UCLA enters the October 21 contest against Notre Dame bearing a 4-2 record. The Bruins have defeated Utah 31-10, Rice 26-16, Stanford 31-0, and Arizona 27-7. The Bruins have come up short against Washington 19-29 and Oregon 20-30.
UCLA opponents are a combined 18-23, while Notre Dame's opponents carry a 24-17 record, and the Irish schedule, up to this point, is arguably a tougher one than the Bruins have faced this season.
In the past two weeks UCLA has had what appears to be season ending injuries to starting QB, Ben Olson, and to TE/Slot, Ryan Moya. Add to that the voice problems of backup QB, Patrick Cowan.
Soooooo, does one see a possible Irish blowout? Not so fast my friend. (Yeah, I find Corso funny, not accurate, just funny) Just ask Da Bears, Michigan , Louisville , and USC this past week alone. Heavy favorites, pushed to the limits to even pull out a win. As clichéd as it goes, "It's why they play the game."
An old coach once told me to scare the staff into thinking we could get hammered by the opponent being presented every time I gave a scouting report. In the spirit of a Halloween to come, here goes the bogeyman, or if you prefer, the boogeyman.
I was unable to get the UCLA-Oregon game to breakdown, so I'm relying on the Bruin-Cardinal game, with the bulk of the offensive analysis on the receivers and running backs. Readers may, at least, compare said game with the Irish-Cardinal game.
Program note: I incorrectly identified Len Berman as the play-by-play announcer in the Stanford-UCLA game, and what a pain he is to listen to. Mea culpa, IE members. It was Barry Thompkins. Just goes to show that cloning does work.
Plea for help: No, not psychological help, Esc, but if anyone can DVD the Navy game this week and get me a copy ASAP I'd appreciate the effort. I can't get the game here. Ezmail me if you can make it happen.
Stanford 0 0 0 0 0
UCLA 7 0 7 17 31
Scoring Sequence for UCLA:
1st Q. 12 yd blocked punt return 10:23
3rd Q. 2 yd run 2:45
4TH Q 40 yd FG 10:28
1 yd run 5:41
5 yd defensive fumble return 5:13
UCLA: 389 yd, 223 yd passing, 166 yd rushing
Stanford: 166 yd, 117 passing, 49 rushing
UCLA: 18, 6 rushing, 12 passing, 0 penalty, 3rd Down: 8 of 17, 47%, 4th Down: 0 of 1
Stanford: 11, 4 rushing, 7 passing, 0 penalty, 3rd Down: 4 of 13, 31%, 4th Down: 0 of 0
Chris Markley: 18 att., 88 yd, 4.9 avg., long 24
Kahlil Bell: 8 att., 53 yd, 6.6 avg., long 32
Ben Olson: 3 att., 16 yd, 5.3 avg., long 16 yd
Derrick Williams: 1 att., 5 yd
Chane Moline: 2 att., 3 yd, 1.5 avg., long 2 yd, 2 TD
Michael Pitre: 1 att., 1 yd
Ben Olson: 20-37, 54 %, 219 yd, 5.9 yd per att., 2 INT
Patrick Cowan:* 37-63, 58 %, 317 yd, 5.0 yd per att., 2 TD, 1 INT
* Year to date stats.
Ryan Moya: 4 rec., 64 yd, 16.0 avg., long 23 yd
Logan Paulsen: 4 rec., 40 yd, 10.0 avg., long 20 yd
Chris Markey: 3 rec., 33 yd, 11.0 avg., long 15 yd
Marcus Everett: 3 rec., 30 yd, 10.0 avg., long 15 yd
Brandon Breazell: 2 rec., 28 yd, 14.0 avg., long 21 yd
Kahlil Bell: 2 rec., 11 yd, 5.5 avg., long 7 yd
Junior Taylor : 1 rec., 6 yd
Chane Moline: 1 rec., 4 yd
UCLA: 5 for 180, 36.0 avg.
Stanford: 7 for 260, 37.1 avg.
UCLA: 7 for -56 yd. Standford: 1 for -7 yd
UCLA: 5 for 55 yd
Stanford: 3 for 26 yd
UCLA: 2, 1 lost Stanford: 2, 2 lost
Time of Possession:
UCLA runs from a one back set and from a traditional I formation. They feature a double tight end, tight slot set on short yardage, and generally employ a TE with two WRS and a FB, or three WRs and only a TB as their normal sets. They will zone block or lead a guard through on running plays to the inside, pull OL on the toss sweep, and Breazell, a WR, will run a reverse. No one besides Olson or Cowan is credited with a pass this season, but given the success other teams have had with a TB and WR pass against the Irish, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of those variations from the Bruins this week.
