Another Tuesday brought the start of another week of practices and game prep for the Bruins. The most significant development on the practice field came through the placekicking competition. In the wake of Jeff Locke missing 3 extra points in the last 2 weeks, the kicking battle is back. Kip Smith was able to warm-up and take a few practice kicks, as was walk-on Joe Roberts. However, it was Tyler Gonzalez, the walk-on/former soccer team student manager who got most of the kicking opportunities on Tuesday. He made all 4 of his attempts in drills, and made a 38-yard field goal during a two-minute drill. After saying that "anything is possible" when it comes to placekicking this Saturday, coach Neuheisel has this to say about the kicking situation.
"We’re working through that," Neuheisel said of the kicking situation. "Kip was out kicking little bit. I don’t know where he stands for the week, but at least he was actually kicking a football so that’s moving in the right direction. We’ll continue to address the other options as we go further into the week."
While freesia had some injury news in Tuesday's roundup, there were some further details arising from practice. Tony Dye and Dalton Hilliard were back at practice, and were able to fully participate, while Glenn Love dressed but was limited in action. Justin Edison, Alex Mascarenas and Sheldon Price continued to sit out of practice due to injury. Coming off of his Bruin debut off the bench last weekend, Jamie Graham made a good impression on the practice field, seeing reps with both the first and second team defenses on Tuesday. With the continuing injuries in the secondary and the pass-happy nature of the Washington State offense, expect to see a lot of Jamie on the Rose Bowl field this weekend. Additionally, Adam Maya noted that Neuheisel may be considering replacing Taylor Embree for a more explosive option as punt returner.
In game news, Washington State coach Paul Wulff announced that backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael will continue to lead the Cougars offense on Saturday. While Jeff Tuel has been cleared to return to action after missing the past 3 games with a broken collarbone, the performance of the WSU offense in Tuel's absence - ranked 4th in the nation in passing offense with 379 yards/game and 10th in scoring offense, albeit not against the toughest of competition - is not giving coach Wulff much incentive to make a change. At least until Tuel has gotten plenty of practice reps and the team goes head to head against some more challenging defenses. Peter Yoon wrote up a piece for the ESPN LA blog talking about how despite the quality of Andrew Luck and the Stanford passing game, the sheer number of passes and the quantity of receivers that Washington State throws at a defense may be just as difficult a test for a Bruin defense short on healthy bodies on the corners.Before getting too far into Washington State week, let's wrap up a couple of things from the Stanford game. Adam Maya has some thoughts on the Bruin offensive struggles, seeming to be one of those times where even a blind man can find water. Like most of us, he liked the basic idea of UCLA having gone for it on 4th and goal on Saturday night's first drive, but was not a fan of the playcalls.
The Bruins ran four times up the middle, first with diminutive Jordon James, then twice with 240-pound Derrick Coleman, which oozes predictability, then with Richard Brehaut on a keeper. Remember, the Bruins had just moved 76 yards behind Brehaut’s arm (4 of 4, 60 yards). Where’s 6-7 tight end Joseph Fauria and 6-5 receiver Nelson Rosario?
That's what I was wondering while watching the series unfold from my seat a few yards from the goal line. Maya talked to Mike Johnson about this, and got the expected - and understandable - answer that the team should have been able to carry to ball over the goal line in 3 tries. He specifically noted that as a running team, the Bruins should have been able to get the job done. Though as I noted in last week's roundup - and Maya also picked up on in his story, there is a difference between having a favorable ranking in rushing yardage and being able to count on the running game as the primary mode of offense.
The balance between run and pass plays, in-drive as well as in the aggregate was also a subject of the article. The lesson would seem to be that the coaches need not fear calling the occasional passing play, and deviating from the Donahue-esq run-run-pass (or the modified run-run-run) model can pay off.
The first one began with 2:37 left in the first half, putting UCLA in its two-minute offense. Accordingly, they passed seven times, and ran twice, gaining 21 yards on one of those runs. Great playcalling there.
On the second one, they passed four times and ran four times. On the third one they ran seven times and passed just twice, but those passes caught Sanford off guard because they were on first down, and one of the runs was by receiver Josh Smith. UCLA converted two third downs running the ball on that drive. More great playcalling.
The Bruins are neither a running team nor a passing team; they can do both very well. But they are at their best when they are unpredictable. How else do you explain Franklin and Coleman each averaging about six yards a carry, Brehaut averaging an excellent 8.1 yards per attempt, and UCLA ranking 84th in the nation in scoring offense and 64th in total offense?
While having two running backs capable of that level of production means that the coaches are not going to deviate too far from the run, the running game is not developed enough to allow the passing game to become an afterthought - or something to deploy on 3rd-and-8. It does not mean that Brehaut has to throw 30 passes every game, but have him throw on 1st and 2nd down a bit more. Don't allow the opposing defense - not to mention the crowd in the Rose Bowl and those watching on TV - to predict the 1st down playcall.