Time for our regular look at UW’s opponent, which this week is UCLA and quarterback Richard Brehaut, (right in an Orange County Register photo).
And our guest to talk about the Bruins is Jon Gold of the Los Angeles Daily News. Here is his blog.
Now, on with the questions, and Gold’s answers about the Bruins.
Q: Can you give a brief overview of UCLA’s offense and QB situation now that Brehaut is the starter?
A: The soap opera seemingly over, Brehaut has settled in and played well in consecutive weeks. First, it was his arm, as he threw for two long touchdowns in UCLA’s 29-21 loss to No. 15 Arizona on Oct. 30. The following week, Brehaut’s throwing was limited – only eight attempts in the first three quarters, 19 for the game – but he was effective on the ground, totalling 61 yards and a score. With Brehaut taking most of the reps in practice after bouncing between the first and second unit because of oft-injured Kevin Prince’s near-weekly guessing game, a rhythm seems to be developing. Brehaut has looked confident and sharp since becoming the full-time starter after Prince’s season-ending knee surgery last month. Brehaut’s limitations in the run game were holding him back, but the feeling now is that he has started to gain some of the confidence of offensive coordinator Norm Chow. He’ll need to, and quickly: With Prince and sophomore Nick Crissman (shoulder) sidelined for the season, the Bruins are down to just Brehaut and sophomore junior college transfer Darius Bell.
Q: How has the Pistol worked out this year? Seemed like a raving success against Texas, but what’s happened since?
A: To call the Bruins up-and-down is an insult to yo-yos. They’ve been simply undecipherable, a mixed bag week after week. After a 79-play, 565-yard performance against Washington State in Week 5 – a week after the physical domination of Texas – UCLA gained just 144, 290 and 299 yards in three straight losses to Cal, Oregon and Arizona. The Bruins rebounded slightly in a 17-14 last-second win over Oregon State in Week 8, picking up 337 yards. The biggest difference week-to-week? The running game. In the first five weeks, when UCLA went 3-2 with wins over Houston, at Texas and over Washington State, the Bruins tallied 1,312 rushing yards. In the three-game losing streak, just 228. If UCLA establishes physicality at the line of scrimmage, the offense is tough to handle. If not…
Q: How about a brief overview of the defense to date?
A: Chuck Bullough’s UCLA defense has been decimated by injuries, and
plays like it. With just four players in the starting lineup who saw significant time last season, the Bruins are prone to back-breaking lapses in judgment and pursuit. But they also have perhaps the conference’s best linebacker in junior Akeem Ayers, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end who has created havoc when healthy. The “when healthy” is the crucial part, as Ayers seems to be healing from various nicks and bruises that hampered his production midway through the season. With freshmen Cassius Marsh and Owa Odighizuwa on the defensive line, the unit is exciting but unreliable, while the Ayers-led linebacker crew just needs to focus on tackling. The defensive backs – led by All-American candidate Rahim Moore – have been adequate, but interceptions have fallen to just four on the season, from 20 at the same point last year. Bullough favors a “bend-but-don’t-break” mentality, but UCLA has broken, and broken badly, in certain games. While close losses to Kansas State and Arizona were acceptable, a combined beatdown of 130-20 to Stanford, Cal and Oregon proves that if an offense can get going, the Bruins can’t find a way to stem the tide.
Q: And an overview of the special teams?
A: Kicker Kai Forbath has a boatload of accomplishments – including the 2009 Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker. But he had never kicked a game-winning, last-second field goal until the Bruins’ last game, a 17-14 win over Oregon State in Week 8. More surprising? Forbath already was 0-for-2 in the game, including a chance to put the Bruins on top just minutes before the game-winner. He is just two field goals away from the UCLA career mark, and you just know Rick Neuheisel will make sure he gets there in the next three games. Forbath, though, might not even be the team’s top special-teams weapon. Punter Jeff Locke has been sensational, single-handedly – or is it single-footedly? – helping the Bruins to crucial field position. The return game? Much less exciting. Though Josh Smith was all the rage after transferring from Colorado, where he won all-Big-12 honors as a returner, he hasn’t broken one yet this year. Meanwhile, Neuheisel refuses to put him at punt returner, instead going with Taylor Embree, who “catches punts better.”
Q: Finally, this is Rick Neuheisel’s third year as coach at UCLA. Are people happy with the progress?
A: Happiness is relative, and in La-La Land, if you ain’t sniffing roses, you might as well be pushing daisies. Neuheisel’s rah-rah, sis-boom-bah has become tiresome to fans who want to WIN NOW, but there are others who look at his recruiting – three straight top-15 classes – and believe brighter days are ahead. The lopsided losses to Stanford, Cal and Oregon have set the Bruins back, and many projected an outright collapse after the 60-13 loss to the Ducks, but to Neuheisel’s credit, he has UCLA playing well once more. Neuheisel has the full faith of athletic director Dan Guerrero, who points to the uptick in recruiting as a sign of things to come, but the thought among fans is he needs to make some changes on his coaching staff. Mainly, though, the fans just want the rhetoric toned down. It’s OK to talk about sunshine and lollipops when the going is good, but Neuheisel has simply been too rosy after losses, and the message boards have lit up.
November 17, 2010 at 7:45 AM
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