-- UCLA opens it home schedule facing San Jose State Saturday at the Rose Bowl. Game time is set for 7:07 p.m., with the contest being televised by Fox Sports West. Bill Macdonald and former Bruin J.J. Stokes will be in the booth calling the action.
-- UCLA is, of course, 0-1, after losing to Houston on the road last week, 38-34.
-- San Jose State is also 0-1, losing to #7 Stanford in Palo Alto, 57-3.
-- This is the first time every UCLA has played San Jose State. UCLA is the last Pac-12 team that San Jose State has never played.
-- The Spartans have played Pac-12 teams 143 times, with 65 of those games against Stanford and 35 against Cal.
-- San Jose State's most recent trip to Los Angeles was in 2009 when it opened the season against #4-ranked USC, with the Spartans losing 56-3.
-- Of course, San Jose State did have that big win against Stanford in 2006, but it was in San Jose.
-- Interesting football-unrelated fact: UCLA and San Jose State have an educational relationship dating back to the 1880s. At that time, San Jose State was known as the "California State Normal School." In Benjamin Gilbert's book, "Pioneers for 100 Years," he writes that the California legislature passed legislation in 1881 to start a "Branch State Normal School" in Los Angeles, which opened August 29, 1882. That school gained independence and autonomy from the state in 1887, then became the southern branch of the University of California in 1919, and was named UCLA in 1927.
-- One of the biggest football connections of the two schools is the fact that former UCLA coach Dick Vermeil was a quarterback at San Jose State in 1957-58. Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue began his college career at San Jose State. Current UCLA run game coordinator Jim Mastro was the linebackers coach at San Jose State in 1996.
-- San Jose State was generally picked to finish last in the majority of the pre-season rankings in the Western Athletic Conference this season.
-- UCLA's offense, after the Houston game, finds itself ranked highly nationally. Gaining a total of 554 yards, that's good enough for 10th in the nation this week; It's 322 yards passing is 15th nationally; It's 232 yards ranked UCLA 21st nationally; Running back Johnathan Franklin ran for 128 yards, 15th in the nation; Quarterback Richard Brehaut was responsible for a total of 351 yards of total offense, which was 7th in the nation.
-- Senior receiver Taylor Embree caught five balls at Houston, and now has 122 career catches, which ranks him 10th on UCLA's all-time list. Craig Bragg is the all-time leader with 193.
-- UCLA's 11.1 yards per catch against Houston was the highest average yards gained per catch of any Pac-12 team in the opening weekend.
-- Of course, the other side of the coin was UCLA's defense, giving up 469 yards against Houston had it ranked 96th in the country after the first week.
-- San Jose State is coached by Mike MacIntyre, who is in his second year, with a record of 1-13. Last season the Spartans won just one game, against FCS Southern Utah. Before his position at SJSU, he was the defensive coordinator at Duke, and before that was a defensive backs coach in the NFL. He's primarily known as a defensive guy. His father, George, is the former head coach at Vanderbilt.
-- San Jose State's last road win was against Idaho in November, 2008. Since then, the Spartans have played 16 road games without a victory.
-- The Spartans traveled 17,000 miles in 2010 for road games. This season marks the first time since 1981 that San Jose State is playing all of its September games in the state of California.
-- Last week against Stanford, among San Jose State's 22 starters only two had never started a game before, one of those being quarterback Matt Faulkner.
-- After a heat wave during this week, temperatures are supposed to cool down by the weekend. With a 7:00 p.m. start, it's forecast to be about 80 degrees at game time, with very little wind.
SAN JOSE STATE'S OFFENSE V. UCLA'S DEFENSE
San Jose State's offense isn't that bad. Really.
Yeah, they're ranked 101st nationally after the first week of college football, after having only gained 237 yards against Stanford.
First off, Stanford's defense looked pretty good in that game. Their defensive line was fairly dominant, not allowing the Spartans any running room at all.
