Thursday, September 20, 2007

Washington vs UCLA Preview

Washington heads to the Rose Bowl on Saturday to play UCLA in a night game broadcast nationally on Fox Sports. UCLA is hurting after a 44-6 beating on the road at the hands of Utah while Washington lost a tough one to Ohio State after leading at the half 7-3.

While I have been dumping quite a bit on UCLA the past two days there is one very important factor to consider going into this ballgame. UCLA has more talent, and depth than Washington even with the injuries. If UCLA eliminates the mistakes they have been making the last six quarters they should be able to beat Washington at home.

UCLA however isn't as talented as Ohio State. They aren't as well coached as Boise State. The Bruin's haven't been playing like a cohesive unit on either side of the ball for the majority of the year, and they are getting a major attitude call this week. No question about it, UCLA is going to show up mad on Saturday looking for a little revenge, and respect.

When UCLA has the Ball

Patrick Cowan will start for UCLA on Saturday. Ben Olson didn't practice Wednesday and the Bruins aren't even sure if he'll practice tomorrow. If a player doesn't practice on Thursday, he can't play in the game on Saturday.

Whoever does start the game for UCLA is going to be throwing at Vonzell McDowell if the UCLA coaching staff has it's head screwed on right. They are also going to try to run the ball like Ohio State did to loosen things up for the passing game. Chris Markey and Khalil Bell are decent running backs, but probably a step down from the TB's UW has faced the past two weeks in Wells, and Johnson. TB Chris Markey's (35 REC, 261 YDs, 7.5 AVG, 0 TDs; 227 CAR, 1,107 YDs, 4.9 AVG, 2 TDs) primary job is carrying the ball, but he can also catch it. UW's linebackers will be challenged by Markey.

UCLA has experience at WR and are led going into the game by Brandon Beazell, and Joe Cowan. Marcus Everett who is the leader is on crutches and will likely miss the game.

UCLA has a great offensive line on paper, well at least they were great till last weekend when they allowed Olsen to get ambushed by the Ute's. The Bruins however have lost their top OL in Shannon Tevaga, and that should have an impact. P.J. Irvin will be stepping in to replace him.

Look for UW to try to get pressure on the QB to force similar mistakes which were the key to the Ute victory. Washington also has to protect their secondary which means that that the 3-4 man rush we are all starting loathe will likely be in the game plan again this week.

The key to beating UCLA is stopping their passing attack, and last week they did that quite a bit on their own with all the penalties, and turnovers. Don't count on that this week, there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded Bear, or Bruin as it is in this case.

When Washington has the Ball

All eyes of course are focused on Jake Locker who has had to do it pretty much on his own the last two weeks. the Washington running attack hasn't gotten much going, and the receivers have been missing plenty of opportunities by dropping the ball.

UW needs to spread it out against the Bruins, and they could really use some balance to take away the focus from Locker. UW has been able to move the ball on the Bruin offense the past two years and I don't see much reason why that should change this season. The Bruins are strong against the run but they give up quite a bit more passing. UW can use the spread, and the threat of Locker running the ball to create a lot of space in the Bruin defensive backfield. The only question is, can our receivers hold onto the ball?

A couple of things have been missing from the offense in the first three games. We haven't been passing the ball to our fullbacks, and tight ends. We haven't let our one legitimate deep threat D'Andre Goodwin see much action which I think is a mistake. I would love to see this guy go deep, and I would like to see what he can do returning punts.

Louis Rankin really needs to get untracked, his performance can be labeled poor this season except for the Syracuse outing. Brandon Johnson's rib injury really hurt us last week. I would love to see this kid get some meaningful carries and return to his kickoff return role. I wouldn't mind seeing JR Hasty exit the Willingham doghouse, and get a shot too. Hasty has a streak of nasty inside. The point is Washington needs to have someone help Locker out so teams can't key on him all the time.


Willingham said FB Luke Kravitz should be able to do more this week as he will have a smaller cast that should allow greater flexibility to carry the ball. Luke can be a secret weapon catching passes out of the backfield, and he is a better runner than Homer. Luke has the potential to have some Richard Thomas like plays.

WR Marcus Everett is likely out for Washington, coach Karl Dorrell said converted QB Osaar Rasshan would be the Bruins' third receiver at the X position. It should mean the first meaningful snaps for Rasshan.

UCLA DT Brian Price did not disappoint in his first practice since returning from a six-week NCAA-mandated hiatus while he made it through the clearinghouse. He was quick off the ball, showed excellent stamina and strength. I think he had the chance to be in at least 20 plays, and possibly more if he does well. (So this kid is going to play after missing six weeks? I would run at him all day.)

