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Matching up with the Cougers

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I will try my best to put yet another Dorrell debacle in the rear view mirror and start thinking about the Bruins? next opponent. The Bruins are still (please don?t laugh) mathematically alive to meet our minimum expectations of winning 9 games and beating Southern California. Any reality-based college football fan who follows our program on a day-to-day basis can see how we have a team, which could easily be 6-1 instead of 4-3, if it was lead by a competent head coach. But let?s try to give Dorrell the benefit of the doubt and fall for the notion that somehow, someway his program has turned a corner from yet another tear jerking, awe inspiring emotional moral victory!

This team should be in position now that it has been learning, grinding, and growing through the first 7 games of the season to make a decent run to end the season with at least 4-5 more victories and a win over Southern Cal.

Well, in order to make that happen the Bruins will need to get by a rejuvenated Washington State Cougers team this weekend at the Rose Bowl. Yes, the Cougs are coming into the Rose Bowl with a 5-3 record, needing just one more win to qualify for whatever bowl game they will get slated to per the sh!tty Pac-10 bowl contractual arrangement. These guys took it to Oregon Ducks (who were probably still in cruise control mode following a game in which Dorrell surrendered in the last 5 mins) last weekend, and now find themselves tied for 3rd place in the Pac-10 with a 3-2 record with their two losses coming against the two best teams in the Pac-10: Southern Cal and the other UC school.

So let's start with a look at the matchup of our strength v. the Couger's, in this case the Bruin defense v. the Couger offense. All the numbers here are based on Pac-10 statistics and rankings compiled by CNNSI and ESPN:

Bruin Defense 06 Rank Per Game Couger Offense 06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense 1 78.1 Rushing Offense 5 157.0
Pass Defense 5 187.1 Pass Offense 6 207.5
Pass Eff. Defense 7 113.0 Pass Eff. Offense 5 133.1
Total Defense 1 265.3 Total Offense 3 401.3
Scoring Defense 2 16.0 Scoring Offense 5 24.4

The assignment for DeWayne Walker?s warriors will be to stop a Couger passing attack orchestrated by QB Alex Brink (62.1% comp - 1740 yards-11 Tds ? 6 ints) and WR Michael Bumpus (52 receptions for 496 yards). From CBS Sportsline:

QB Alex Brink -- He had a fumble and an interception, but also completed 20-of-23 passes for 187 yards. [?]

WR Michael Bumpus -- He's becoming one of the best possession receivers around and turned in eight catches for 74 yards against the Ducks.
Besides Bumpus, they also have another good WR - Jason Hill - who has caught 34 passes for 464 yards and 6 TDs. And there is freshmen running back Dwight Tardy who had a big game against Ducks decimated D Line:
RB Dwight Tardy -- The redshirt freshman has proved a more-than-able stand-in for the injured Demaundray Woolridge. Tardy had his best game Saturday with 145 yards, including 114 in the fourth quarter.
This is a game our defense will come out and have to dominate and take out their frustrations from last weekend. The Cougers run a ball control offense with Alex Brink. Since this game is at home, Walker will need to throw the kitchen sink at him early, have just Hickman and Davis pin their ears back and go after Brink. The defense needs to come out and set the tone early just like it did this past weekend showing it can bring the intensity right out of the gate in back-to-back games.

And ifthe defense comes in with the kind of ferocity it displayed against the Irish, then it will be up to the offense to close the deal. Yes, the offense. Here is how the Pac-10?s no. 8 (yes, with Dorrell at the helm, UCLA has one of the worst offenses in an offensive oriented conference) offense stacks up against the Cougers? defense:

Bruin Offense 06 Rank Per Game Couger Defense 06 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense 8 126.9 Rushing Defense 4 109.2
Pass Offense 7 193.7 Pass Defense 8 233.6
Pass Eff. Offense 9 112.7 Pass Eff. Defense 5 117.4
Total Offense 8 320.6 Total Defense 7 342.9
Scoring Offense 5 24.4 Scoring Defense 3 19.1

Some key notes here. The Couger defense is banged up:

The Cougars suffered four potentially significant injuries. WSU played much of the game without DTs Aaron Johnson (elbow) and Ropati Pitoitua (MCL sprain), with reserves Bryan Tarkington and Matt Eichelberger filling in. CB Tyron Brackenridge, who returned an interception for a touchdown, hurt his hamstring, and G Andy Roof injured a heel.
This is a game in which Dorrell and Svoboda will have to open up their playbook. The Cougers secondary has been on their heels being eaten up for huge yardage the whole season. This will be a game for Pat Cowan to show some of the same skills he displayed against Arizona in his first game at the Rose Bowl. For once, I?d like to see the UCLA coaches use the passing game to set up the run like Walsh used to in his WCO. Have Pat roll out to throw some short passes, try to connect on the slant patterns, and then take shots down field like they did for most of the ND game. And it would also be a good time for the running game to show some diversity featuring plays other than just slamming up the middle for no gains. How about some power sweeps, or running the counter to change it up? FWIW perhaps Chane Moline getting some extra carries due to Bell's injury will breathe some life into a running attack, which completely crashed and burned last weekend.

Anyways, we will look more into Washington State. This will not be a joke opponent like Rice, Arizona or Stanford. So the Bruins will not be able to just show up and sleep walk though another lackluster win. If the Bruins want to salvage the rest of this painfully developing 2006 season, they will have to come out inspired and fired up, displaying the same tenacity they showed against the Irish. Hopefully, they will able to put together a complete game on both sides of the ball, executing on offense, and for once making Dorrell sound credible when he spouts clich?s like learning, grinding, and growing through the season.