The UCLA Football Bruins have some well documented issues with stopping the run game. Although they’ve demonstrated some encouraging signs those instances haven’t become consistent. They’ll need to be against their next opponent.
The Stanford ground game is lethal and has been every time they’ve faced off against the UCLA Football Bruins. At home or away it doesn’t matter. It could be against guys like Toby Gerhart, Stepfan Taylor, Tyler Gaffney or even guys that UCLA head coach Jim Mora has faced like Christian McCaffrey. It just seems as though the Bruins can stop the Cardinal when they want to run the football.
They’ll face another major challenge with Bryce Love on Saturday. If there were ever any doubts about whether the Cardinal could still run the ball without McCaffrey, ridiculous I know, Love has answered those questions with authority. Through three games the playmaker has rushed for over 500 yards. Halfway to a thousand through three games? He’s rushed for more yards than the leading passer for Stanford. Well this should be fun.
From the outside looking in the UCLA football defense has been exceptionally bad against the run. Yes they’ve given up plenty of yardage to opposing backs but a Sherlock Holmes type of investigation shows there’s more than meets the eye.
In what is becoming a weekly trend the Bruins are actually doing well to slow runners outside of a few big runs. Last week against Memphis leading rusher Darrell Henderson rushed for 105 yards on 14 carries for an average of 7.5 yards a clip. Yikes! That kind of running absolutely kills a defense. But hold on, he had an 80 yard rush to kick the game off. Take that away and for the game Henderson managed 25 yards on 13 touches for an average of just under two yards a carry.
That’s a stat the Bruins should hang their hat on but they’re going to have to find a way to limit the big play especially on the ground. So far this season Love has averaged 12 yards per carry for the season including an impressive nine yards per carry against the Trojans two weeks ago in a loss. Where he could be a major issue is in his ability to break the big runs. In three separate games Love has managed longs of 62,75 and 53 yards respectively. He’s capable of doing that multiple times against the defense.
There’s a little bit of hope for the Bruins as they likely see the return of two of their defensive stalwarts in LB Kenny Young and safety Jaleel Wadood. Young especially will be counted on to come downhill and make as many stops as he can. This LB group has been hit hard with injuries and in Josh Woods‘ case first half suspensions. Whatever boost this defense felt it would get with Young and Wadood returning though might have been lost following the Memphis game.
The Bruins are making and taking steps to slow the running game. They’ve missed some tackles here or there and even against Memphis it wasn’t the run that gave them too much trouble but screen instead which aren’t technically running plays. Luckily the Cardinal don’t utilize Love much in the passing game. Still, there’s going to have to a monster game from the UCLA Football run defense because Stanford wants nothing more than to smother the Bruins with Love.