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BN Game Day: A Crapshoot Saturday?

<em>Would love to see big plays from Paulsen, showing leadership early on at the Rose Bowl today. Photo Credit: Telemachus</em>
Would love to see big plays from Paulsen, showing leadership early on at the Rose Bowl today. Photo Credit: Telemachus

Got an email this morning from silverlakebruin which I think also summed up perfectly how I am feeling about our game against the Bears this afternoon:

This one's a total crapshoot. No idea what will/should happen.

Pretty much. I don't think anyone has any clear idea of what we are going to see at the Rose Bowl this afternoon. No doubt there is going to be a good amount pressure on Jeff Tedford heading into this ball game. Ted Miller from ESPN's Pac-10 blog wrote earlier this week:

Tedford is well-aware that high expectations and Rose Bowl dreams have given way to frustration and recrimination among the fan base, who have pointed fingers at many things, but most particularly at Tedford.

"I know there's a lot opinions, and there's going to be naysayers and there's going to be critics, but it doesn't help anything," Tedford said. "Everybody's entitled to their opinion. I don't read it and I hope our players don't read it."

Tedford said after his team was overwhelmed at home by USC that he would not yell and scream at his players. He expressed confidence that the Bears wouldn't fracture like the 2007 crew that went from second-ranked to losing six of their final seven regular-season games.

He said it was no time to panic and that there was a lot of football left.

"There was a lot of disappointment, but the main thing was not to be discouraged," Tedford said.

Again I will leave it up to Cal followers in deciding what game is "must-win" situation for their program. But there is a no doubt if they can win this game it would potentially could amount to a season turning moment for a team that went into an unreal tailspin in last two games. I am not going to rehash the so called "pressure" Tedford might be facing in Berekely. I think the knowledgeable football fans up there appreciate what he has meant to their program the same way we appreciate what Ben Howland has done to rebuild our football program.

While Tedford might be under pressure to win today's game, I think UCLA also needs to feel the same sense of urgency. Well we should feel that sense of urgency in every game. Here is CRN in the Daily News write up today:

"I like to think of every game as a must-win," Neuheisel said. "You need to make them all that important. But as far as where our program is headed, are we derailed if we're not successful? No, I don't believe that."

I think that's the right take. However, we do expect UCLA to play a complete game in which our guys are competing from start to finish.More after the jump.

ATV in the same DN article hit on the notes of staying focused for the entire game:

"We have to play four quarters and focus," senior cornerback Alterraun Verner said. "That's just what it comes down to. Those 12 straight plays everybody is focused, and then that one time, somebody slips up.

"Our defense is tailor-made for guys being in their spots and their assignments, and when you're doing something outside of that realm, you leave another guy out to dry."

Verner is right. Against the Ducks, UCLA allowed 222 yards on nine big plays, and 81 yards on Oregon's other 51 plays.

LaMichael James gained 152 yards with runs of 49 and 34 yards while teammate Kenjon Barner had a 48-yard run. It was the Bruins' second week in a row allowing a 100-yard rusher after Stanford's Toby Gerhart in Week 4.

And Best isn't exactly a reprieve.

"As a defense, you look for these competitive games, the games that are going to test your manhood," Verner said. "That's what Stanford and Oregon did. Stanford was a tough, hard-nosed team; Oregon was a disciplined team. Cal is a bit of all that - they're going to keep us disciplined and we have to be tough because Jahvid is a very tough runner. This keeps us primed instead of giving us that letdown factor."

Best is of course the key headliner in this Cal team. And many thinks how he performs will be the key to this game. From the OC Register:

Best will be even more of a threat because the Bruins' defense won't go into the game 100 percent healthy. Carter did not practice with the team this week because of a sprained right knee. He still expects to play.

Korey Bosworth re-aggravated sore ribs in last week's game but said he's ready to go.

"He (Best) is an explosive player but he's not their only explosive player," Neuheisel cautioned. "They've got other guys that you have to make sure you wrap up and make sure you've got them down. It isn't a one-man show by any stretch of the imagination."

I think the best chance for the Bruins today is to make sure they contain him and keep him in a box. I don't think it will be the end of the world if they can keep him within 120 something yards rushing. I think they key for the Bruin defense to keep us in the game and perhaps help us get the win at home will be to put extreme pressure on Kevin Riley. Wrote yesterday that how Riley just like Prince has been working hard to get back his rhythm he totally loss in their last two games. From the LA Times:

In the last two games, Riley has completed 27 of 61 passes for 322 yards and no touchdowns with one interception.

"I threw after every day of practice," Riley said. "The balls I am missing, I'm just putting them a little high, but every one is close. I'm just sailing them a little bit."

The drop-off coincided with what seemed like an effort by Coach Jeff Tedford to increase Riley's role.

Against Oregon, the Bears recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff inside the 25-yard line. Tedford chose to go with three passes -- all incomplete -- instead of giving Best the ball.

Against USC, Riley threw four passes on the opening drive, the last of which was intercepted by Taylor Mays. The rest of the game was a blur, with Riley completing only 15 of 40 passes.

"I have to make plays so they can't put more people in the box," Riley said.

So it will be up to our front-7 to make sure Riley doesn't get comfortable at all and get into any kind of rhyhm early on. They will have to be on him as much as possible and do everything they can to disrupt his timing and rhytm.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball same goes for Kevin Prince. We can't afford him to be rusty and out of sync like he was against Oregon early on last Saturday. He will need to be ready to execute Chow's game plan so that he can get the offense moving and then help close the deal whe we get near the goal lines. Our red zone production in terms of TDs have simply been unaccpetable and it needs to improve starting today.

For more game writeups check out the LA Times amd We will have our game thread up around 12:00 pm PST (also the time we will close our pre game guesses thread). As mentioned above, I have no idea what to expect from today's game. Right now I am hoping we can make an effort to play our first clean and complete game of the season. I think if we can pull that off we are going to have a good shot to our season back on track today.