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Saving Our Season

Let's get to some good news right away. Per LA Times' report this morning Cowan is expected to be "nearly 100%" today. So the coaches will not be able to use Cowan's throat as an excuse, besides, at this point, we can expect they have all the contingency plans in place with hand signals should Cowan have issues again during the game with his voice.

So far this season, it's been the Bruin DL which has been the best unit of this UCLA team.  So everyone is going to see how the Bruin OL fares against the Irish OL, which has enabled Brady's bunch put some impressive numbers in their first 6 games. From the LA Times:

The Irish will probably try to exploit their size advantage with their offensive line over the Bruins' defensive front.

Led by 300-pound Dan Santucci, the Irish start an experienced front -- four seniors plus freshman tackle Sam Young. The line does a consistent job protecting senior quarterback Brady Quinn and opening holes for running back Darius Walker.

UCLA, which relies on quickness rather than size, needs a huge game from undersized ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis. In last week's 30-20 loss at Oregon, the duo combined for only one sack.

"We definitely need to bring our A-game because [Coach] Charlie Weis runs such a diverse offense," said UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who coached in Notre Dame Stadium as an assistant with USC when the Trojans lost to the Irish in 2001. "We definitely have our work cut out for us."
The other subplot in this key battle in the trenches between the Irish and Bruin line, will be whether Walker's Bruin defense will be able to stop the multi-dimensional Irish running back Darius Walker:
UCLA's defense had trouble stopping Oregon's Jonathan Stewart and gave up 256 yards rushing in a 10-point loss to the Ducks last week.

Today, the Bruins' challenge will be to slow down Notre Dame's workhorse running back, Darius Walker, who has gained 526 of the team's 641 rushing yards.

Walker, a junior who averages 4.4 yards a carry, has rushed for 299 yards in his last two games. He will be a marked man for UCLA linebackers Christian Taylor, Aaron Whittington and Reggie Carter.

"No matter who you are playing you have to do things right," said Chuck Bullough, who coaches UCLA's linebackers. "You have to fill the right gap, get into the right coverage and do the things you are supposed to do. It's really about us."

Walker, who led Notre Dame in rushing the last two seasons, is also dangerous as a receiver. He leads the team with 38 catches and has a streak of 21 games in which he has caught at least one pass.

In Walker's last game, against Purdue, he had a career-high nine catches.
Let's hope the UCLA defense is not caught unprepared and out schemed at the outset as it was during the Oregon game. Otherwise it will be the Irish Walker who will be replicating what Stewart did to the Walker's Bruin defense last weekend.

Here are the LAT's keys to today's game:
1 Jump balls. Look for Notre Dame receivers Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija to try to use their size advantage against UCLA cornerbacks Trey Brown, Rodney Van and Alterraun Verner, who have to be aggressive to compensate for their lack of height.

2 Stop or go. UCLA's ground game has been inconsistent with tailbacks Chris Markey and Kahlil Bell, but Notre Dame's defense against the run has been shaky. The Irish give up an average of nearly 135 yards a game on the ground and have already seen two individual opponents run for more than 100 yards in a game this season.

3 Timing is everything. UCLA ranks second in the Pacific 10 Conference in time of possession, averaging 31 minutes 23 seconds a game. But Notre Dame holds the ball even longer on average, 31:57.
Well, we sure hope that today the Bruins for once come out and play with focus, determination, and most importantly, with a killer instinct to win this afternoon's game. As Dohn notes this is game a victory in which could save Bruin's season:
Thirteen years after the deal was announced, and 42years since the teams last met, the Bruins play at No.10 Notre Dame today, in a game of national championship importance for the Irish, and one that could save UCLA's season.

It is Notre Dame quarterback and Heisman contender Brady Quinn, it is Touchdown Jesus and the ghosts of Notre Dame Stadium against the powder blue, the forgotten program cast in the shadows of the Irish's archrival, USC.

"I can't remember the last time we lost two games in a row," UCLA middle linebacker Christian Taylor said, "and we're not going to let that happen now."

The Bruins, who are two-touchdown underdogs, ended the 2004 season with a pair of losses and history suggests more difficulty at Notre Dame Stadium.

Following last week's 30-20 loss to then-No. 18 Oregon, Bruins coach Karl Dorrell is 0-9 on the road against ranked teams. Even during last season's 9-0 start, national respect was hard to come by for UCLA, which climbed to No. 7 before being blown out at Arizona, and not being taken seriously again.

"I think it's a very important game. I mean, it's Notre Dame," Bruins tailback Chris Markey said. "Everybody knows Notre Dame, you know, for being a great football team. I feel that this win is going to get us back on track. I think it's going to do a lot for this program."
Let's hope the coaches put Markey and his team-mates in a position to save our season today. As we have already said a moral victory will not be enough.