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Spaulding Roundup: Getting Ready For Oregon St

The bye week is over. Bruins now have to start focusing on an opponent (they actually started the process last week) which is coming into the Rose Bowl on bit of a roll and with a goal of a return on New Year’s Day. Oregon State has won 3 in a row and 5 of their 6 games. If the win out rest of their games, the will win the Pac-10 and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965.

They have been doing it this year with two key stars: QB Lyle Moevao RB Jacquizz Rogers.  Apparently Moevao hurt his shoulder a bit last weekend during their tough win against ASU. Backup Sean Canfield came in and help them pull out a close win. From Ted Miller over at WWL:

Oregon State coach Mike Riley told reporters Sunday that quarterback Lyle Moevao's shoulder is sore but he hasn't been ruled out of Saturday's game at UCLA.

Moevao was knocked out of the Arizona State game early in the second quarter. Backup Sean Canfield came on and led the Beavers to a 27-25 victory, completing 19 of 28 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Most important: He didn't allow a pick-six he threw just after halftime to Sun Devils safety Troy Nolan crush his confidence.

Calfield himself had suffered a shoulder injury which had kept him out most of this season. It will be interesting to see who Riley starts on Saturday, but it will not matter much per the LA Times:

No matter who starts at quarterback, the Beavers still have one of the conference's best running backs in Jacquizz Rodgers, who added to his league-leading rushing total with 133 yards against Arizona State.

"We all got a chance to see the 'SC game," Bruin receiver Terrence Austin said. "We know that they're a really good team."

For the Bruins to win on Saturday, they will need a huge game from an improving defense:

"The defense is supposed to hold up, and they're doing a real good job of it," UCLA receiver Terrence Austin said. "Coach Walker is out there pressing his guys every day in practice and it's showing up on Saturdays. I don't feel bad for them. I'm happy they're doing their job."

Through it all, Walker said his defense has not become discouraged or disheartened by the offense.

"If we keep improving like we are, at some point we'll be better than the two defenses we had," Walker said. "I'm not going to say we're trying to put a Band-Aid on and develop, but in the last four games I've seen where we're heading. If we can doing that the next four games and not lose any guys to injuries they'll know they got a lot better."

Walker already knows about defensive turnarounds at UCLA. He was hired after the 2005 season and turned a horrid defense into a confident, fast-moving unit that trimmed two touchdowns off the points-per-game average with the same collection of players in 2006, when UCLA yielded 19.9 points per game.

In addition to this season's offensive offense, inexperience is playing a factor. The Bruins replaced all-American defensive end Bruce Davis, middle linebacker Christian Taylor, cornerback Trey Brown and safeties Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes - each had at least two years of starting experience - from last year's team, and freshmen are playing a significant role.

True freshmen Rahim Moore (free safety) and Datone Jones (defensive end) are starting, and classmate Tony Dye is playing in the nickel package. Akeem Ayers and Steve Sloan - both redshirt freshmen - are starting linebackers.

I do believe the defense has been slowly improving this season as it has to deal with injuries and replacing the aforementioned seniors. They are going to have a tough challenge ahead of them this weekend against Jacquizz Rodgers. Hopefully they will be able to keep him contained and not allow him a lot of open space to explode out of at the Rose Bowl.

This is a huge game that can set the big picture tempo for rest of the season. If the Bruins can pull out a victory in this game, it could set them up for a memorable stretch run to close out CRN’s first season. We will have more on Oregon State later this week.