But it wasn't as if San Jose State were complete dolts that couldn't complete a pass. Quarterback, Matt Faulkner (SR, 6-2, 204) held off some young competition to hold onto the starting spot to begin the season, and after losing to Stanford and putting up just 3 points you'd think that head coach Mike MacIntyre might go with someone else. But in reality Faulkner wasn't bad. In fact, in terms of just throwing passes, he was very good, being accurate in his throws. Where he did hurt the Spartans was on a couple of turnovers, one a fumble, and another where he double clutched and threw the ball behind him in his own endzone for a safety. Yeah, that doesn't sound good, but trust me, if Faulkner is given enough time, which he generally was against Stanford, he's very capable of consistently finding his receivers.
|Receiver Noel Grigsby.|
He does have a fairly good target at tight end, too, in Ryan Otten (JR, 6-6, 235), and he'll throw to his backfield readily.
The running backs are serviceable. David Freeman (JR, 5-8, 189) is decent, and isn't as quick as you'd think he'd be for his size. Ina Liaina (JR, 6-1, 243) is the battering ram type. The leading ground gainer from last season is Brandon Rutley (SR, 5-11, 192), and they'll sometimes use him in the wildcat (which he fumbled out of last week).
Running, though, definitely isn't the strongsuit of this offense. Without a real game-breaking tailback threat, and an average OL, even for the WAC, it's just not what they're going to do well.
Up front the best lineman is probably left tackle David Quessenberry (JR, 6-6, 291). Robbie Reed (Grad, 6-3, 286) is an experienced player at center, even though he's been nicked up some. They did provide Faulkner a decent amount of time, even though Stanford clearly didn't want to show much of its blitzing schemes and rushed only 4 for most of the game.
UCLA's defensive line showed last week that it's definitely not at the level of Stanford's. The hype of future-star Datone Jones didn't translate to the field against Houston. UCLA's defensive tackles generally were thrown around, except for sophomore Cassius Marsh. And this was against a fairly under-sized Houston OL.
UCLA's linebackers, too, had a very poor game. Middle linebacker Patrick Larimore didn't look anything like himself. Will linebacker Sean Westgate can get manhandled at times, but that was one of his worst man-handlings ever last week. Jordan Zumwalt, who will probably start in place of the injured Glenn Love, showed flashes of good play last week, with Eric Kendricks also showing some potential coming off the bench behind Westgate.
Really, because of San Jose State's recent record and the score of last week's game, you might expect Saturday to look like UCLA playing against a Pop Warner team. But that's hardly the case. If UCLA's defense turns in a performance like it did against Houston, San Jose State is very capable of burning them accordingly.
Again, this isn't a horrible offense. At one point in the third quarter of the Stanford game, when SJSU was down 29-3 in the third quarter, they were out-gaining Stanford. There are a few things going for the Bruins. The Spartans run out of the Pistol a majority of the time, and UCLA's defense is quite familiar with it, having to go up against UCLA's version of it in practice. No more hurry-up spreads that UCLA seems to struggle with year after year (even though San Jose State will go to a no-huddle occasionally). You'd have to think that UCLA will be improved in taking away the short passing game, after it look baffled by it last week and had this week to prepare. Rick Neuheisel said that Houston surprised them by throwing short, thinking they were going to exploit seams down the field. Well, if you go by the tape against Stanford, they shouldn't be surprised this week when San Jose State does what it did best – exactly what Houston did – and that's take what the defense gives it, utilizing short passes and hope for some YAC. Faulkner did tend to make mistakes when he had to hold the ball too long, so you'd think San Jose State wants him to get it off quickly. San Jose State should struggle running the ball, and the Bruins should know that the Spartans are going to throw and then should send pressure. But they'll also have to press receivers. We'll see if UCLA Defensive Coordinator will do it, or opt for the more conservative approach, which would be to give the cushion and make Faulkner have to consistently execute to move the Spartan offense down the field.
Then, you have the intangible factor of UCLA's defense wanting to redeem itself, too. I can't believe that the UCLA defense will be complacent after the Houston embarrassment.
UCLA'S OFFENSE V. SAN JOSE STATE'S DEFENSE
It's very misleading that the Spartans' defense gave up 57 points to Stanford last week. They weren't even close to being as bad as that sounds. In fact, San Jose State's defense looked much better against Stanford than UCLA's looked against Houston. It gave up just 373 yards, and just 5.3 yards per play, which are both the lowest figures by a Spartan defense in an opening-season game since the 2008 opener against UC Davis.
