What kind of problems does UCLA present? For starters a big, fast offensive line. Then, throw in a trio of big time running backs and on top of that a corps of receivers that has NFL scouts drooling. Second team All-Conference tackle, senior Mike Saffer, 6-5, 305, anchors the offensive line. Joining Saffer on the offensive line is Oregon native and four-year starter Bryce Bollander, 6-6. 295. Saffer overcame a broken rib to play in the 43-35 win over Oregon State last week. The Bruin offensive line mounted up and opened the holes for the running game and that saw redshirt freshman Tyler Ebell, 5-9, 170, run for 203 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown. Ebell filled in for starter Manuel White, 6-3, 243 who left the OSU game with a hamstring injury. Also contributing at running back is junior Akil Harris, 6-0, 216. The three Bruin backs present different styles of running - White, the power runner who should be tackled low; Ebell, the speedster that should tackled high and Harris who is a combination of both styles.
"Be fundamentally sound, control gaps taking proper pursuit angles," said Bellotti of defending against the running backs. "Whether it is a freight train or jackrabbit."
UCLA can also pass and catch the ball. Junior wide receiver Tab Perry, 6-3, 200 is a combination of size and speed. Perry caught seven passes for 145 yards against the Beavers and has a total of 17 catches for 313 yards. Sophomore Craig Bragg, 6-2, 192 only had two catches for 22 yards against Oregon State but for the season, is the Bruins second lead receiver with 20 catches for 290 yards and four touchdowns. The leading receiver is senior tight end Mike Seidman, 6-5, 254, who had eight catches for 138 yards and a touchdown against the Beavers. Seidman for the year has 21 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns.
"They (UCLA) have a very fast tight end," observed Bellotti of Seidman.
Running the Bruin offense is fifth year senior Cory Paus who has had a hot and cold career at UCLA. However, last week he was definitely hot by going 20 for 32 in passing gaining 378 yards and one touchdown. For the season, Paus has been 82 for 138 averaging 240.4 yards per game passing with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Paus' senior leadership is starting to pay off and if his performance in the OSU game last week was any indication the Ducks will not be able to count on Paus having a panic attack. Paus has 6,342 yards career passing and is second only to Cade McNown as in passing yardage at UCLA.
"Cory Paus is playing as well as anybody in the conference," concluded Bellotti on the Bruin quarterback.
Defensively the Bruins feature a very athletic and fast squad that has the ability to cover the field and make plays. Senior middle linebacker Marcus Reese, 6-2, 222, was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the week for his game against OSU. Reese had a total of six tackles, four solo and two of his tackles were for losses. One of the tackles for loss resulted in a safety. The UCLA defense limited OSU to 14 first downs, 93 yards rushing, 353 yards total offense and picked off two passes. Senior cornerback Ricky Manning, 5-9, 180 had an interception for touchdown against Oregon State. Junior defensive tackle Rod Leisle, 6-4, 298 is considered the best player on the UCLA defense but will not be available against the Ducks. Replacing Leisle is junior college transfer Ryan Boschetti, 6-4, 274. When recruited by UCLA, Boschetti was considered a five-star linebacker and the top junior college prospect nationally as rated by TheInsiders.com. Another former five-star prospect is sophomore free safety Matt Ware, 6-3, 204 who in last year's Oregon-UCLA game took some snaps at quarterback. Rusty Williams, 6-4, 267, defensive end was a player the Ducks heavily recruited and had a very strong game against the Beavers. The other starting defensive end, junior Dave Ball, 6-6, 279 will be forced to sit out one half of the Oregon game because of an ejection from the Oregon State game.
"They (UCLA) have great team speed," summarized Bellotti. "We are trying to figure out schemes that take away their speed."
