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Spaulding Roundup: Defensive Challenge & Other Notes

We will start our Humpday roundup spotlighting one of the biggest concerns for Saturday night: stopping containing the Oregon offense. It is not going to happen unless the Bruin front line can exert some pressure on Oregon’s QB. Bruins haven’t been able to generate any pass rush until last weekend when they registered 4 sacks. They were able to generate pressure against Tennessee although it netted in just one sack. They didn’t do much to disrupt the rhythm of BYU, Arizona and Fresno State’s offense. More on the Bruin defense’s inability to generate pressure from the LA Times:

The Bruins have had troubles up front for a variety of reasons. Bruce Davis, the Pacific 10 Conference co-leader in sacks last season, has graduated. Ends Tom Blake and Korey Bosworth have struggled because of nagging injuries.

That left the Bruins' pass rush on the outside less dangerous.

"We were being a little robotic with it," Bosworth said. "We weren't doing everything we could to get at the quarterback. Last week, we did a lot of stunts. We were also individually conscious about getting to the quarterback."

They will need to be again this week against Oregon's spread offense. Howard will continue to experiment with different personnel and blitzes. Tackle Chase Moline probably will get more time at end. Center Jess Ward was moved back to tackle to fill Moline's void.

The Ducks have a strong running game and two quarterbacks, Justin Roper and Jeremiah Masoli, who have had injury problems. Roper injured a knee against Purdue on Sept. 13 and is expected to return this week. Masoli suffered a concussion against Boise State on Sept 20 but has started the last two weeks.

"We have to get pressure on guys to win," Bosworth said. "If we don't, we'll get punished."

If the Bruin defense doesn’t generate any pressure on either Masoli or Roper, we will be dead. It will be absolutely essential for our guys not to just put pressure on Oregon’s QB, but to disrupt their rhythm. If those guys have as much time as Hall, Tuitama and Brandstater had to sit in the pocket and pick apart our defenses underneath, it will potentially get ugly again.

Then there is the issue of need for sure tackling if they flush any of those guys out of the pocket. Both of those guys can run. Masoli has rushed for 72 yards in 24 carries, while Roper has 76 in 12 carries (although Roper is currently recovering from knee injury and illness). Any of these guys can elude pressure and has the ability to turn convert 3rd downs with their scrambling ability as well as taking advantage of the weapons Ducks have at their disposal.  So I hope our coaches are emphasizing fundamentals such as basic tackling this week in practice. Because if we see the same kind of sloppy tackling we saw in the early part of Wazzu game, the game will get out of hand early. We will have more on Oregon’s personnel later. 

Speaking of the defense, Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise has a fun report on Brian Price getting his shots in at the FB position:

Price, the gem of UCLA's 2007 recruiting class, has been used the past two games as a fullback when the Bruins have the ball in goal-line situations. He helped pave the way for Kahlil Bell to have a pair of rushing touchdowns last week against Washington State.

"It's not fair at all," said defensive tackle Brigham Harwell, who is one of Price's closest friends. "A 300-pounder with a 5-yard running head start is not a good thing to go against at all.

"I wouldn't want to get in his way. He loves to hit and it's funny, but we're hoping they give him a touchdown one day."

While that may or may not be in the plans, the one certainty is that Price is an intimidating force when he gets moving. He looks like a road grader going through the line and against Washington State, several defenders simply moved out of his way, not wanting to get hit.

"I haven't really pancaked anyone yet so I am waiting for that," Price said.

"I want to embarrass them (opponents) on TV. That's what I'm waiting for. We watched the film and when I ran through the hole, it opened up. It's not fair that they ran out of the way."

We are all waiting for the moment when BP gets the ball near the goal line. We will end this roundup with couple of other notes. As I mentioned couple of days ago Nick Crissman may have surgery at the end of this season. Dohn has more on Crissman today:

Freshman quarterback Nick Crissman said he expects to have surgery on his ailing right shoulder, although uncertainty remains as to what will be done.

Crissman said doctors were to read his latest MRI by this afternoon. Depending what was found, he would either have surgery to repair a fray on the front of his labrum, or exploratory surgery would be needed to determine why his throwing shoulder is not healing.

"I'm just looking forward to getting this over with," Crissman said. "It's a lot of pain. I just want to know what's going on for sure."

You’ve got to feel for the kid for having to go through this in his first year at school. Hopefully his doctors have the problem figured out and resolved soon.

Lastly, we will end with this note from Bellotti re the overblown reports of animosity between CRN and him:

[W]hen Neuheisel's career at Washington imploded only a few months later, Bellotti was one of the first coaches who reached out to him and offered support.

"I am forever thankful to Mike for being willing to extend himself in the way he did and write a letter on my behalf to the NCAA," Neuheisel said. "There's a lot that's been said about my relationship with Mike -- the acrimony, if you will -- but I think that all has been put in the past and I consider him not only a great coach but a really good guy."

So don't be shocked if Bellotti and Neuheisel exchange a warm handshake and chat amiably before the game Saturday.

That will not be a surprise to anyone here on BN.