The biggest problem for the Bruins offensively had been their problem scoring TDs in the red zone. Going into the Stanford game the Bruins were 10 of 22 when it came to scoring TDs in the red zone. The Stanford game red zone results had the Bruins scoring two TDs, but also being stopped inside the red zone twice by an INT and a goal line stand. On the year the Bruins are 12 of 25 scoring TDs in the red zone.
While the Bruins have had problems scoring TDs in the red zone, the team from Westwood has an excellent FG kicker in # 7, Justin Medlock, who is 14 of 15 in FGs and has popped one for 51 yd. Medlock leads the nation in FG kicking percentage and FG per game.
UCLA's Passing Game:
UCLA averages 6.1 yards per attempt. Olson garnered 6.6 of that, while Cowan checks in at 5.0 yards per attempt. Against Utah the Bruins had a yard per attempt average of 9.6 yd. The drop to 6.1 yd on the season is due to the defensive coordinator at Rice. After studying the Utah game film, where the Bruins passed for 318 yards, which comes out to 9.3 yards per attempt, he threw a lot of three man rush against the Bruins, while dropping eight back into pass defense. Washington and Stanford followed the same script. Stanford seemed to confuse Olson, who reportedly won the Bruin QB job over Cowan by the strength of his arm. I didn't see UCLA against Arizona or Oregon , but it wouldn't surprise me if both presented the Bruins with the same look for a good part of the game. West Coast viewers of IE are invited to chime in on the board about this point.
It's hard to talk about Cowan, not having seen him play except in garbage time. In two games, as essentially the starter, he's 20 of 20 for 201 yd, 2 TD, 0 INT against Arizona , and 16 of 31, 112 yd, 0 TD, 1 INT against Oregon . In the Arizona game he comes off the bench and performs well, but against Oregon he doesn't do very well. Arizona was at home and Oregon was his first start on the road. What he'll be like this week is anyone's guess, but then again, that's up to the Irish defense. I'm looking forward to what coaches Minter and Lewis place in front of him in terms of coverage and pressure.
Also of interest is Cowan's losing his voice which was brought about by a shot to the throat in the Oregon game. On the plane trip back to Los Angeles his throat swelled up and he was coughing up blood. If he is unable to talk, and more importantly bark signals, it presents a myriad of problems for UCLA just getting the play called and in changing the play at the LOS. I suppose UCLA could go with a silent count all day, but they have had more than their share of illegal procedures already. His backup would be redshirt freshman, # 11, 6'4", 210 lb, Osaar Rasshan, who has yet to throw a college pass. Unless Rasshan is a Troy Smith type this week has to have been a week of preparation that far exceeds the norm for most college teams, either with drilling more hand signals for Cowan or prepping Rasshan. Of course, he could recover fully and make this paragraph moot.
UCLA doesn't go deep as often as the Irish do, but when they do put the ball up their most dangerous deep threat is # 1, 6'0, 170 lb, Breazell, who was wide open on a deep pass against Stanford, only to be overthrown. Stanford, throughout the game, gave Breazell a large cushion. Should the Irish do the same, they have to punish him on any short route.
Against Stanford the Bruins featured a lot of underneath routes, often set up by running the DB's off with the WRs, then hitting the TEs and RBs underneath, but when one faces eight in coverage that's a good game plan. The change-off from this plan of attack was running the WRs short and bringing a TE or slot behind the WR on deep outs. Moya was effective at this, running from the TE and slot position, but broke his leg in the Oregon game. It will be interesting to see how the Bruins replace Moya, who was an integral part of their attack against Stanford, from the TE, tight slot, and wide slot. He also was in motion to run patterns and block for the running game.
The UCLA staff obviously has a great deal of confidence in their OL as their RBs get into patterns very quickly. Most often they appear as safety valves, but against Stanford the RBs did have six receptions. To date the Bruins have hit four different RBs with 31 passes.
It should be remembered that Olson beat out Cower on the strength of his arm, so one might not foresee many attempts at the deep ball against the Irish. Then again ND has had a propensity for giving up the big play, so I look for a shot or two at the deep pass early, particularly given the number of TV timeouts that occur in an Irish game, a time when bold offensive coaches, in my experience, like to attempt a bomb or trick play. Trick play? Again, it wouldn't surprise me to see a WR or TB pass. I mean wouldn't you try one if you were UCLA?
UCLA's Rushing Game:
The Bruins feature the one-two punch of #28, 208 lb, Chris Markley, with 100 carries, 589 yd, and a 5.9 YPC avg., and #36, 211 lb, Kahlil Bell, with 58 carries, 230 yd, and a 4.0 YPC avg. Markley is a good zone runner with decent speed, but not great speed, and he doesn't posses a lot of moves when he breaks into the secondary. The same could be said of Bell . Both are physical runners and you have to "buckle it up to bring then down." UCLA often turns to # 42, 6', 240 lb, FB, Chad Moline for short yardage.
