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Spaulding Roundup: UCLA On The Brink

About 32 hours to go till the biggest football game of the season. This has been one of those weeks when I was wishing for football game to be on Thursday night on ESPN. I was thinking when was the last time Bruins had this kind of opportunity to seize total control of momentum heading into that last regular game of the season. The game I keep thinking back to is the one against Washington Huskies in 19978?

Do you guys remember that Washington game from 978? IIRC Brock Huard was the QB for the Huskies at the time while number 18 was of course marshaling the offense on our side. Heading into that game everyone had that sense. Something special was going on with our program. Our offense was showing signs of clicking on all cylinders as Cade was in total control. Long's defense was flying around the field. I wasn't at the game but I remember when ABC's camera zoomed in with the aerial shot. There were about 80,000+ Bruins fans waving towls and going berserk making the Rose Bowl sound as loud as I have ever heard.  That was the game when everything came together. Cade was flying around decking Husky LBers in his classic roll outs while Brian Willmer and co. were just demolishing Huard into the turf. Up until that game Bruins always found a way to choke whenever they had opportunities to seize momentum but they came through in a huge way, blowing out the Huskies by a score of 51-21.

Well there is no way I see the Bruins blowing out the Sun Devils. I think getting a W tomorrow is going to be a huge battle. However, I do think this year's Bruins have an opportunity to recapture some of that magic from 98 (while making a season ending run following 5 game losing streak ala 92). All season we haven't had a game in which both the offense and defense clicked together at the same time. I can't think of a better occassion than senior day at the Rose Bowl, so that kids like ATV, Carter, Austin, Bosworth brothers, and Paulsen finally getting rid of some of the pains from Dorrell years. Tomorrow's game is so huge. It will put us on the brink to make that charge we all have been hoping to see signs of. We are all thristy and desperate for it and I am praying our guys can come out and play with the ultimate urgency. Our guys - at least on paper - during this game week have sounded like having the right mindset heading into Saturday. More on that after the jump.

Brian Price and co. have been hearing a lot about the ASU defense (for good reasons). They sound anxious to playe their role in a possible defensive slugfest:

UCLA's game against Arizona State could be a defensive affair, and most are touting the Sun Devils in that department.

ASU has 24 takeaways, including 15 interceptions.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," UCLA junior defensive tackle Brian Price said. "It's going to be a showdown, I guess. Their defense versus our defense. It matters. It's motivation, more fuel to the fire."

The ASU defense allows opponents to gain just over 300 yards and convert just 30.7 percent of their first downs, both of which lead the Pac-10. Neuheisel hopes UCLA would win a defensive battle.

"We'd love for it to be to our advantage," Neuheisel said. "I know this: In a defensive game, you can't turn the ball over. We have to do a great job not turning the ball over, knowing what we can and can't do and not let their pass rush be a huge factor in the deal. And see if we can find a way to get this win."

It looks like Price and co. will be facing either soph. Samson Szakacsy or senior Danny Sullivan tomorrow at the Rose Bowl:

Coach Dennis Erickson narrowed his choices (for starting quarterback) to two Wednesday, opting not to start true freshman Brock Osweiler for a second consecutive game.

Sullivan started the first nine games then sat out last week against Oregon with a right biceps injury.
"I don't think he's totally healthy," Erickson said. "That's part of the decision. He's throwing it OK, but not like he can. It's still bothering him."

If Szakacsy, who played in the second quarter and the entire second half last week, gets his first start then Erickson would prefer that Sullivan back him up because of his experience.

Osweiler left the Oregon game because of a left-shoulder injury but is healthy enough to play, Erickson said.

All signs point to Szakacsy getting the start particularly because his right elbow tendinitis is not flaring up even with his extra throwing.

"He's practiced very well," Erickson said. "He's smart and he understands what's going on. He gets the ball out quick. It (his elbow) is closer to where it was in the spring than it has been because really early in the season he couldn't have played. He couldn't throw it from here to the fence."

Whoever starts tomorrow our defense cannot let him get comfortable. They need to disrupt him by making him hurry by bringing pressure on him from all over the place. I really liked how Bullough used Akeem Ayers this past weekend. He finally figured out it seems that Ayers has a lot of potential to destroy opposing QBs in number of ways, if we get him lined up as DE. I would love to see more of that along with pressure coming from other angles. Tomorrow is the day our defense needs to come out and fly around all over the field, making the same statement they made on national television in Tennessee.

Elsewhere the LAT focuses on the competition at the RB spot in Westwood. Milton Knox is embracing it:

"You can't call it crowded. I call it competition," Knox said. "We're in a program that is trying to be the best right now. We've got two more guys coming in. They will compete just like everybody else. If you don't like competition, what are you doing here?"

JetSki has the right attitude as well but he has his RBs mixed up:

"It's the big leagues," Franklin said. "They're always trying to find that guy, that Reggie Bush, that O.J. Simpson, to come in and take the position. You just have to come out here and work hard."

Uh no. Johnathan we are not looking for (alleged) double murderer and (alleged) cheaters (turned into NFL busts) in Westwood. We are looking for you to do the same thing as Skip Hicks, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Gaston Greene and of course MJD. That means better focus and concentration on the field:

"I don't care how big you are, how fast you are, whatever, you got to hold on to the ball," running backs coach Wayne Moses said. "Your team depends on that from you. He understands it. We've got to keep working toward that end."

Hopefully JetSki, Knox, Coleman and Moline can find a way to come through and help out Kevin Prince against the best defense in the conference tomorrow. If they can play a big role in getting us a W, forget the giddiness around being bowl eligible, it will put our program on the brink of something special.