As mentioned yesterday this Saturday's game against Oregon State is a MUST WIN game for UCLA. The Beavers are coming into the Rose Bowl on a high note. They just humiliated Cal by a score of 35-7 at home. It was a game in which the Beavers won by showing a lot of creativity on offense and a through dominating of the Bears on D improving their standing from 119th to tied for 94th in total defense in the national FBS stats. Mike Riley is easily one of the best coaches in the conference and he comes in with a Beaver team which is 40-15 (.727) in October, November, and December since 2004. All that said, this Saturday's game is a winnable one for our Bruins, and it's a contest we expect us to win to regain the momentum in this turbulent season.
For anyone thinking of feeling sorry about our injuries and excuses for the coaching staff, let's not forget how our upcoming opponent is dealing with their own share of injury issues. Yesterday Mike Riley went over the Beavers' extended injury list:
[R]iley went over the injury list from the Cal game and it was lengthy: DT Castro Masaniai (left shoulder separation) is out indefinitely, MLB Kevin Unga has a chest bruise, LT Michael Philipp bruised knee, WR Jordan Bishop bruised shoulder, TE Joe Halahuni wrist and knee owies, TE Colby Prince a bruised knee, starting LG Grant Johnson had a neck stinger and C Alex Linnenkohl of course has his sore ankle.
Tight end Brady Camp, who starts when he's healthy, may be lost for the season with a ruptured disc in his back but Riley isn't ready to say the senior's season is over. "We'll know more on Tuesday, he another doctor's appointment,'' said Riley. "If there's any (long term) risk, he's not playing.''
On our end while we unfortunately lost Jerry Johnson and Damien Thigpen for the season, we are getting two offensive starters - Ricky Marvray and Sean Sheller - back for this game. We also saw With Marvray, Josh Smith, and Randall Carroll at his disposal, Norm Chow should be able to cook up an offensive game plan, which should be more dynamic and open, building on the success from this past weekend.
On the defensive side, Jordan Zumwalt perhaps had his best game as a freshman. It is something Chuck Bullough in his waning days as Bruin DC needs to build on to scheme against Jacquizz Rodgers and his Beavers. The Quizz had a vintage game against the Bears as he rushed for 22 times for 119 yards, 3 TDs , and caught a ball for 11 more yards, and a first down. Oh, and he also threw an 11 yard touchdown pass to Colby Prince for the Beavers' first score. From Building The Dam:
"We have worked on that play all week, and it is something that we bring out around Halloween time," ‘Quizz commented. "I kind of made a mistake on the throw, underthrowing, but Colby (Prince) adjusted, and made the catch, which now makes me 2-for-2 in my college career in completing that pass."
If you live and die by Bruin football, you should remember his other completion really well. Like really well. Bullough's defense looked dumbfounded and clueless and Rodgers threw that pass against the Bruins in Corvallis last year. So yeah, it's worth linking one more time again so that there are no excuses for Bruins getting burned on that front this weekend.
UCLA's defense has been marred by missed tackles and holes in the secondary. The Bruins must beef up their run defense, too, with Beavers running back Jacquizz Rodgers averaging 105 rushing yards per game. Rodgers has 740 rushing yards and 13 of Oregon State's 16 rushing touchdowns.
"He's a bonafide superstar and for sure NFL back," Neuheisel said. "He does so much more than carry the ball. He's a Wildcat quarterback. He's very adept at protecting the quarterback.
"As a receiver I read he has more catches than any back at Oregon State. He's a very versatile player and tough to bring down. Given our tackling from a week ago, that's going to be a huge challenge for us."
Well, guess the Bruins are not really partaking in live tackling practices this week given the injury issues (I can understand that given the depth issues we have at LB). What I am really curious to see is how guys like Akeem Ayers respond, who was exposed last weekend as giving less than 100 percent. It is unclear whether Akeem is playing hurt or if he is lollygagging. If he is lollygagging, then he shouldn't be on the field (rather have someone less talented who is playing 100 percent). If he is playing hurt, and hurting the team, then he also needs to be honest with the coaching staff and the staff themselves need to be upfront with him and try to find out what is going on.
