If the UCLA Bruins are going to pull off a win against their older Golden Bear brothers from Berkeley at the Rose Bowl – and keep Rick Neuheisel employed as their head coach – here’s what they need to do…
The Bruins’ tackling fundamentals were absolutely pathetic against Arizona, worse than usual; it reminded me of the two-hand touch games that I used to play as a youngster.
One image remaining in my head was Sheldon Price trying to push a guy out of bounds as he was scoring a touchdown. That was what really took me back to when I was 13 and playing touch and flag football with my friends
The problem is, UCLA is not in a parks and recreation flag football league (or in a middle school flag football league for that matter), Price – and the rest of his buddies on defense – are not 13 years old, and this is tackle football.
The Bruins must make a commitment to make stops, to not get pushed around all over the field, and for goodness’ sake, to not let the Bears’ offense get first downs!
2. CONTAIN CAL’S PASSING GAME.
The Golden Bears’ main weapons on offense are wide receivers Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen, whose 129.4 yards a game leads the country.
Allen has caught 60 passes, roughly three times that of the Bruins’ leader Nelson Rosario, and has 906 yards to show for that. He’s on track to get 1,000 this Saturday – unless UCLA can contain him and slow him down.
That means that guys like Andrew Abbott and Aaron Hester must be on the ball and deny Jones as well as Allen, jam them at the line of scrimmage and not let them get room to catch quarterback Zach Maynard’s passes.
Oh, and pressuring Maynard will definitely help as the less time he has to pass, the better – are you listening Datone Jones?
3. GET A HECK OF A LOT MORE THAN 37 RUSHING YARDS!
Like the lack of tackling, the 37 yards on the ground – including a mere 11 from Johnathan Franklin – was the worst performance I’ve seen from the Bruin in my memory.
To say that was pathetic would be kind – that’s how bad it was.
The blame for that ineptitude must be put on the offensive line more than anyone else. If Franklin and Derrick Coleman are to have good days and get their 100 yards each, center Kai Maiava and his line mates must do their job; in other words, BLOCK, MAKE HOLES AND GET FIRST DOWNS!
Which would also serve to control the clock and keep Maynard and Allen off the field.
4. HAVE THE REMAINING WIDE RECEIVERS NOT SUSPENDED STEP UP.
John Wooden often said, “Be at your best when your best is needed.”
For Josh Smith, Nelson Rosario, and the other wide receivers not sitting out on Saturday, that maxim from the great coach will especially pertain to them against Cal.
That especially goes for Rosario; if he drops passes like he did in the last game, I’ll be royally pissed off – as will the rest of Bruin Nation.
I’m also looking for tight ends Joseph Fauria and Mike Harkey to be much more involved in the pasing game, particularly Fauria as with his 6’8″ height, he’ll be a mismatch for whoever covers him. Kevin Prince needs to throw him the ball with regularity.
And if Jerry Rice, Jr. – a former walk-on who hasn’t played at all to this point, but will see some action on Saturday – is half as good as his father was, the passing game will get a boost.
Bottom Line – If the Bruins do well with these keys and execute to their potential, they’ll have a very good chance to win. If not, well…
Let’s cross that bridge if and/or when we come to it.