The Bruin defense, to me, begins with their DL. No defense appears in the top ten of the NCAA's leaders without a dominant DL, and their 14th rank against the rush would indicate that they can be dominant. UCLA's DEs align based on the offensive set with, #17, Justin Hickman taking the strong side, the TE side, or the wide side with two TEs. He's relentless, strong and quick. The other DE, #44, Bruce Davis, takes the weak side and the short field side in a two TE set. He's very quick, but also very light at 237 lb, and is often spelled by two other DEs. Their DT's are Kevin Brown, #75, and #93, Bringham Harwell, who are also spelled by several players. As a unit the UCLA DLs got a good push against Stanford and used a lot of stunts. The primary workhorse in their stunt package is Harwell, who does the grunt work allowing Brown and Hickman to rub off his efforts and complete the stunt.
The UCLA LBs, a decided weakness last year, are quick and they do it all. The Sam is Aaron Wittington, #42, the Mike, Christian Taylor, #33, and the Will is Reggie Carter, # 51. They are quick in their drops into zones, play man underneath, blitz, and are good tacklers. They are very aggressive in going for the ball even after a reception, witnessed by Taylor stealing the ball on the way down for an INT after a Stanford receiver made the catch.
The Bruin secondary is very athletic, aggressive, and they like to jump short routes. The corners, # 23, Trey brown, and # 3 Rodney Van, will move back and forth before the snap trying to confuse an offense as to their depth alignment. Van is the better athlete of the two and Stanford seemed to go after Brown, possibly due to his 5'9" height, and he was beaten deep, once by a Stanford walk on, but the receiver didn't adjust to the ball as he should and Stanford lost a TD. The safeties, #11, Dennis Keyes, and # 14, Chris Horton are hard hitters, and play the run well. All the Stanford DBs treat pass defense like a secondary coach's dream in that they think the ball is theirs once it's in the air. As part of their nickel and dime packages they use #1, true freshman, Alterraun Verner, a 5'10", 160 lb. Verner has one fumble recovery return for 18 yd, and more importantly, two INTs returned for TDs of 34 and 89 yd.
The UCLA defense yields only 84.3 yards rushing a game, 169. 4 yards passing, yields a first down only a 23.3 % of the time on third downs, has 6 sacks, allows only 15.3 points per game, and has created 16 turnovers, eight fumbles and eight interceptions. In short, the Bruins defense this year is far superior to last year's Bruin defense.
UCLA Special Teams
UCLA's punter, Aaron Perez, averages 39.3 yd per punt, and has put 11 punts inside the twenty. The Bruins have not only prevented a runback for a TD, but they only allow the opposition 2.5 yd per return. Of note here is that one of their gunners is 193 lb, CB, Matthew Slater, son of Jackie Slater, and OL of NFL fame. Matt gets down there on punts and is definitely just a "chip" off the old block.
The Bruins have used several players in an attempt to find a punt returner, even using Markley to receive punts. They appear to have settled on Terrance Austin, who hasn't returned any punts for TDs, but he has a13.8 average and a return of 79 yd.
The nation's best FG kicker, Justin Medlock, a left footed kicker by the way, also puts the ball into the end zone on KOs . I didn't see any KOs through the end zone, or deep into the end zone, as they were the tantalizing 2 to 3 yd deep kicks which often leave kick return men in a quandary as to coming out or not. Stanford goofed this up with a step over the goal line, then a decision to not come out, and then realizing he had to come out and he only got to the five. ND return men better be emphatic in how they react to such kicks. At any rate, the men from Westwood hold their opponents to a 19.6 yard return average.
On kick returns the bruins average 15. 4 yd per return, with no TDs.
The hot rumor out of the UCLA camp is that the Bruins are treating this as a bowl game, their biggest game of the year, their statement game, whatever. There's nothing new for the Irish here, as they always get the opposition's best shot. There are several keys to this game that don't involve Xs and Os.
Will the Bruins, embarrassed by being physically outplayed by the Oregon Ducks, bring their A game? Will Cowan be able to use his voice? Will Bruin speed inflict serious damage on the Irish? Was Oregon 's 256 yards rushing last week an aberration?
Will the Domers put forth a complete game? Will they be looking ahead to a date with another California team? Will they be able to run against UCLA? Will they be able to run right? Can they shut down the Bruin running attack? Will the chat room go nuts?
In my opinion, this is a bellwether game for the Irish, more so than just being the game played this week. Sorry, Charlie. My apologies, coach, for taking it more than one game at a time. A win in this game and the possibility of going 11-1 at best, or 10-2 at the worst, is almost a lock. The poll rankings, a BCS game, and recruiting success hang heavy on the results of this game.
UCLA Scouting Report
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