The key to beating Stanford this weekend is going to be simple. Bruins will need to win the battle in the trenches. That is where Stanford Cardinal has made dramatic improvements this season, positioning itself for a bowl run for the first time in years. From the LA Times:
The Cardinal offense is averaging 184 yards on the ground, a huge improvement over last season. Meanwhile, the defense is surrendering only 114 yards rushing a game and ranks second in the conference in sacks.
That's tough work in the trenches by a school known more for brains than brawn.
"They just do it over and over and over again and they have big guys," UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said, decoding Stanford's zone blocking scheme. "They're well-versed at it."
So UCLA coaches are working to deal with Stanford’s tough defense by shuffling our patchwork OL again:
UCLA will look at another offensive line combination, its fourth in seven weeks, as the unit's personnel was rearranged Tuesday.
Nick Ekbatani moved to right guard, with his right tackle spot being filled by Micah Kia, who lost his right tackle job three weeks ago. Scott Glicksberg and Darius Savage split time at left guard.
The Bruins have averaged 2.0 yards rushing a carry the last two weeks. They also gave up six sacks against
last Saturday. Although not all of that can be blamed on the offensive line, a change seemed to be needed. Oregon
This is yet another offensive line shift for Ekbatani, who has played guard, center, guard and tackle since spring ball. The move back to guard will require a different approach.
"I've got to slow down a little bit," said Ekbatani, a junior. "I'm so used to trying to get the edge at tackle. At guard, if I do that I'll over-reach. The defensive tackle will just stop and I'll fall down.
Note the return of Kia (who arguably may be the most athletic OL in our roster with best potential of making it to the pros) to the starting five. Here is Palcic on reinserting Kia back in lineup:
"I wanted to give him another opportunity," said Bob Palcic, UCLA's offensive line coach. "He has been working hard in practice, and he does have some experience. I want these kids to know that if I sit you down, it's not over, but you have work hard to earn the right to start again. That's how the system works."
Keep in mind Kia has also dealing with an arm injury all season. Hopefully, this latest combination will pay dividend on Saturday against a tough and physical Cardinal defense.
We have another interesting development on the offensive side of the ball. Sounds like coaches have now officially settled on Forcier as the number 2 QB, ensuring Prince will redshirt this season:
Chris Forcier was elevated to UCLA's backup quarterback in a move the coaching staff hopes will enhance freshman Kevin Prince's chances of redshirting. Forcier took the snaps with the second offense and will backup Kevin Craft.
"It's at a critical time, because do you play Kevin Prince? He hasn't played, so he gets a couple of reps at the end (of a game) and loses his redshirt year," Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow said.
"This is an awful tough time for decisions to be made."
I think that sounds right. I don’t think it is worth it to burn Prince’s redshirt year at this point of the season. I am probably in the minority here, but I think the coaches should stay with Craft rest of the season even though he has had issues throwing the long ball. I am not ready to pin Craft’s inability to throw deep totally on him, given the fact that he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw the ball behind our patchwork OL. The main thing we need from Craft right now is improve on his ability to read the defenses and look beyond his primary target while throwing the ball. Also, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for coaches to get Craft to roll out and run more. He has pretty decent speed for a QB and I rather have the offense gain positive yardage and put us in more manageable down positions, rather than throwing dangerous passes resulting in TOs or incompletions.
Austinalso said he's known Ward's ( safety T.J. Ward who delivered that hit – BN Ed.) family for the past 10 years through youth track, and contacted Ward's sister, Teirra, who is a UCLA student. Oregon
"I told her to tell the family that it's OK,"
said. "I heard (T.J. Ward) was kind of upset and was trying to talk to me on the field to see how I was doing." Austin
That is an awesome move on the part of TA. It shows not only grace on his part, but he makes our entire football program and our alma mater proud with that kind of classy gesture. Kevin Pearson from PE.com has more on Austin’s harrowing experience from Saturday. We are glad he is doing ok.
Lastly, we will end with a good note on season ticket sales. Pearson reported that UCLA passed 50,000 mark in sold season ticket packages, setting a new school report. That is not bad at all for a football program with a first year coach in the middle of a long rebuilding project. Not bad for all the nonsense we hear about UCLA just being a basketball school. Now, hopefully all those season ticket holders come out this Homecoming Saturday and rock the Rose Bowl, helping our boys to pull out a much needed win.