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Spaulding Roundup: Oregon State Game Notes

So a huge game for the Bruin defense tomorrow. I didn’t get to watch the game against Cal but from it sounded (based on various observations and clips posted here on BN) the Bruin defense did a pretty good job in hanging in there against Cal’s explosive running attack, until the roof collapsed in fourth quarter from our unforced errors on the offensive side of the ball.

Well the Bruin defense will have another huge assignment tomorrow going up against Jacquizz Rodgers. Walker is scheming to defend Rodgers the same way he was scheming against Jahvid Best. He will try to keep Rodgers contained in a defensive "cage":

Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker says his front seven needs to build a cage. Each defender represents a section of the fence, assigned to a particular gap. Each must hold his ground, control that gap, and not just chase the ball.

"We can't let him out of the cage," Walker said of Rodgers. "You give him any creases, man, he's going to find those creases."

Harwell provided more details re. techniques necessary to build this "cage" around Rodgers:

At the snap, he engages the blocker head-on and hopefully pushes a yard or two into the backfield. If he leans to peak around his man, Rodgers might fly past on the other side. So he must wait and rely on peripheral vision to catch a glimpse of the tailback flashing by to the left or right.

"It happens so quickly," Harwell said. "Off the ball. One-two. When he commits, you try to rip off the block and make the tackle."

While the line constricts the gaps, the linebackers flow to their spots every bit as cautiously.

"You never like sitting and waiting because that's how you get blocked," Carter said. "But you've got to wait for him to pop out of the backfield."

At which point there remains one more task on the to-do list: Wrestling the Oregon State runner to the ground.

Easier said than done. Hopefully after a week off, the Bruin defense will be sharp and fresh out of the gate. If we are not seeing crisp and good tackling early on from our defense, the team will find itself in a hole again.

Right now it looks like Canfield will be starting tomorrow, who will not represent any drop off from Lyle Moevao. Canfield came off the bench to lead the Beavers in a come from behind win against the Beavers: 

"Sean getting to play and coming from behind and winning the game I think was very positive," Riley said.

The left-hander started the first nine games of the 2007 season before his injury against USC. After a setback during the summer, his shoulder has continued to improve.

"I don't think Sean is throwing with the same velocity he had a year ago," Riley said. "But he is getting closer."

Last season in a 40-14 loss to UCLA at Corvallis, Canfield completed 22 of 35 passes for 146 yards with two interceptions.

This fall, he has completed 20 of 30 for 257 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

I think no matter who starts at QB for the Beavers tomorrow, the defensive focus will have to start with containing the Beavers rushing attack. Not sure if the Bruin defense will be able to shut down Rodgers et al. If they can keep him under check, that will allow the defense to put some pressure on Oregon State’s QB to win the game with his arm.

Over at the offensive side, here is the latest on our OL:

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said freshman Jeff Baca would start at left tackle and Mike Harris would start at right tackle with Jake Dean at center. With the suspensions of Scott Glicksberg and Micah Reed (along with defensive tackle Jess Ward), the Bruins will start Darius Savage and Nick Ekbatani at the guard positions, and Brandon Bennett and Sonny Tevaga will be the backups.

"We've got answers for all that can happen (with injuries), but you hope you don't have to go to the answers," Neuheisel said. "You keep your fingers crossed."

Also fingers crossed for Craft. Hopefully the week off allowed him to put the Cal game out of his mind. I think if he comes out and looks for some easy completions to move the offense, it will be a huge boost for his confidence. One of the guys he might be looking out for is TE Ryan Moya:

Tight end Ryan Moya might be one of the best pure football players on UCLA's roster and having a breakout season, but he has been virtually missing the past two games.

Moya is second on the team with 31 catches for 298 yards and a team-high three touchdowns but has a combined three receptions for 27 yards in the past two games. Prior to that, he had at least three catches in every game and had a streak of three straight games with at least five catches and 52 yards.

"We'll still try to keep him involved," Neuheisel said. "He's a good player and made a lot of plays for us."

Well, I think Moya’s production has gone down a bit because the opposing defense have been keeping him under check (scouting his early season success) creating more opportunities for Austin, Embree and even Rosario (who BTW will not be available tomorrow). The key here again is for Craft to relax (just like he did during crunch time v Tennessee and Stanford) a bit and look for his best options. And sometimes that option might include using his mobility scramble for positive yardage instead of throwing it double coverage or just taking a sack.

Should be interesting how the team responds after stewing over a disappointing (but not surprising) loss two weeks ago. Here is to our boys being fired up and ready to go.