Whatever disappointment UCLA might have felt from the defensive letdown from this past weekend, they will have to quickly put that aside to get ready for a monster game up in Berkeley. The circumstances around this Saturday's game, is somewhat similar to last year.
Last year California Bears were coming into UCLA game somewhat on a down note after losing to Southern Cal. They had two weeks to prepare for UCLA and get their season back on track. While Bruins were heading into that game with a similar record of 3-2 and back to back deflating losses against Stanford and Oregon. Then Jahvid Best happened to Chuck Bullough's defense and the Bruins remained winless in the month of October.
This year the Bears are coming into this game with two full weeks to prepare for the Bruins and put their disappointing losses in the rear view mirror. It's a huge game for them as arguably the results for this game could have ramifications for the tone of rest of their season. It also helps that they have already had one shot (no pun intended) against the pistol offense when they took on Nevada few weeks ago. As everyone know here by now, it didn't go too well and according to the OC Register left Jeff Tedford a little "rattled":
Ault and the Wolfpack used that blueprint to demolish the Golden Bears. Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
He also passed for 181 yards and two TDs. The Wolfpack had 316 yards rushing and four TDs on 49 carries for a 6.4 yards-per-carry average.
It left Cal coach Jeff Tedford rattled.
"Their offense is so strange," Tedford said after the game. I think they can run that kind of offense against anyone. They know what they are doing and they're hard to stop."
Well I think Tedford and the Bears are going to be just fine heading into this Saturday. As mentioned previously they were without Mike Mohamed (arguably one of the best LBers in the country) when they took on Nevada. Mohamed has been dogged by a toe injury this season, and I am guessing he is going to be good to go this Saturday (haven't seen anything latest to point otherwise). With him the lineup, Cal defense is a different beast and they looked more than capable in containing an explosive Arizona offense in their heart breaking loss in Tucson.
So the Bruins who are uncertain right now about their starting QB, a vanilla defense that looked uncertain, porous and at times soft against the worst team in the conference this past weekend, will have a huge mountain to climb when they show up at Strawberry Canyon this Saturday. You can check out the early notes on this game here.
In some ways the assignment against the Bears who come in with a QB way more experienced than Jeff Tuel, and one of the best rushing attack in the country spear headed be Shane Vereen, are going to be much tougher challenge than the Texas Longhorns.
As for the QB situation according to Coach Neuheisel Kevin Prince is feeling "great":
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel told reporters during a Sunday conference call that if healthy, sophomore Kevin Prince will be the starting quarterback for the Bruins' matchup at Cal on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"He says he feels good today," Neuheisel said. "We'll wait and see what he looks like on Tuesday. No more (X-rays) or anything, just a basis of how he feels.
"I just saw him, and he said he felt great."
However, we are not going to know before Tuesday's practice, how Prince's knee really feels. It is going to be interesting whether coaches will go with Prince if he can't take the majority of first team reps from Tuesday through Thursday. Again it's one of those decisions that are not easy. I am sure lot of people will be clamoring for Richard Brehaut based on his performance against a horrible defense in front of the friendly confines at the Rose Bowl. However, playing in front a rowdy Berkeley crowd with such a huge game on the line is a whole different beast. We will see I guess.
As for the Bears, pretty sure Tedford and his QB - Kevin Riley - are chomping at the bit to take on UCLA's bumbling, stumbling, undisciplined and trash talking secondary:
The Bruins face California this week, and the Golden Bears coaches are certain to pore over the game tape. Cal's Kevin Riley ranks a respectable 34th in the nation in passing efficiency at 144.5.
UCLA had trouble finding receivers at times and was outfought for balls other times. Toss in two pass interference penalties, and the Bruins were left with a woeful afternoon.
"They were playing pitch and catch," Neuheisel said. "Their quarterback had a big day, but frankly, we should have been better. We have to shore that up quickly."
Getting them to be a little humble and focus would be a good start. UCLA as a team only has 3 interceptions (Akeem Ayers leads the team with 2). It is going to be interesting to see how those guys handle Kevin Riley, who at times have looked erratic but have enjoyed solid days against Base Bullough.
I sure hope the UCLA defense and our entire program feel a collective sense of urgency. I also realize Bullough is not the only issue as the underachieving performance of our WR corps to date also stick out like a sore thumb and raise questions about the coach who is leading that crew. We will drill into that topic before the season is over unless we see dramatic development - in fundamentals (like running good routes, fighting for the ball, and catching it) - with the guys who are getting reps. If the guys who are in the rotation are not getting it done, Reggie Moore will have explaining to do in terms of talent development with the personnel at his disposal in the current roster.
Going back to our defense, the urgency among our players and coaches simply wasn't there on Saturday until our backs were against the ball and it was very disturbing to watch. As we feared it appeared that UCLA team and the defense got a little too happy with their "accomplishment" in Texas (which right now doesn't look like a "signature win") and went on to lay an egg against the Cougars. It wasn't just the secondary, who had a letdown, the UCLA LBs after getting so much positive pub all week, put together a mediocre performance against the Cougar offense. Jon Gold talked to Clark Lea - the LB coach - following the game to get his thoughts:
Gold and Lea discussed about the importance of having solid practices leading up to Saturday. They had 4 of their best practices on Wednesday-Thursday leading up to Houston and Texas. Apparently that intensity was missing when the guys were getting ready for Washington State. If there is the same hint of complacency this week again, the Bruins will get humiliated in Berkeley ... again.
Frankly I have no faith in Chuck Bullough's defense that they have what it takes to win a Pac-10 game like this on the road. If someone wants to supply confidence in Bullough, please by all means do so (and I am not being sarcastic here at all). Sure hope the defense proves itself. As always more than happy to eat crow but it is hard to be confident after Saturday.