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Sunday Roundup: Assessing Win Quality, Locker’s Predictable Return & Other UCLA Notes

So let's start this Sunday roundup with a case of good news and bad news. I will start with the bad news. Our nail biting win against Oregon State is not looking so hot any more after Mike Riley's pathetic Beavers went down against Washington State, snapping the Cougars' 16 game conference losing streak.  The Cougars' ugly stretch of 100 something weeks without a win came to a halt yesterday afternoon in Corvallis, as they went up by a score of 21-0 and never looked back.

Cougars' win takes the luster off our victory against the Beavers, and it essentially reconfirms the argument that it shouldn't have taken a last second, desperate FG to take care of that team at the Rose Bowl. It also keeps alive all the concerns about our offense play calls and schemes under Norm Chow, and maintain serious questions about whether our offense has been underachieving from Chow's lack luster, vanilla and conservative play calls. Cougars' dominating defensive performance (holding the Beavers to 261 total yards in Corvallis) also should keep Chuck Bullough and our defense feeling too good about themselves and get complacent heading into their next game against Washington Huskies.

So that was the bad news. The good news on the flip side is that our victory against Washington State might actually mean something. More importantly, looking back at that Washington State game, the way Richard Brehaut led the team in a 99 yard TD scoring drive in fourth quarter against the Cougars look pretty impressive. Keep in mind that was Brehaut's first ever start at UCLA game. In addition to that long TD drive, he connected on a clutch 2 point conversion (to Embree) to tie up the game at 28. I think looking back at that game and the clutch performance against Oregon State, Brehaut has lot of positives to build on, heading into a huge game against the Huskies on Thursday night.

The game against the Huskies on Thursday night is going to be a playoff game in terms of bowl game implications. Given the bowl picture around the Pac-10 is so grim, both Huskies and Bruins are alive in terms of shot at decent post-season games.  Huskies are so desperate that to no one's surprise they trotted out Jake Locker to practice on Saturday, to get him ready for UCLA:

Locker did all of the drills except for the final 11-on-11 team period, the session when a player is most apt to get hit. But when the No. 1 offense worked against the scout team defense, Locker went first and took 14 of the 21 snaps, with Keith Price getting the rest.

UW coach Steve Sarkisian, though, said it was still too early to say whether Locker will play against UCLA and said he has not yet been medically cleared.

"I thought he moved around okay,'' Sarkisian said. "We will just have to take it day-by-day to assess how he responds from one day to the next. I'm not going to make any grand statements as far as 'is he playing, is he not.' We just need to assess it here for a couple days.''

Still, the simple fact that Locker was on the field at all is a big step toward him playing against the Bruins as Sarkisian had said Locker would need to practice to be able to play.

Sark's comments are pretty amusing:

Sarkisian said that it could be a "gametime'' decision whether Locker plays, and that it was possible Locker wouldn't be medically cleared until right before kickoff, if he is cleared.

But Sarkisian said of Locker's rib that "it is definitely healing. It is not 100 percent yet so that's why we are going to take it day by day to see where he is at.'' And he added that the doctors "are very encouraged where he is at.''

Uh, okay, whatever. That is a pile of BS as we knew all along that Locker is going to play. Doubt Sark actually cares about this kid's health. He is more concerned about getting a W at any cost. If Locker played for our team, we certainly wouldn't be advocating for him to be playing, possibly putting him at further risk (with long term career implications) with a cracked rib. Then again, we are talking about someone, who foolishly walked away from millions as a high first round NFL draft pick, and came back to play for a team without a quality offensive line and not a lot of defensive talent. It's his career. So he gets to make the choice.

Huskies are going for that emotional edge with the angle of "senior night" on national TV. Bruins are going to have match that emotion with focus and a killer ferocity on defense.  I sure hope UCLA defense comes in with a mindset of taking no prisoners and no mercy, no matter who is at QB. Bruin defense also has a lot to prove as they can't really feel all that content themselves because as described above, their performance against the Beavers was not really all that special.

Speaking of our defense, here is Rahim Moore on this week's "3 with 3" with his backfield buddy Aaron Hester:

They talked about their game against Oregon State, upcoming matchup with the Huskies and shared some really fun childhood memories from their pop warner days (with some hilarious clips). I really hope Bullough can put these guys in position to succeed against the Lockers and the Huskies. I think the Bruins will have a shot at putting together a solid performance, if the coaches come in with an aggressive mindset to attack the Huskies from all angles. That would entail aggressive scheming wrt to our DBs.

Elsewhere, over the weekend, Gold asked the question whether UCLA should stick with the pistol for the long term:

It seems hard to remember now, but the offensive line was supposed to have Kai Maiava and Jeff Baca. Even with Chris Ward maturing quickly and Micah Kia as a serviceable replacement on both sides, imagine the depth with the two would-be starters back.

But now we're starting to see some life in the passing game, which was left for dead earlier this year. Norm Chow has started moving the pocket a bit more, and Richard Brehaut has been improving daily with his pocket awareness and his playmaking ability - which just has so much to do with confidence - and you're seeing some rejuvenation in the receiving corps.

I really wonder what we'd be seeing now if either Kevin Prince or Brehaut simply had the whole season at 100 percent, how far along the offense would be. I wonder what it will look like next season, with another offseason to tinker and perhaps some recruits tailored to the offense, like potential future F-back Junior Pomee.

Well, I think more than anything UCLA needs to display an aggressive mindset on offense. If it is not going to show an aggressive mindset and strive for dynamic mode of attack, it is not going to matter much what formation they are going to use as their base set.

I think the Bruins are capable of running a hybrid offense with a good mix of pro-set and pistol (Alabama and TCU are already doing it). The key question is whether UCLA coaches will start trusting the talent available on their roster? It is not going to matter much whether UCLA runs the pistol or not, if Chow and his coaching staff keep starting Taylor Embree and keep coming at with the same off tackle running play game after game. Hopefully we will show a little less conservatism and more aggressive mindset starting with our game against the Huskies on Thursday night.