Pregame Guesses: Arizona Wildcats Edition

Stephen Dunn

The Bruins have a tough game this week against the high-scoring Wildcats. But it's nice to know if they play their best game they'll win their homecoming game.

Redd Kross - Stay Away From Downtown (via MergeRecords)

(This week’s video is "Stay Away from Downtown" the latest from L.A.’s Redd Kross. I once saw Redd Kross at some club in NYC, opening up for the Butthole Surfers. As a visitor from El Lay, Redd Kross was a band I’d seen a million times around town, but no one in New York seemed to know who they were. They still killed it. I think that was in 1987. Anyway, I heard "Stay Away from Downtown" on KXLU this morning and decided to use the song. New York City’s downtown is really hurting from the hurricane and the actual Red Cross (redcross.org) needs your support of money and blood.)

Before getting to the football part of this post, I wanted to take a moment to recognize a member of the women’s soccer team: junior midfielder Ariel Krakowsky.

There was a piece in Tuesday’s Daily Bruin about her becoming the first-ever walk-on for the UCLA Women’s Soccer team. It’s a cool story, worth reading. I won’t rewrite the whole thing right her, but basically she was a high school soccer star who decided to attend UCLA. She played club soccer as a freshman, then was the manager for the varsity as a sophomore, washing uniforms and the like. As a junior, after letting her work out with the team, Head Coach B.J. Snow asked her to walk on. She’s only played in one game this year, but she’s just so happy that her hard work and perseverance paid off with a spot on the roster. This is my favorite quote:

"To be able to wake up in the morning and put on a UCLA uniform and wear these four letters across my chest, even if I’m not playing in games, just being a part of it is so much more than I had ever expected."

"Everyday I’m living my dream," she said. "When I go to practice in the morning … I constantly remind myself that this is something that I’ve wanted for so long."

Props to the DB’s Jason Drantch for the article. I was impressed with Krakowski’s approach, the pride she takes in playing for UCLA, the selfless way she chooses to contribute even though she doesn’t get many opportunities to play in the games.

Anyway …

Watching last Saturday’s game against Arizona State was a roller coaster ride. Had UCLA not pulled it out at the end, I’d be writing about how "things hadn’t changed under Mora." I’d be suggesting that "we beat ourselves." I’d be doing the math and trying to figure out if we were going to win any more games.

But we did win. We won besides fucking up the coin flip (even Karl Dorrell, who once admitted he forgot to use one of his key players, who once acknowledged that he didn’t know where to stand on the sideline, never fucked up a press release), we won despite the fact that Stephen Manfro actually made me momentarily nostalgic for Taylor Embree, we won despite the fact that Jerry Johnson did his Tin Man imitation on at least two key plays – and so instead of me harping on the mistakes that led to another loss in a game we might have won, I’m typing excitedly, expectantly waiting for Arizona and even anticipating Washington State before the season ending USC/Stanford "home stand."

And if you’re like me, the euphoria of watching our final drive against ASU was extended with a channel flip to the end of the USC-Arizona game. It was as close as I’ve come in a while to one of Sting’s tantric, all day orgasms.

The ending of the two games were oddly parallel.

After Arizona State drove 56 yards in six plays for the go ahead touchdown, Brett Hundley and the offense got the ball back at the 25 needing a field goal to win. There was a 1:33 left on the clock.

Hundley got the team across midfield with a couple of completions (one to Manfro, one to Damien Thigpen) that sandwiched a Franklin run. The key plays on the rest of the drive were an eight yard throw to Joseph Fauria on a play where it looked like Hundley was trying to throw the ball out of bounds and Franklin’s seven yard run on the last play from scrimmage that not only picked up enough yards to turn the final field goal into a chip shot, he also managed to center the ball between the uprights so that Ka’imi Fairbairn didn’t have to navigate the kick from one of the one of the hashmarks.

Compare that to what happened at the end of the SC game:

The situation for USC’s Matt Barkley was a bit different than it was for Hundley. Barkley and the Trojan offense started their final drive at their own 13, with only :55 seconds to go. SC trailed by three, so they were looking for a tie with a field goal or touchdown for the win.

