Scouting the Bruins

UCLA is shuffling some personnel up front on defense, and the run defense still has questions to answer...

UCLA knows California can be beaten by the pistol offense. That's what Nevada used to skate through the Bears' defense in a 52-31 victory on Sept. 17.

The Wolf Pack rushed for 316 yards and gained 497 overall.

The UCLA coaching staff studied Nevada coach Chris Ault's pistol offense in the offseason and implemented it in the spring, a departure from the established pro passing game of coordinator Norm Chow.

While the results have been positive for the running, UCLA isn't nearly as proficient in it yet as Nevada. And, for sure, UCLA sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince isn't at the high level of expertise that Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick has.

But at least UCLA has Prince.

The starter missed last week's game because of a swollen knee, but he returned to practice this week and got a thumbs-up from coach Rick Neuheisel.

"I thought he looked great," Neuheisel said after Tuesday's practice. "I thought he was terrific. ... It was a good practice for him. He did everything."

Neuheisel said there was no limitation on Prince's ability to run ... although that ability to run doesn't match what Kaepernick's skill was against Cal. The Nevada quarterback ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears.

"Kaepernick broke some long runs on us," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said, "and hopefully if Prince pulls it down and runs it, we can track him down for some minimal gains and not let huge plays happen on us."

NOTES & QUOTES

--UCLA is on a three-game winning streak but has not had a four-game streak under coach Rick Neuheisel, in his third year. The last time the Bruins won four games in a row was in 2005, when they started 8-0 under coach Karl Dorrell.

--The Bruins have won 18 consecutive games when they rush for at least 250 yards.

--Last week's close call against Washington State -- UCLA pulled away late for a 42-28 victory -- gave coach Rick Neuheisel a "teaching moment" in intensity. The Bruins were up 14-0 but later let the Cougars score 21 unanswered points to take a 28-21 lead. "We responded and found a way to win the football game," Neuheisel said. "But we certainly can't afford to have that kind of thing happen again if we want to be successful as we go down the rest of the conference schedule."

SERIES HISTORY: UCLA leads Cal 49-29 (last meeting, 2009, 45-26 Cal).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The rushing numbers look great. UCLA's 437 rushing yards against Washington State last week was its highest since gaining 446 at Oregon in Nov. 17, 1979. The Bruins, led by RB Johnathan Franklin, have rushed for at least 250 yards in three consecutive games. Can they gash Cal like Nevada did with the pistol? Bad news for UCLA is that the Bears should be more disciplined in their defense after seeing it a few weeks ago, and QB Kevin Prince, coming back from a swollen knee that kept him out last week, is still a bit of an X-factor.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Bruins have to gear up for a solid Cal running attack, led by Shane Vereen, who is averaging 106.5 yards per game. Expect a new look on UCLA's defensive front, with touted true freshman Owamagbe Odighizuwa starting at defensive end, which moves Nate Chandler from end to tackle. Keenan Graham is the new starter at the other end, but there should be a good amount of rotation there with Damien Holmes and outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, who is dangerous with his hand in the dirt. DT David Carter is coming off a game in which he made three sacks against Washington State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's a product of the pistol; I really do. Because I think they've always had good running backs and it seems like they're really gaining momentum with it. It looks like they're getting much more comfortable with what's going on. The speed in which they do it is very efficient." -- Cal coach Jeff Tedford, on UCLA's rushing ability with its new offense.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: UCLA at Cal, Oct. 9 -- Rick Neuheisel hasn't fared well against Cal in his two seasons as UCLA's head coach, as the Bruins have lost by a combined 40 points in the past two years. Much of the reason for that is that Cal has rushed for a total of 521 yards in those games.

KEYS TO THE GAME: UCLA is shuffling some personnel up front on defense, and the run defense still has questions to answer. Is this still the Bruins' run defense that allowed 524 yards on the ground in the first two weeks against Kansas State and Stanford (two very good running teams)? Or is it the team that allowed just 158 total rushing yards in the past two weeks to Texas and Washington State (two not very good running teams). Cal is somewhere in the middle of those extremes, but more like the former. The Bruins need to get reasonable stops on first and second down ... and then get after sometimes-erratic QB Kevin Riley on the obvious passing downs.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Johnathan Franklin -- Can the sophomore stay on a roll in the pistol offense? He rushed 30 times for 216 yards and a touchdown last week against Washington State, the best total for a UCLA player since Maurice Drew went off for 322 at Washington State on Sept. 18, 2004.

PK Kai Forbath -- In a close game, this is the guy you want. He has made at least two field goals in 29 games, which is an NCAA record. He has twice missed from 49 yards this season, but had made 40 in a row inside of 50 yards before that. Meanwhile, his opposite number this week, Cal PK Giorgia Tavecchio, missed a late field goal at Arizona in his last game, allowing the Wildcats to get the victory with a touchdown.

FS Rahim Moore -- He has only one interception this season after leading the nation with 10 last season. Even though those INT numbers are down, he's still the same smart, instinctive player he was before. Cal QB Kevin Riley isn't always steady in the biggest games, and Moore needs to capitalize on any mistakes.

ROSTER REPORT:

--WR Nelson Rosario (sprained ankle) is doubtful for this week's game against Cal. Said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel after Tuesday's practice: "It would be hard for him to make this one." Rosario came on strong late last season, but the passing game has suffered mightily in a switch to the pistol. He is the Bruins' leading receiver this season, but with only 14 catches for 137 yards through five games.

--Backup DE Iuta Tepa suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Houston on Sept. 18 and is out for the season.

--DE Datone Jones, the team's only returning starter on the defensive line, suffered a broken foot in fall camp. He is on target to have his cast removed in mid- to late October.

--Junior C Kai Maiava, a projected starter, suffered a fractured ankle in fall camp and said in late September that he is unlikely to return this season.



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