All right, now that UCLA’s in the Pac-12 Championship Game – despite getting pounded by USC and only because Arizona State and Utah tanked in their games against California and Colorado, respectively…
Here’s how David, I mean the Bruins, can shock the sports universe and beat Goliath, I mean the #9 ranked Oregon Ducks, this Friday night:
1. Do something that they failed to do against the Trojans – KEEP OREGON’S OFFENSE OFF THE FIELD!
Kevin Prince and company were fairly OK in moving the ball between the 20’s, but couldn’t score.
They need to do quite a bit better in controlling the clock and winning the time of possession, and Derrick Coleman, who’s been UCLA’s best and most valuable player as he’s gotten crucial yardage all season long, must have a much better game than he did against SC, when he got only three yards rushing in what was his worst day as a Bruin.
In stating the obvious, they absolutely cannot commit any turnovers and penalties, or make any other mistakes.
If the Bruins’ offense does these things, they just may have a decent shot.
2. UCLA’s defense must do what they absolutely and miserably failed to do against USC: CONTROL THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE AND PRESSURE THE QUARTERBACK!
Not only that, but Datone Jones, Cassius Marsh, Sean Westgate, Patrick Larimore and the rest of the Bruins’ front seven must close the gaps that Oregon’s offense does so well in creating, and make tackles.
In other words, they need to stop playing like a high school JV team, which is exactly what they looked like in the Coliseum, and show some pride, because that’s more or less all they have left.
Don’t think I’m letting the UCLA secondary off the hook either, as they looked just as much like a high school JV team as their front seven mates; not to pick on him, but Sheldon Price was particularly toasted by the Trojans’ receivers.
That cannot happen against the Ducks, as Price, Andrew Abbott, Tony Dye, and the rest of those defensive backs need to stick right with the Duck receivers and not let them get separation the way that SC’s receivers did.
If they have to commit pass interference if they get beat deep, I wouldn’t jump their case for it as it would at least give the Bruins another chance to stop that high potent Ducks’ offense from scoring.
As much as I hate to say this, even if the defense does all those things and plays above their heads, it will still be a tough challenge to stop Oregon, as coach Chip Kelly’s offense is second to none and will certainly get their yards and points.
Especially since they commonly use the no-huddle and run plays at a breakneck pace; can the Bruins keep up with that?
3. DO NOT LET AUTZEN STADIUM OR THEIR CROWD INTIMIDATE THEM.
That pretty much goes without saying, as the Ducks’ home field in Eugene is the toughest place to play in the Pac-12. A pronounced sense of focus and turning a deaf ear to Oregon’s fans and the extremely loud noise that they are sure to make will help UCLA’s cause as well.
The last key to this game for these Bruins…
4. LET IT ALL HANG OUT AND PLAY LIKE THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE.
Which even though the Rose Bowl is at stake, they don’t.
Rick Neuheisel will officially be the former UCLA football coach after the clock hit three zeroes in the 4th quarter at Autzen on Friday – offensive coordinator Mike Johnson will take over on an interim basis afterwards – so the Bruins may as well have fun, play as hard as they can, and let the chips fall.
That’s the attitude they need to take in Eugene.
Being that Oregon is so good, that still will likely not be enough to win, but it would be completely sad if UCLA just lays down like they did against their crosstown rival.
Which I don’t think will happen.
The sports landscape is filled with epic upsets in its history, like the U.S. Hockey team beating the Soviets in Lake Placid in 1980, or the Joe Namath-led New York Jets, an AFL upstart, beating the NFL’s powerful Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969.
I honestly don’t see Kevin Prince as the next Namath, and I definitely don’t see Rick Neuhiesel as the next Herb Brooks, the coach that led that upset over the Russians, but at the risk of sounding clicheish…
You never know.