, he is a run-stuffing load and often powers into the backfield. He has 23 career tackles for a loss, including 12 sacks.
Markus Wheaton, WR, So.--Wheaton, a sprinter on the Oregfon State track team, has blazing speed and has picked up the receiving slack in the absence of injured James Rodgers. He has 32 catches for 406 yards and has two rushing touchdowns.
Dwight Roberson, LB, Sr.--The Beavers leader with 50 tackles, he has a sack in each of the last three games. He has 23.5 tackles for a loss in his career and has forced six fumbles. He was an honorable mention All Pac-10 selection last season.
Shifting back focus to our team, Neuheisel also mentioned that both Nelson Rosario and Sheldon Price will be "available" for tomorrow. Peter Yoon posted "neither got many first-team reps." I sure hope coaches don't start Rosario tomorrow and rush him back into the game, even though the Beavers are eagerly waiting for a rematch.
Meanwhile, Gold is reporting that part of the Oregon State "plan" may include starting Cassius Marsh at DT. That is welcome news. I think Marsha has been playing really well in recent weeks surpassing Nate Chandler. Hopefully this will fire up Chandler and get him to give an inspired performance this weekend. There is certainly serious talent in our front-4 with Marsh, Owa and Graham. When we get Datone Jones back next season along with Brandon Willis, the defense will have a chance to be special with a new defensive coordinator.