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Spaulding Roundup: ASU Gameweek & Season Data Points

Bruins get back in game week mode tonight. From the LA Times:

The UCLA football team begins a short week of preparation for Arizona State with an unusual evening practice today.

Coach Rick Neuheisel won't gather his players on Spaulding Field until 7:25 p.m., getting them ready for a Friday night game at Sun Devil Stadium.

The Bruins will practice at home through Wednesday, then have meetings and a walk-through Thursday morning before traveling in the afternoon. A Thanksgiving dinner is planned in Tempe.

The matchup is vitally important to the Bruins and the Sun Devils, both of whom must win their final two games to become bowl-eligible.

"Obviously, UCLA is going to be more difficult," Arizona State Coach Dennis Erickson said after his team defeated Washington State on Nov. 15. "But we're playing for something."

Like UCLA, Arizona State had a bye this weekend.

UCLA and ASU have identical 4-6 (3-4 in the Pac-10) records and will be fighting to stay alive for a bowl berth. The Sun Devils are coming into this game in a bit of roll by taking care of Washington schools (like every other team in the conference). Given their pre-season expectations, they have had a hugely disappointing season as they fell hard after a 2-0 start, losing 6 games in a row. So they are going to come in focused, fired up, trying to end their year in Dennis Erickson’s second season on a positive note.

As for our guys, we will have a chance to fight and win in this game. The formula to pull it out will be a familiar one. Kevin Craft will have to minimize his mistakes while our defense will have to do it best to hang in there and keep the game close heading into fourth quarter.

Adam Rose, from LAT’s What’s Bruin posted some pretty interesting data points last week, which put our season in interesting light. While our over all record doesn’t indicate it, the following numbers on penalties in Adam’s words are “testament to coaching sound fundamentals”:

A good sign of discipline is improvement on penalties, which have fallen dramatically. Last year, the Bruins were flagged 78 times for 656 yards, while this year it's only 59 times for 480 yards. Considering how many new coaches and inexperienced players the Bruins are using, that's a testament to coaching sound fundamentals.

Adding to those numbers is the following breakdown of TOs this season:

Despite giving up six more interceptions, total turnovers are up only by one. Last year, UCLA put the ball on the ground 23 times and lost it 12 of those times. This year, the Bruins have dropped it only 12 times and recovered it all but seven times.

In other words, just imagine what our offense would have looked like if we had a 100% Pat Cowan or Ben Olson to work with. Even with Kevin Craft, as Class of 66 has pointed all season, our offense has done a remarkable job of ball control, alleviating the preseason fears that an inexperienced offense would put too much pressure on our defense:

It is a surprise that UCLA has improved in time of possession. Many expected that this Bruin defense would get worn out because it would spend a lot of time on the field. Not so. UCLA had the ball for 28:54 per game last year after 10 games, and 30:28 this year. In a related statistic, opponent first downs have dropped from 197 to 182. The cause and effect can go either way on this one.

Again if you go back and look at our season, except for the BYU blowout, we have been fighting and scratching in every game deep into second half. Again, if we had gotten even above average or averaging performance from our QB position (and I don’t write this to knock Craft, I think he himself will admit looking at his numbers that there is a whole lot of room for improvement), our record would have been a little different than 4-6.

Meanwhile, the defense to its credit, has been getting better as pointed out by the following numbers:

Even though opponents are running better against the Bruins this year (1,807 yards compared to 1,111), the UCLA pass defense is much improved. Last year it gave up 2,501 yards. This year? Only 1,642. As a result, opponents' total offense is down slightly, from 3,612 to 3,449.

 You can check out more data points Adam posted by going here.

The key for our defense this Friday night will be to play an entire game in which they come out with hairs on fire and then finish strong. We will have more on the ’Devils later this week.