The drive started off well for Barkley. He his Silas Redd for 13 yards, Marqise Lee for 15 and Redd again for 11, getting the ball out near midfield with time for a couple more plays. (I should point out that Barkley was working without a timeout because SC had to call them on defense to preserve time for their offense; Hundley was working with two time outs). At this point, I had no doubt that Hundley Barkley would find Lee over the middle for 20 yards, the Trojans would rush up, spike the ball, kick the tying field goal and beat the Wildcats in over time. Why did I think that? Because that’s what the Trojans usually do.

So, what happened?

Instead of a safe pass to get the ball into field goal range, Lane Kiffin (who I actually think is a good play caller) sent Lee down the sideline and Barkley could not hook up with the well-covered receiver. It was a strange call because it used up so many of the remaining seconds that the Trojans only hope on the last play was a throw into the end zone for the win. There was no way they could complete a pass and hope there was enough time left to stop the clock with a spike and send the field goal unit on. They tried the Hail Mary and despite Lee’s best effort the ball ended up on the turf and the game belonged to Arizona.

It would be nice to think that these two games, these two drives, these two endings represent some sort of sea change in the fortunes of both programs. I don’t mean that all of a sudden "The Monopoly is Over" – it’s going to take more than a nice win by us on the road and an upset of them to wash the putrid taste of 0-50 out of our mouths. But maybe, just maybe, this moment where we won a game we would never have pulled out under the last two regimes and they lost a game they had no business losing represents our program taking a step up, while they took a small step back.

This week will write another chapter in the sage. We’ve got the same Wildcat team that SC just lost to; they’ve got Gang Green coming down from Eugene. It’s actually going to be a great day of football in Los Angeles, with the Ducks and Trojans kicking off in the afternoon while we play a homecoming night game against Arizona. I figure it will be about eight hours more or less from the time their game kicks off until our game ends and those eight hours are going to say a lot about how this season plays out.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by believing that Oregon is going to beat USC. Yes, I’ve heard the pro-SC argument: that they are at home, that they are coming off of a loss and will have extra motivation, than they are a bad match-up for the Ducks defense, that Oregon hasn’t played a close game all year and their freshman quarterback will fold in the sold out Coliseum.

I don’t know about any of that. My feeling is that the Ducks circled this game on their schedule the minute it was printed and are looking for revenge for last season’s loss to the Trojans up in Oregon. I believe Chip Kelly’s team is ready. I believe that in D’Anthony Thomas, Oregon has a player every bit as explosive at Lee. I think the Trojans lose their second straight.

I’m less sure of the result of our game with the Wildcats.

The funny thing is, had SC beaten Arizona 42-27 or something like that, with the Trojans pulling away with a couple of late scores, I’d be really confident that we’d beat Arizona. They’ve played well in other games as well they routed Washington and stuffed Oklahoma State and even their losses to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford seem like reasonable games to lose. Still, without that win over SC, I’d have bet on us at home, at homecoming.

But they did beat USC, so maybe there is more to meet than meets the eyes regarding the Wildcats?

If nothing else, their quarterback, Matt Scott, is second in the nation in total offense, generating 386 yards per game and their top receiver, Austin Hill, is fifth in the nation in receiving yards per game at 117 yards per game. If form holds, they are going to move the ball and score some points. They average 39 points per game, a total elevated by the 50-plus points they dropped on Oklahoma State, South Carolina State and Washington (not to mention 48 against Stanford).

We’re going to score as well. We’re averaging 33 points per game, an average dragged down by the 17 we scored in that miserable game at Cal; we also scored just three touchdowns in a win against Utah.

As I look at it, it’s all up to us. Arizona is going to get their share of points. We’re capable of winning 45-40, we’re also capable of losing 25-40. If we protect the ball and limit our mistakes, we’ll win this. If we commit six turnovers, we’ll get beat.

It’s actually a good feeling to look at the game that way. If we play our best, we’ll win and if we don’t we won’t deserve to win. But unlike the recent past, there is every reason to believe the team will be ready and prepared to play it’s best game. And that alone feels pretty good.

With that, here are your Pregame Guesses, Arizona Wildcats edition:

  1. True or false: Total offense in the game will exceed 1,000 yards.
  2. The total time of the game will be between (A) 3:00 - 3:30, (B) 3:31 - 4:00, or (C) 4:00 +.
  3. How many sacks will UCLA's defense record against Arizona?

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