The Ducks will counter with a balanced offense featuring a prime-time running back and potential Heisman Trophy candidate in junior running back Onterrio Smith, 5-10, 204. Smith is averaging 122.4 yards per game with nine touchdowns and a 4.7-yard- per- carry average. Smith had 145 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns last week against Arizona in the Ducks 31-14 win. Smith also has caught six passes for sixty yards and one touchdown. Senior Allan Amundson, 5-9, 185, backs Smith up and is considered the fastest player on the Ducks roster with a reported 4.34 for the 40-yard dash. Amundson has carried the ball 29 times for 145 yards and one touchdown for the season. Oregon is deep at receiver with speedy and athletic receivers. Junior wide receiver Samie Parker, 5-10, 177 is a burner and has 22 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns. Senior Keenan Howry, 5-10, 170 was slowed at the beginning of the season with nagging injuries but in the Arizona game, Howry had two catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. For the season Howry has a total 12 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown. Howry has had at least one catch in 42 straight games. Senior wide receiver Jason Willis, 6-1, 196, has not yet caught a career touchdown pass, but he may be the best receiver nationally that hasn't caught a touchdown pass. Willis for his career has 77 catches for 872 yards. This season Willis has 12 catches for 201 yards. Junior tight end George Wrighster, 6-4. 249, is one in a long line of highly accomplished Oregon tight ends that can block and catch passes. Wrighster so far this season has 14 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jason Fife has only had to replace 'Captain Comeback' Joey Harrington and so far Fife has held his own. Fife has thrown for 1,124 yards, going 74 for 129 and a 57.4 completion percentage. Fife has 10 touchdowns and only one interception. Not bad comparing to Harrington's junior year stats after five games when the future first round NFL draft pick was 70 for 148 and one interception, 958 yards, four touchdowns and a 47.3 completion percentage.
Oregon's offensive line has consistently mixed veterans with less experienced players. Senior guard/tackle Cory Chambers, 6-4, 296, has been slowed by injuries at the beginning of the season and he will most likely rotate in to the line-up. Senior tackle Phil Finzer, 6-5, 308, sophomore tackle Mike DelaGrange, 6-6, 345, sophomore tackle Adam Snyder, 6-6, 290, sophomore guard Nick Steitz, 6-4, 297, senior guard Joey Forster, 6-4, 292 and junior center Dan Weaver, 6-5, 278 have rotated to various positions in the line and have provided holes for 842 net rushing yards and 1,170 passing yards for the season.
"The whole thing is a work-in-progress," said Bellotti describing the offensive line.
Defensively, the motto of the Oregon defense all year has been 'Stop the Run' and for the season the Ducks defenders have allowed an average of only 79.4 yards per game of rushing through the first five games. The Ducks also have allowed an average of only 14.4 points per game while the Ducks offense has scored an average of 38.8 points per game. The Ducks have a young and huge defensive line. They will be without the services of senior defensive end Ed Wangler who injured his shoulder in the Portland State game. Redshirt freshman defensive end Devan Long, 6-3, 249, also will not participate against the Bruins. Bellotti indicated that true freshman Haloti Ngata, 6-5, 333, has met all the coaches' expectations for his performance so far this season. Last week, Ngata had two tackles including one tackle for loss. Bellotti not only called Ngata a talented athlete, but a big one as well.
"A 6-5, 330 pound 'talented' athlete," said Bellotti.
On paper and when reviewing the statistics the two teams have much in common. Both teams have had good statistics though the first five games. Oregon recruited many of the UCLA athletes. UCLA had a very disappointing end to their 2001 campaign when they finished 7-4, fourth in the Pac-10 race and chose not to participate in a post-season bowl. Oregon on the other hand finished last season with an 11-1 record ranked No. 2 nationally, won the Pac-10 race and won the Fiesta Bowl. The Bruins may remember the 21-20 loss last year and use that as motivation for this year's game.
Throughout last season, Bellotti had continually repeated the key of playing hard, playing fast and having fun. The 2001 Ducks found success using that formula. May be the 2002 Ducks can find playing hard, playing fast and having fun will also provide the winning formula and for the second straight year beat UCLA In the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
The game will be carried on ABC and kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.