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Game Day Roundup: Leaning On The Bruin Defense

<em>BRUIN DEFENSE. Photo: <a href="" target="new">Telemachus</a></em>
BRUIN DEFENSE. Photo: Telemachus

So as of this morning we still don't know who is going to be our starting QB tonight at the Rose Bowl. Coach Neuheisel and Chow have done a pretty good job of playing poker in terms of keeping the media in suspense about his quarterback situation (something which frankly I am kind of enjoying b/c it is hilarious to see the reporters chasing hints) all week. The bottom line is it is not going to matter who starts because UCLA is going to depend on the formula of tough defense, good special teams, and basic mistake free offense (as much as practicable) for pulling out a win against a desperate Kansas State team today.

As one of the team captains LB Reggie Carter is well versed on today's mission:

"We don't know what to expect," linebacker Reggie Carter said. "All we know is it will either be a guy making his first start this season or a guy making the first start of his career. We've got to definitely go out there and make it easier on them."

The way the Bruins have played defense so far, status quo should suffice.

UCLA ranks 27th in the nation in total defense, giving up 242.5 yards a game; 30th in rush defense, giving up 77.0 yards a game; and is tied for 33rd in scoring defense, giving up 14.5 points a game.

The Bruins also are tied for fourth in forcing turnovers, with seven. Safety Rahim Moore is responsible for the bulk of that, having intercepted five passes.

"We've got to take the ball away and don't let them score," Carter said. "That way whoever is at quarterback can be a little more comfortable, knowing that if he does happen to make a mistake we have his back."

Bruins should be focused this week because of the adversity (injury and suspensions) immediately after the huge in against Tennessee. Coach Bullough gave Jon Gold of the Daily News a little sample of the message he and his colleagues have been pushing all week at Spaulding:

"You can't ever worry about that (injuries and suspensions)," defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said Wednesday. "The first day of camp I told them, `The healthiest we're ever going to be is today. After today, we will not be healthy. If injuries happen, don't be a weak link.' We can't stop this game. They're not going to postpone the game. We've got to go, and we've got to be ready to play."

They will have to cowboy up and be ready to play against a team coached by one of the more successful leaders in college football. No doubt KSU is not the same team right now that was piling up one big bowl win after another. They are struggling a bit and are double digit underdogs. However, if there is anyone who doubts Bill Snyder's ability to motivate a team, all they have to do is how his underdogs took care of teams such as Oklahoma Sooners in the Big-12 championship game. More on today's game after the jump.

KSU's game plan tonight is not going to be very different from UCLA. From our friends at Bring On The Cats (who have been fantastic all week) here are the x-factors for the Wildcats:

The X-factor in this game - which likely figures to be a close, defensive battle - could be special teams, and that doesn't bode well for the Cats, who have been uncharacteristically (for either Prince or Snyder) bad on that side of the ball. The really distressing thing to me isn't the kicking game (I think Josh Cherry eventually will settle down and be a decent kicker for us, and hell, he's due to finally hit one); it's the lack of ANYTHING in the return game. We seem to have no blocking or speed back there, and when you're struggling to score as it is, having a good return game can be the difference between victory and defeat. Just ask Darren Sproles and the San Diego Chargers.

So as usual, the keys to victory for the Wildcats are the same as always: be sound in the kicking game, protect the damn ball, don't beat yourselves, and let the defense and the running backs win it

We will have to keep an eye out for Daniel Thomas and KSU running attack:

A silver lining for the Wildcats so far has been Daniel Thomas, the first Kansas State running back to begin his career with consecutive 100-yard rushing performances since Cornelius Davis in 1966.

Thomas, a junior college transfer, has rushed for 240 yards, but he'll be a marked man for the likes of UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price and linebacker Reggie Carter.

Neuheisel says he sees the Wildcats' running game as a chore to contain.

"They love to run their quarterback, and that creates more gaps," Neuheisel said. "It gives them an extra weapon. So our guys have to stay at home and be conscious of their assignments."

In other words ABC (Ayers, Bosworth, Carter) will have to be on extra alert tonight. This will be another game day in which we are going to lean on our defense.

For more on the game check out the write ups by AP and the Kanas City Star. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:15 pm PST. Will have pre-game thread going up this afternoon around 12:30 pm PST leading to the game thread about half an hour before kickoff. Also, don't forget to get your pre-game guesses in. We will close that thread right when the game one goes up. Enjoy another Game Day.