Spaulding Roundup: Looking For A Clean Game, Expanding F-Back’s Role & Other UCLA Notes

Let's start the Hump day with Coach Rick Neuheisel's comments following practice yesterday. The session was filled with repeated questions from some dude asking obvious and annoying questions (that would make Bill and Ted (see BN Lexicon) look like football experts). In any event, you can see from the video CRN didn't take any of his bait. CRN did manage to get through couple of important points.

First, he mentioned that despite the good vibes generated from the Houston game, Bruins cannot get too full of themselves thinking they have "arrived" and that they have "a lot of work to do" before they can call themselves "a good football team." Second, Neuheisel mentioned that while the Bruins are getting ready for this game no one should a little too worked up thinking this is the most "important" game of the season (although as the cliché goes the next game is always the most important game on a team's schedule):

FWIW this game because of its recent history and the matchup between two great schools will always generate interest among the fanbases. UCLA alums FWIW always get jacked up for games like this shattering the notion that Bruins don't travel well for big games. It will be fun to see the patch of blue in Austin on Saturday. Hopefully they will have things to get excited about during the game. However, we got to make sure we maintain our perspective no matter what happens on Saturday. More after the jump.

Now for the Bruins to have any kind of shot on Saturday, they will have to minimize TOs. The Bruins have not been very good taking care of the ball in our first three games. From the LA Times:

Only Ohio's 11 turnovers top the Bruins' 10. With five fumbles and five passes intercepted, UCLA is minus-five in turnover ratio.

That is on Coach Rick Neuheisel's mind as the Bruins prepare to play seventh-ranked Texas in Austin.

"We go into this game with the understanding that we can't do anything to beat ourselves," Neuheisel said. "We have not been a good football team in that area the first three weeks."

The Bruins' "pistol" offense can lead to more turnovers, given the quick-read decisions the quarterback has to make on handoffs. But UCLA's turnover woes have not been attributed to the new offense.

Bruins have fumbled the ball 8 times this year and lost 5 of those. However, it doesn't have anything to do with our offense. For, i.e. I don't think Malcolm Jones' fumbles had anything to do with playing in the pistol formation. As Neuheisel mentioned in the article it will come down to "discipline and fundamentals," which hopefully Bruins will improve on this Saturday.

As we are on the topic of turnovers, ESPNLA caught up with Jones, the Bruin freshman RB who is currently the second leading rushing in the team (101 yards in 22 carries). Peter Yoon blog post describes how Jones' "confidence remains intact":

"I'm all right," Jones said. "It's always a little bit of a slap in the face, but you just gotta bounce back from it and get above the adversity." [...]

"It's just something I need to work on as time progresses," Jones said.

Hope Jones get opportunities to redeem himself on Saturday. Speaking of backs, Jon Gold's report focuses on the F-Back and how UCLA coaches are looking to "expand" that position's role in our offense:

 [I]n three games, the position has contributed just five catches for 28 yards and two carries for 23 yards, including Thigpen's 22-yard run in UCLA's 31-13 win over Houston on Saturday.

"(Offensive coordinator Norm Chow) and I were talking about it today. We need to expand that position," Neuheisel said. "We need more confidence. Sometimes you think he's not able to be a wide receiver, and it's nothing further from the truth. And they're good running backs.

"Fortunately with that offense, we have the ability to do it."

I really liked how Damien Thigpen was able to bust lose couple of times on Saturday from the F-back position. I think that loosened up the Houston defense any more. At the same time, you've got to appreciate how Morrell Pressley is embracing his overall role through this position in the way he leveled few crushing blocks and reveled in his team-mates' success (after TDs). I do think (and hope) the coaches will expand the role of this position but they will probably look to do it through the flow of the game.

Shifting attention over to the Longhorns, Peter Yoon posted his "first look" on Saturday's matchup. Most of you are familiar with the details given earlier posts on this blog. That said couple of nuggets are worth sharing. Yoon gives a little capsule on the key players in Texas' monster defense:

Linebacker Keenan Robinson has been the statistical leader of the stout defense with 22 tackles, but defensive end Sam Acho, who has five tackles for a loss, is among the top defensive players in the country. Fellow end Eddie Jones leads the team with four sacks while defensive backs Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown are stellar cover men who are physical and fast.

And the running back committee that has been trying to get the Longhorn rushing game going in the first three games:

The Longhorns have used three primary running backs in Foswhitt Whittaker, Cody Johnson and Tre' Newton, who have combined for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. They run behind a line of five 300-pounders anchored by 6-7, 325-pound tackle Kyle Hix, but still average only about four yards per carry.

If you want to learn more about the Longhorns, you really need to tune into tonight's BN podcast (at 7 pm PDT) when Peter Bean (from Burnt Orange Nation) - perhaps the most knowledgeable Longhorn blogger on the internet - joins us to give his view on the matchups and answer any question you might have. If you have specific questions for PB make sure you post it in the comment thread or in this post as well.

While the Texas running game hasn't gotten warmed up, I am concerned whether our defense front-7 can handle these guys. I do believe that we are not going to beat this guys just by playing within our base defense. Chuck Bullough will have to find a way to bring pressure and get Garrett Gilbert out of the pocket (interestingly Owa has been getting a lot of reps with the second team, which is good news).

Bruins will also have to minimize penalties and cut down on the disciplinary issues that popped up during the second half of the Houston game. As mentioned above, they simply cannot beat themselves like they have been in our first three games. We are going to have to play as close to a clean game as possible. Do we have that in our team? I just don't know the answer.


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