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Under Pressure: No Margin for Error

Man I hate to bump M's latest master piece down, but I have no choice but to get to major stories/themes of game day. You don't think all the discussions over here on Bruins Nation and elsewhere concerning Dorrell's shortcoming are being heard? Well, then check out this graf. From today's LA Times (emphasis mine):

If the Bruins defeat the Cougars, they will set themselves up for a showdown at No. 12-ranked California next week and be in position to show that last week's strong effort against No. 11 Notre Dame was not a fluke.

But a UCLA loss would end the Bruins' 10-game winning streak at the Rose Bowl and open another checkout line for critics who have been complaining louder and louder about the state of the football program.

Coach Karl Dorrell expects his team to rise to the challenge rather than wallow in last week's still-bitter defeat. "This team is very resilient and they are not feeling sorry for themselves," he said. "The coaches aren't feeling sorry for themselves. We picked each other up and blamed ourselves in a lot of circumstances."
Well, we are going to see how resilient the Bruins are today at the Rose Bowl. But, if they want to reverse the downward spiral of last two weekends, they will need to rejuvenate our offense.  Dohn points towards Patrick Cowan, who hasn't been all that effective (at least statistically speaking) since his debut (he had a mop up appearance against Utah which we will not count) against Arizona three weeks ago:
[T]he Bruins will need better play from Cowan. His stellar relief effort led the Bruins past Arizona on Oct. 7, but in his first two starts, UCLA's offense has struggled. After starter Ben Olson was injured in the first quarter against the Wildcats, Cowan went 20 of 29 for 201yards with two touchdowns and didn't turn the ball over.

In UCLA's West Coast offense, quarterbacks are expected to complete 65 percent of their passes.

But in losses at Oregon and at Notre Dame, Cowan went 32 of 63 (50.8 percent) for 329 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"We've really been facing a lot of pressure," UCLA offensive coordinator Jim Svoboda said. "It's a combination of (defenses) really want to test a young quarterback, but they also think they can cover your guys.

"If I'm a defensive guy and (the quarterback) is not getting balls off, and not beating them, you keep doing it. They're taking the risk, and you have to make them pay for the risk."

Furthermore, UCLA's offensive output of 216 and 245 yards, respectively, in the past two games is lower than any game since the Steve Axman-led Bruins offense had 164 yards in its bowl loss to Fresno State to conclude the 2003 season.
And those numbers could be worse considering the 2 TDs the Bruins scored against Notre Dame were lucky plays, where PC connected with Everrett and Snead on big plays in which either our receivers were running the wrong route (check Snead TD again) or the Irish defensive backs were getting crossed up.

So PC will have to step, as will the Bruin OL and running backs who will confront a ferocious Wazzu front-7:
[T]oday at the Rose Bowl, UCLA's struggling offense has to deal with a different challenge in Washington State and its changing defensive fronts. The Cougars switch from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 throughout their games.

It will test the offensive line and its ability to recognize fronts, as well as target and get the right defenders blocked. That's something that could be a problem because of the Bruins' struggles to run the football, gaining 65, 104 and 26 yards on the ground the last three weeks.

It also will test the running backs in blitz pickup.
While we have already talked about Washington's front-7 led by sack happy Des Mkristo Bruce and Lance Broadus, the Cougs also have a pretty effective attacking secondary:
The Cougars have intercepted 10 passes, the second highest total in the Pac-10, and start three fifth-year seniors in the secondary - cornerbacks Don Turner and Tyson Brackenridge and strong safety Eric Frampton, along with junior free safety Husain Abdullah.

Frampton is leading Washington State with three interceptions. Brackenridge has two. Since 1999, eight DivisionI teams have picked off more passes than the Cougars with 124. UCLA quarterbacks have thrown the football to them 12 times over the past five seasons - the Bruins did not play Washington State in 2000 or 1999.
On the other side of the ball, the Bruins will once again count on the heroics of Davis and Hickman.  These guys will need to gun for Cougar QB Alex, who loves throwing to his two big play WRs in Bumpus and Hill. Here is Lonnie White with the cliff notes version of the keys to today's game:
1 Sack exchange. Washington State's Mkristo Bruce and UCLA's Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis, all among the best pass-rushing defensive ends in the Pac-10, will be featured today. If Bruce's name is heard often, UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan will be in for a long day. The same holds true with Hickman and Davis for the Cougars' Alex Brink.

2 Rush to victory. Washington State running back Dwight Tardy has been on a recent roll, rushing for 145 yards in a win over Oregon last week. After a strong start, UCLA's Chris Markey has struggled in recent games, rushing for only 32 yards in 19 carries last week in the Bruins' loss at Notre Dame.

3 Start fast. Last week, Washington State jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a victory over the Ducks. A year ago, the Cougars took a 21-0 second-quarter lead over UCLA before the Bruins rallied to win in overtime. This season, UCLA does not have the same quick-score ability and that may give Washington State an edge.
Well, if the Bruins want to back up the assertion that somehow the devastating loss against ND was some kind of positive for this program, then they will need to come out inspired, fired up and start fast against the Cougars. Otherwise, it could be much of the same old story from the last few weekends.  In any event, there should be heavy drama at the Rose Bowl for Karl Dorrell, who right now doesn't have a lot of margin for error. It's pretty obvious that folks are picking up on the fact that KD is under pressure to produce, which is a great thing if you are a UCLA football fan. Let's hope he comes out with a big win which will give us a boost heading up to Berkeley next weekend.