Also wrt to Sean Westgate, the kid is not getting it done. We love his heart and determination but he is simply overmatched at times from the WLB spot. Again, it is up to Bullough and Lea to figure out how they can bring along Glenn Love. Perhaps it would make sense to play Love in stretches, to keep Westgate fresh, so that he doesn't look completely gassed in the fourth quarter. Either way, the spotlight is on Bullough to scheme against the Beavers, keep Rodgers contained within a space, and also disrupt the rhythm of a first year starting QB, who blinked under heavy pressure from a really awful Washington Huskies defense. Up to Bullough to get this done.
Going back to the game, Bruins will have a very special guest at the Rose Bowl:
This week's Honorary Captain is former All-America tight end Marcedes Lewis. Lewis played for the Bruins from 2002-05 and became UCLA's first John Mackey Award winner in his final season when he led the team with 58 receptions for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns. For his career, Lewis made 126 catches for 1,571 and 21 touchdowns. All of those numbers are career leaders on the UCLA tight end charts. Among all Bruin receivers, Lewis ranks second in touchdowns scored and eighth in receptions. As a senior, Lewis earned First-Team All-America and All-Pac-10 honors. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected him in the 2006 NFL Draft with the 28th overall pick. In his sixth year with Jacksonville, he has made 148 career catches for 1,850 yards and 14 touchdowns for a 12.5 average per reception. Considered one of the best pure blocking tight ends in the NFL, Lewis was an alternate in the 2009 Pro Bowl.
Cool. Hopefully he will teach Corey Harkey how to catch and share his 2 cents with Joe Fauria about how to block and fight for the ball.
In terms of the big picture Coach Neuheisel is being optimistic as usual:
"I'm an eternal optimist and continue to be so, I'm never going to change," he said.
"So take this for what it's worth as far as my opinion. I'd hoped the offense would blossom, I had envisioned passing game numbers like we had a year ago. Obviously, they would diminish some because we wouldn't throw as much. And coupled that with some things that we've really worked hard to gain with respect to the Pistol running approach.
And a lot of that has come true. We've gotten a lot of (positive) numbers. We were slowed down by a very good Arizona defense in the run department this last week, but we were able to manufacture some big plays in the throw game.
"Again I'm looking for more balance. But I had high hopes for us to be in the (Pac-10) race. I don't know what that record would have been, but to be in the race in the conference. I thought everybody else had some things happen within their program that might get us closer to the top of the heap.
"I don't think we're that far away. I know sometimes in some of these lopsided scores it looks as if we are. But I really do see a chance to climb that hurdle faster than maybe others might."
Appreciate the positivity but at this point Neuheisel needs to put pressure on his staff to get the job done in next 4 games.
Lastly, there is a really heartwarming story in the LA Times from Chris Foster about Rick Neuheisel's relationship with his former QB at Colorado - John Hessler - who went through a terrible car accident in Colorado in 2003. Neuheisel has been on Hessler's side since then. He is flying in Hessler this weekend for our game against Oregon State, which he has done every year since 2006:
This year, that game is Saturday, when UCLA plays Oregon State at the Rose Bowl. Hessler is coming out from his Northglenn, Colo., home and will be in Ontario in time for his son's birthday Thursday.
Life may not be fair, as Neuheisel told Hessler when he lost a quarterback competition to Koy Detmer in 1996, but it doesn't mean it's not worth living.
"He always told me that when things don't go your way, it's how you handle the adversity that shows what kind of player you are," Hessler said. "I have thought about that a lot over the years.
"What I'm dealing with is hard. How can I tell you in two words when it would take a million to explain?
"... I'm here."
It's a must read heart-warming story about Neuheisel. It's nothing surprising to any of us on BN, who have followed Neuheisel's career very closely. However, what was upsetting to yours truly while reading that story was the fact that while Foster wrote this story, he was also the same guy, who tried to use Hessler last year, to put together a total hit piece on Neuheisel about OMGZ "he yells at his QBs."
The story just exposes how Foster last year launched a BS hit job on Neuheisel on how he treats QBs without providing the big picture. It is completely dishonest and disingenuous on the part of Foster to write this piece without owning up to the fact that he gave an incomplete and inaccurate picture on Neuheisel's relationship with his QBs. Just another note to keep in mind when you read track the LAT's dishonest coverage of UCLA football filled with petty and condescending cheap shots from hacks like Foster.