Let's get back to football and look ahead (if that is possible) to this weekend's game against Arizona. I still haven't figure whether UCLA has a shot to win this game. I guess most of us around here have been long enough to know why we can't never count any team out. However, the more I think about this game the more I see a total match up nightmare against Arizona's explosive offense.
From what I have seen from Arizona this year they are the kind of offense that carves up an opposing defense with screen passes and getting their receivers into open spaces (something our guys seem incapable of doing for some reason). That's the kind of offense we have seen in recent years slicing through a Walker/Bullough offense like a hot knife through butter. If anyone here feels differently and thinks that our defense can actually scheme and stop these guys on Saturday, I would love to hear and read your thoughts because right now I am not seeing it.
As for our defense it is becoming pretty easy to scheme around it. As Jon Gold from the Daily News reports this am, the Pac-10 coaches are just keying on our DL rotation and waiting to strike when Price leaves the game:
In football, now there is the Brian Price playbook.
It seems UCLA's opponents have one set of offense for when the Bruins' mammoth defensive tackle is in the game and one for when he is out.
"Yeah, it's respect, but it's irritating because they just wait until I get off the field to run the good stuff," Price said. "I want to stop some good stuff. But I stay on the field longer and they've changed up my rotation. It's not a fact that I'm tired, but coach wants us at 100 percent."
Unfortunately for the Bruins, their opponents might have caught on to the rotation.
Never was it so glaring then against Stanford in Week 4, when head coach Jim Harbaugh said the team used a designed flea flicker on the exact play that Price went to the sidelines and David Carter came in.
The play's timing was not a coincidence.
We saw that pattern play out early on against Cal this past weekend. I think it was late in the first quarter or second quarter when ABC flashed an on screen graphic showing how Cal offense had piled up something ridiculous around 150 yards during Brian Price was off the field. It was pretty embarrassing. The last time I recall our defense making a big play while Price was off the field was during that goal line stance against Tennessee. Well that was ages ago. More after the jump.Sticking with the defensive notes it looks like while Hester may be physically cleared to practice, the coaches are still holding him out. From the OC Register:
Hester, who was cleared to practice this week, was stuck on the sidelines and didn't get the chance of working his way back into the starting lineup.
"I didn't get any reps (Tuesday)," he said after practice. "I don't know what that's about." [...]
"I thought I was going to come in and have a chance to compete again but I guess not," he added. "I guess the coaches have their minds set on something else for this week. I just have to take it and go with it."
Hester like rest of us sounds frustrated:
"It's frustrating because I feel that I can help," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm healthy. I'm probably faster than I was before I got hurt because I was doing so much speed work and cardio work. I'm ready. I'm physically ready." [...]
"I feel I'm ready, I just need the reps," Hester said. "How can I get back ready to compete if I don't get any reps at practice? I don't understand that.
"I'm not saying that I should just walk back in and be the starter right away. I think it should still be a competition. I can't do no worse than anybody else has been doing."
It's weird that the coaches didn't work him in at least for few reps. Here is the explanation from Bullough in the LA Times:
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said Hester would be worked back in slowly because "we installed a lot of stuff since he's been out. He'll gradually work in." But the job that Hester won hands down in spring practice would be open for "competition, probably. We're always going to play the best," Bullough said.
Hmm. Not sure if that explanation makes any sense given what we have seen from Bullough's defense last few weeks. Installing a "lot of stuff"? That sounds pretty Dorrellian to me, particulary given the results we have seen from our defense in our last three games. And whatever "stuff" he has been installing, it's clear that it has been overwhelming Sheldon Price. So may be it makes sense to simplify it a bit or get in someone (I don't know someone like Viney perhaps) who seemed to be getting it done on the field when he was in the game.
I don't mean to pick on Sheldon. He is a true freshman. He is giving his best. However, from what I am seeing it seems to make sense to get someone like Viney in there who is more physically ready for Pac-10/D-1 competition than Price. Anyway, we will see how it works out against Arizona. I am not hopeful at all after what we have seen from Arizona in recent weeks and the shoddy performance of our defense in last three games.
Speaking of shoddy, Arizona's own defense embarrassed itself against Stanford. It gave up 584 total yards and 6 passing plays over 30 yards to Luck and co last Saturday. Here is the Tuscon Citizen on an embarrassed Mark Stoops (Arizona's DC and little brother of head coach Mike Stoops):
Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops walked into the postgame interview room. He probably didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to sit at the big table, just find a little corner of the room. Maybe no one would notice him.
"I’m not happy," he started, surrounded by a semi-circle of seven or eight media members with cameras and reporters.
"Let me rephrase that," he said. "I’m ecstatic we won. But I’m embarrassed."
Coaching defensive football is his livelihood, so a 43-38 victory in which his unit gives up a staggering 584 yards and six passing plays of at least 30 yards is going to create all kinds of conflicting emotions … which eventually gave way to a smile.
Well that goes back to our point from yesterday about the need for UCLA offense to take charge and strike early.
Can we get it done? I am not seeing any reasons for hope. If anyone has thoughts on how we should think differently let us know. We can use the pick me up (it has to be based on reality though) in the next two weeks because right now we are staring at a dreary 5 game losing streak.