"Last week, the practices were not up to par," UCLA's Breazell said. "You got to come in here and work as if it is the last practice, work like it's the last breath you're going to take. (Breazell is recovering from a concussion and three lost teeth)

The Bruins pounced on BYU for a 20-0 lead, and then slacked off, a veteran team acting somewhat immaturely once again. They started slowly in Utah, and never recovered, but was that in the preparation or the execution? (The Huskies have to eliminate the UCLA quick start)

Asked how to prepare for the possibility of two different starting QBs for UCLA, Baer said "it's really difficult. We'll try to do what we do and understand that they do do a few different things with a left-handed quarterback (Ben Olson) than a right-handed quarterback (Pat Cowan) and they might change some of their formations or motion schemes a little bit based on what QB they are using. But otherwise we aren't going to change much.''

Three games into UCLA's season and of the 22 projected starters in training camp, seven sat out with injuries during Tuesday's practice.

"UCLA is not the team that played last weekend against Utah," said UW coach Tyrone Willingham. "You look at that ballgame, you see a lot of things that were very close in that game. Without turnovers and sacks and things of that nature it would have been a different ballgame."

Byron Davenport said he was limited in practice Tuesday but planned to be ready for Saturday. "It's time,'' he said of his anxiousness to get on the field. LB Dan Howell is also expected back this weekend after sitting out against Ohio State.

Concerning TB Chris Markey's health, Dorrell said other than normal bumps and bruises, Markey is fine.

Lappano said again that the receivers "have got to be able to catch the football. They all don't have to be perfect passes. Players make plays and we've got to make plays --- make tough throws, break tackles in the run game. There's no magic wand. Players make plays and we have to make plays because we are letting too many plays slip away.

Why UCLA will win

UCLA will win if they can torch the Washington secondary, control the line of scrimmage, and get their running game going enough to open up the passing lanes. Most importantly they must limit the gruesome mistakes they suffered last week against Utah.

UCLA is going to come out of the gates fast and hard. UW needs to stay with them in the early going because the Bruins have a lot to prove this week. Don't expect the Bruins to show up flat two weeks in a row.

Patrick Cowan will get his first start of the year, and has the extra incentive of beating his fathers alma mater. He is a lot more mobile than Olson and that might be enough to negate the Huskies 3-4 man pass rush. Look for him to try to team up with his brother Joe.

The UCLA defense needs to stop the run, and put everything on the shoulders of Jake Locker.

Emotion is the Bruins best friend right now. If they can come out fired up and blow the Huskies off the ball with their offensive line it is going to give them a big advantage.

Why Washington will win

Washington will win if they can get some pressure on the QB, and force him into the type of mistakes the Bruins committed last week against Utah. The UW defense faced a statue at QB lat week and didn't come up with a sack.

Offensively UW needs to help Locker out by holding onto the ball, and creating another rushing threat other than Jake. Rankin has had some of his best games against UCLA, and it would be great if he could do it one more time against them.

UW needs some offensive balance, sticky hands, a lack of turnovers on offense, and a pass rush that creates turnovers on the defensive side to come home with the victory.

The absence of a running game over the last six quarters has been Washington's biggest problem. UW needs to solve that this week or it is going to be a problem with the potential to drag down the team in conference play.

What do I think?

I think UCLA is going to come out much better prepared than last week for this first conference game. I think there is going to be a lot of emotion, and if UW doesn't watch it, the tables could be reversed very early from last week. UCLA obviously isn't as bad as they showed last week, there is too much talent even with the injuries.

UW needs to start making some plays on offense that don't depend completely on Jake Locker. Like I said earlier Louis Rankin has had some of his best days as a Husky against UCLA.

Willingham, and Dorrell have out coached the UCLA coaches in the last two meetings, and there is no reason to suspect that it will change this year. Dorrell is obviously on the hot seat right now and has to use every device possible to make sure his team isn't flat a second consecutive week. I don't expect the Bruins to be flat.

Coach Baer and his defensive staff simply need to do a better job than they did last week against Ohio State. While turnovers were the main culprit in the loss, UW didn't read the Buckeyes offense very well. That has to change starting now. For some reason UW is able to anticipate the Bruins better than most of the teams they play.

The rain will be a factor in this one which is unusual for LA. To me that gives a slight advantage to Jake Locker, and keeps the Bruin passing game in check to a certain degree.

I pick Washington to win 27-24 in a hard fought game.


prrbrr said...

Cowan to cowan, almost Huskies and legacy recruits not offered by an ex HC Bruin QB who holds a record against UW for pass completion %. Hmmm. Are we faster than UCLA? Our first game on grass, wonder how it will affect us. Is KD cutting the grass on sat morning real short or is he fertilizing Miracle Gro right now? Time for us to step up, we need to start PAC10 play with a victory. Lastly, DeAndre not Aaron G.

Health Insurance Expert said...

Correction completed!

Are we faster than UCLA, probably not except at QB. UCLA's injurues are hampering them though, they have lost 1/3 of their starters in the first three weeks.