Let's start the game day roundup with an update on Tyler. Insomniac fanshotted last night about passing the $8,000 mark for our gutty Little Bruin. I
will do did a separate fanpost on hoops and "Dribble for the Cure III" but want to mention it here as well. Not sure if we can make it happen but why not shoot for the $10,000 mark by tomorrow. So if you haven't had the chance to partake in showing our support for Tyler, here is another shot. Let's get Tyler over the $10,000 mark by tomorrow.
As for our game, Jon Gold draws an interesting comparison between last weekend's heartbreaker v. Arizona and last year's gut wrenching loss against Oregon State Beavers (when a game ending pick-6 slipped out of ATV's hands). After that game Bruins were demoralized but found a way to rally. They are going to look for the same deal this evening in a very winnable game v. Beavers. They will need to "find a way" to win:
Now here is UCLA this season, once more dazed after a three-game losing streak, once more 3-5, once more hoping to turn things around in a hurry.
"It's a whole different season, it's a whole different team," UCLA junior guard Darius Savage said. "But at the same time, we've got four games left, we need three wins, and we need to find a way to win. Just find a way."
We have talked all week about how Oregon State provides a good matchup for the Bruins. Coach Mike Riley agrees with us:
Much like the Beavers, UCLA isn't pretty to look at statistically but Riley says Pac-10 games are all about the matchups on a given day and the Bruins are often a difficult matchup for OSU even in their bad years.
It would seem Oregon State should be able to run on poor-tackling UCLA, which just gave up 264 yards rushing to Arizona and is ranked 108th among FBS schools in rushing defense.
But not so fast. The Beavers' offensive line has struggled to open holes for tailback Jacquizz Rodgers and two starters - center Alex Linnenkohl and left guard Grant Johnson - have been slowed by injuries.
The Beavers' passing game, which rises and falls on the strong right arm of quarterback Ryan Katz, has been hot and cold without star receiver James Rodgers and Katz may be without slot receiver Jordan Bishop (shoulder) against the Bruins, which puts more pressure on speedster Markus Wheaton to have a big day.
The what ifs when UCLA has the ball and tries to run behind a huge offensive line are what occupied Banker's thoughts this week.
Well the Bruins will need to get a running game going that has gotten stagnant last few games. After rolling up huge yards on the ground v. Texas schools and Washington State, not surprisingly the ground game grinded to halt in our last 3 weeks game as we have been averaging only 76 yards per game (2.3 yards per carry). Bruins need to get that running game kick started this afternoon and they will be able to do if they can continue to stretch the field like they started doing last weekend against Arizona.
The LA Times has more on the Bruins need to stretch the field:
"At the very beginning of the season, nothing we could do could get those defensive backs to turn their hips," Smith said. "They knew we were running 12 yards, then making a break. Coaches were on us about the depth of our routes, but we told them we had to take the extra two steps to get the guy to honor the deep ball."
Now the Bruins have given opposing teams something else to ponder.
"Man, it opens up the offense, that's for sure," Smith said. "It lets the defense know that they can't just sit down at 12 yards. Those guys are going to have to respect who we have on the field because of what we're capable of doing when given the opportunity."
You'd think if the Bruins keep stretching the field, that would also loosen up the opponent for the running game, giving us a balanced and dynamic offense look. Yet for some reason Norm Chow made bizarre comments in the OC Register about not worrying too much re. offensive balance:
"I used to worry about it all the time," UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow said referring to trying to find a balance between running and passing plays. "I kept track of my first down calls, tried to be 50/50 at the end of the day. It doesn't matter anymore. Now you just try to get a first down, try to get a W." [...]
"In the old days (balance) used to be (a major factor)," Chow said. "but not anymore. The way the defenses are, you have to figure out a way. If they give you the box, you have to run it. If they don't, you have to throw it."
I don't know. The problem with Chow's boring and vanillas offense has been that he hasn't made any sincere effort to make it balanced. Following the games against Texas and Washington State, Bruins got too comfortable with running and it wasn't surprising at all to see the opposing team stuff our running game so effectively. Actually number of times, I am sure many of us can predict Chow's call on offense except for the brief glimpses we saw this past weekend.
So, I sure hope Chow's comments above are nothing but an effort to sandbag Oregon State and doesn't reflect his honest perspective on our offense. Because if that is what he really thinks, our offense is in more trouble with him as our OC than I originally thoughts.
As for the game, Pete Yoon posts his "five things to watch" on ESPNLA. Here are couple worth highlighting:
4. Getting defensive-This game pits two defenses that have struggled. They have given up an identical 423 yards per game and rank 94th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. UCLA has problems mostly against the run, ranking 107th in run defense, while Oregon State is 107th in pass defense. It could be the team that has the ball last wins.
5. Hold on tightly-Turnovers have been an issue for the Bruins all season and their 13 fumbles lost are more than any team in the FBS. Seven of those fumbles have turned into touchdowns for the opponents and one turned into a field goal. And the Bruins shouldn't plan on getting any fumbles back: Oregon State is the only FBS team yet to lose a fumble this season.
Today's game is also big for Bullough's career. At this point, I am guessing the chances of him returning to Westwood next season is around 20 percent or less (shouldn't even be that high). However, it would be great to see Bullough leave UCLA on a great note with the defense showing signs of coming together down the stretch. It would be good for that process to get started today.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 pm PST. Our game thread will go up around 3:30. We will also have a pre-game thread going up around 12:30 pm PST tracking other actions from today. Enjoy your Saturday.