Spaulding Roundup: Focus On Washington, Creating Opportunities For Freshmen & Other UCLA Notes

"Steve Sarkisian said it was too early to know if quarterback Jake Locker will make it back for the UCLA game." - Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times, November 8, 2010

While this weekend's win over the Beavers kept our bowl hopes alive, none of it is going to matter, if we don't take care of business in Seattle. Coach Rick Neuheisel talked yesterday about how the Bruins need to "focus only on Washington":

"It's huge," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said of his team's first victory since Oct. 2. "Certainly, there's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel but we have to focus only on Washington."

The Huskies are coming of a 16-53 shellacking (or "thumping" - you can chose the word) in the hands of the Duckies, who showed up with their "B-game" (and still rolled up 522 yards). Washington was of course without their senior QB Jack Locker, who has been out with a cracked rib since the Stanford game (although reports indicate that he was pretty banged up before Stanford). In his absence, redshirt freshman Keith Price got the start and according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times gave a decent effort:

A tough situation for Keith Price to make his first start, and it could have been a heck of a lot worse. Price was 14-28 passing and had four dropped and threw away 3-4 others. So he was accurate enough, and showed good mobility. He didn't make every right read, but hard to expect that. He certainly wasn't the reason that the score ended up the way it did, as might have been thought.

At this point, it is unclear whether Locker will return for the UCLA game. More from Condotta:

The weekend off will afford UW some time to heal physically, though coach Steve Sarkisian said it was too early to know if quarterback Jake Locker will make it back for the UCLA game.

Safety and co-captain Nate Williams said what the team may really need is some time to heal mentally after a tough stretch of games that doused the Huskies with some harsh realities about where the program is right now compared to the optimism of the offseason.

"We are going to take this week off and everyone just rest their minds, because I think that's where most guys are hurting right now," Williams said. "We just need to rest mentally more than anything, so just take this week off and get right in all aspects and come out on fire again."

Either way, I imagine Neuheisel and the Bruins will prepare as if a fresh and rejuvenated Jake Locker is going to lead the Huskies for his last game in Seattle. It is going to be senior night. It will be a national TV game on ESPN. I highly doubt Locker is going to miss the game. I fully expect him to come out and lead his team and give them an emotional boost to start the game. However, as potent as that emotional boost that might be, the Bruins will need to stay focused and get the job done in what should be a very winnable game.

The Huskies' season numbers are ugly:

Here are the updated numbers for the Huskies showing UW is 107th nationally in total defense at 440 yards per game, 109th in scoring defense at 36.22 and 114th against the run at 219.56. That latter number could be telling going forward as UW's next two foes --- UCLA and Cal --- figure to try to exploit Washington's run defense, each with some issues throwing the ball.

But overall, the numbers reveal what might be expected of a 3-6 team as UW doesn't rank higher than 50th in the nation in any category, that being turnovers as UW is 50th, having gained 12 and lost 11 (and meaning that one stat that often most defines winners and losers isn't really one that Washington can blame).

Few more bullets culled from the Pac-10 site:

  • Washington ranks 8th in the conference in scoring offense at 21.1 per game (Bruins are 9th at 20.8 points per game).
  • Washington is dead last in 3rd down conversions (converted 44 of 130 opportunities at a clop of 33.8 percent)
  • Washington is dead last in conference with 17 sacks in 9 games.

Of course as the old cliché goes the games are not won on paper. If the Bruins don't return this week with spirited practices, build on the momentum from this past weekend, they will suffer a huge set back against the Huskies. Chuck Bullough's unit took a step forward against Oregon State. Yet none of it is going to mean much,  if the Bruins come out and look hapless on national TV, embarrassing those four letters all over again.

Meanwhile, for Norm Chow, the Husky game presents yet another huge opportunity to get our offense kick started and clicking during the closing weeks of this season. The offense had its bright moments this past weekend thanks to Richard Brehaut (from the LA Times):

The Bruins' offense was quarterback Richard Brehaut on Saturday. He was the key to the running game, with 61 yards rushing, some of it gathered on scrambles. Johnathan Franklin gained 100 yards. The Bruins had 74 plays; 55 were runs.

Most impressive, Neuheisel said, was Brehaut's performance on third down. He completed an 11-yard pass to Taylor Embree on third and five during the final field goal drive.

Earlier in the game, on third and 11, Brehaut scrambled and managed to flip the ball to tight end Cory Harkey for a 12-yard gain.

"That was one of the best plays of the year so far, in terms of a player creating," Neuheisel said. "Every time you watch SportsCenter, that's what you see quarterbacks doing. It was fun for it to happen to us."

It was nice not to read any snide comments from Chow about Brehaut in the papers for once. In addition to Brehaut's impressive performance on 3rd downs, he made things happen on pass plays (which didn't necessary result in a passing attempt).  Brehaut ran for first down or positive yardage about four times. He kept drives alive and kept the team fired up.

I would certainly hope in our next game, Chow will have the courage to remove the shackles around this offense and let Brehaut play a little bit. This upcoming matchup presents a huge opportunity for this offense to take another step against an opponent, it should be able to handle. What matters now is Chow to put together a game plan, and get to work with rest of the offensive staff to implement it during coming days.

Neuheisel is also excited about his freshmen. He was particularly pleased with Zumwalt and Riley:

"I thought he was terrific," Neuheisel said. "We've been very impressed with Jordan since he got here. Question is, could he remember where he's supposed to be? It was one thing when we were trying to get him some time at Sam (outside linebacker). It's another thing when you're trying to get him to make all the calls."

The defensive play of the game, though, came from another freshman, backup safety Dietrich Riley (St. Francis High), who demolished a hurdling Rodgers and popped his helmet into the air.

"It was a great hit; the other thing about it is he's a freshman," Neuheisel said. "You put him and Cassius and Owa and Seali'i Epenesa and Jordan Zumwalt. I'm not sure they were all out at same time, but those guys are making impact on our defense. (Anthony) Barr on offense, (Malcolm) Jones on offense. That's a great nucleus of guys to look forward to."

We know Zum is going to get his shot against Washington with his third consecutive start. What would be interesting to see is how much time Riley gets after this past weekend's game.

I would also think next Thursday night would be a terrific opportunity to get guys like Malcolm Jones and Anthony Barr more touches within our offense. Clearly they have the potential. They have flashed that potential when they have been put in positions to succeed. It is up to coaching staff to ensure they create those opportunities and maintain the winning vibe alive in Seattle.

GO BRUINS.

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