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Spaulding Roundup: Flickers Of Bruin Hope In Corvallis

Well I went on record last week that we were staring at a 5 game losing streak. We didn't see anything in the dispiriting loss against Arizona to change that outlook. Our quarterback situation is fuzzy and injuries are piling up a bit (more on that below) on the defensive front. There is a total sense of doom and gloom that has taken over not only just BN but seems like the general Bruin community both on and offline. Any way you look at this weekend's game it is shaping up to be a classic nightmare during a very cliche Halloween weekend. Yet early this morning when I was looking through the numbers for both Oregon State and UCLA, I did find little flickers of hope.

Lets see here. Here are some data points to consider:

  • Oregon State ranks 9th in the conference in the category of sacks allowed per game (3.14). On the flip side UCLA ranks 7th in the conference in sacks per game (1.86). Here is the key stat though. UCLA is ranks 2nd in the conference in the category of "tackles for loss" (7.71 per game) thanks to exploits of Brian Price and co. So, I am guessing if Mr. Bullough decides to shake things up just a bit, show different looks other than his boring and vanilla 4-3 scheme, and I don't know try to bring some heavy pressure on Canfield, things could get a little interesting. No?
  • The Quizz is an amazing football player. We all know about him at this point. He is ranked second in the conference rushing for 115.71 yards per game. However, here is the interesting note. Oregon State over all is not a juggaurnaut rushing team. Their rushing offense ranks 7th in the conference. Of course the problem here is matchup wise this is not a fun situation for UCLA because we haven't shown the ability to stop opposing RBs when they get to the outside edge. Perhaps having Aaron Hester this week will help a little but I am not sure. Still it was interesting for me to find out Oregon State is not in the top half of the conference in total rushing offense.
  • On the defensive side of the ball Oregon State is ranked 8th in the conference in scoring defense and ranked 7th in total defense. I don't need to go over in detail about the offensive trouble we have had on our side. No doubt the Oregon State defense is thinking how they are going to improve their stats taking on our meek offense. But hey  - may be - just may be the coaches on the offensive side of ball could think about this game as an opportunity for opening things up again and replicate the performance from the California game (sans the the miscues and settling for FGs).
  • When looking int Oregon States statistics referenced above note they include a 34-7 win over Portland State and a nailbiting 23-21 win over UNLV in which they had to kick a last second FG to eek out the victory.

Now look. There is no way I am discounting the improvement Oregon State has made since the opening two games of this season. I think they are one of the best coached teams not just in the Pac-10 but in the entire West. They have explosive athletes and a very good QB. They are going to be riled up on home coming weekend and look to put a hurt on our Bruins. Yet I throw up those numbers up to point out things shouldn't be that bleak. Again, I have never cared much for moral victories but I do think Bruins might have a shot if they can somehow regroup and just focus on excution, play with fire and play with a sense of nothing to lose. More after the jump.

Mentioned above that defensive injuries are piling up. From the LA Times:

The middle of the Bruins' defense took another hit Wednesday, as starting defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski hobbled off the field on crutches. Siewierski injured his right foot during practice, according to Coach Rick Neuheisel.

"Jerzy tweaked something," Neuheisel said. "We'll find out the significance of it. We'll have to wait and see."

Siewierski was scheduled to be re-examined this morning. Even if he can play, it adds another problem to a defense that has struggled and has key players hurt.

Linebacker Reggie Carter has practiced little the last three weeks, after injuring his left knee against Oregon. He has not missed a game, but his playing time was limited in a 27-13 loss to Arizona on Saturday. Alterraun Verner, the Bruins' top cornerback, suffered a dislocated toe against Arizona and has been held out some in practice this week.

"It's good," Verner said. "It's definitely better than I thought it would be, especially after Saturday."

Obviously losing Jerzy will be a big hit. Let's hope for the best in terms of news update today. However, if he can't make it on Saturday let's hope our replacements are ready to go. The news on ATV was interesting. I wasn't aware of his toe injury. It might explain just a little how he has looked a step slower in last two weekends (especially against Cal).

ATV and his team-mates are going to be tested this weekend by Sean Canfield who is one of the most accurate passers in the conference. From the Daily News:

Canfield has thrown for 1,734 yards and 11 touchdowns for the 4-3 Beavers and is coming off a 329-yard, three-touchdown performance in Oregon State's 42-36 loss at USC.

"There's no doubt about it. It's confidence and decisiveness," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "That's not only into the year, but through the year. Almost game to game. He's hung in there and made throws and hasn't blinked, which is a big, big part at quarterback."

UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel was most impressed by Canfield's consistency, and for good reason.

Canfield has thrown for at least one touchdown in all but one game this year, a 28-18 loss to then-No. 17 Cincinnati in Week 3. Meanwhile, he's thrown multiple interceptions just once; he had two against Arizona in a Week 4 loss and only four for the year.

"He's a very consistent player and he has great command of that offense," Neuheisel said. "He knows where to get the ball and he's very difficult to get to. He's having a very nice season."

Well as I have said multiple times this week our defense cannot allow Canfield to sit in the pocket against a base 4-3 defense early on and let him pick apart our secondary. We will have to bring some pressure on him early (when he is not expecting) and get him off rhythm.

Another thing, I don't want to see from our defense (while watching the replay) is to see our corners giving their receivers 7-8 yard cushion to get a running start. That has been driving me crazy last few weeks to see how opposing receivers have been picking up 6-7 yards without making much of an effort. We are going to need ATV and Hester to be physical and play some tough bump and run to slow down the momentum opposing receivers have had on our DBs in recent weeks.

So what it boils down to is that for our Bruins to have a shot this weekend against Oregon State we will need our coaches to devise a game plan that is on the opposite end of conservative. This is not one of those games in which we are going to be able to "manage" our way into a victory. For the Bruins to steal a win this weekend not only they will have to be disciplined and execute the individual plays, they will have to have schemes that has them attacking the Beavers on both side of the football. We will have to let it all out.  Do I think our coaches can pull it off? We can always hope. Right?