SJSU's defense simply isn't going to be a pushover. They have some talent, and some experienced players.
|Linebacker Keith Smith.|
While you can say, on one hand, it might not be good to have all your starters return in the secondary on a defense that was 104th in the nation against the pass last season, San Jose State's secondary is one year more experienced. They are led by another guy who could hold his own in the Pac-12, safety Duke Ihenacho (SR, 6-1, 210), who has started 33 games in his career and is a two-time All-WAC player. James Orth (JR, 6-2, 203) is a former converted receiver who has really come on as a safety. The two cornerbacks are Peyton Thompson (SR, 5-11, 180) and Brandon Driver (SR, 6-0, 180), seasoned guys who have been through quite a bit of adversity at SJSU.
Where Stanford clearly had an advantage last week was matching up against San Jose State's defensive line. Joe Nigosi (SR, 6-1, 278) is a fifth-year senior who moved from defensive end to tackle this season, but he's a bit suspect, and he's playing alongside the only other new starter for San Jose State on defense, freshman Travis Raciti (FR, 6-5, 293). At defensive end, Cedric Lousi (SO, 6-3, 255) had a decent game against Stanford but was banged up, while on the other side Travis Johnson (JR, 6-3, 240) has some experience. The San Jose State DL is easily its weakest defensive unit.
Interestingly, though, the big, bad rushing attack of Stanford last week didn't exactly blow them out. In fact, they were holding them to around 100 rushing yards for the day until the fourth quarter when Stanford just handed off the ball. Where they were dominated was in pass protection; Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck could have had a tea party in the backfield.
UCLA's offense looked good last week, perhaps the best a UCLA offense has looked in many years (since 2005?). And it all started with UCLA's offensive line, which did very well in both run blocking and pass protection. Greg Capella, who had his first start at quick guard, had an exceptional game, and now he'll be asked to move over and play center since starter Kai Maiava is suspended this week. As the back-up center last season Capella had some issues with the snap, and he had some this week in practice. Albert Cid, the JC player, will more than likely move into the strongside guard spot, and Chris Ward will move over to the quick guard to replace Capella. Watch for the return of Jeff Baca, UCLA's best offensive lineman, coming back from a broken foot he suffered in spring practice. He'll probably get some reps, but a limited amount, and probably at quick tackle.
Quarterback Richard Brehaut had a very good game against Houston, doing just about everything you could ask of him. He did blow a call, misreading the signals from the sideline, but he threw and ran well, and executed the zone read exceptionally well. It was definitely a step forward in Brehaut's development.
Kevin Prince will be able to play Saturday, but it's really just a guess how good he'll feel by game time and if it's worth risking it. If he's feeling 100%, the coaches might want to get him in for at least a series to keep him in rhythm.
What makes this all work is that UCLA has Johnathan Franklin at tailback. With him as a constant threat, defenses have to really honor UCLA's running game. Derrick Coleman looked a bit slow-footed last week, so we'll see if he displays more energy or if Malcolm Jones gets more carries.
While the Bruins might not want to show too much of their playbook against San Jose State, they'll probably want to get some work in for their F-back spot. Anthony Barr had a touchdown reception, and Jordon James had a fly sweep, but you can probably expect them to touch the ball more this week.
The receivers group had a good first week, with Joseph Fauria having a breakout game, leading UCLA in receptions and receiving yards. It was always thought he was a force, at 6-8, that is tough to defend and he proved it against Houston.
Coming off one of the best offensive performances in the country for UCLA, and one where San Jose State's defense gave up 57 points, you'd think we'd call this as a pretty one-sided match-up. But that's probably not going to be the case. San Jose State's defense is much better than Houston's.
UCLA's decided advantage will be running the ball, even though SJSU's linebackers fly around well. So, the Spartans will sneak some more bodies into the box, and Brehaut will have to beat them with the pass. SJSU wasn't able to mount much of a pass rush against Stanford, so you'd think that UCLA will possibly look more downfield, to guys like Carroll, Smith and Shaquelle Evans.
A big reason why San Jose State lost in such a decisive way to Stanford was because of their special teams. It constantly started with bad field position as a result of faulty returns, or it gave up excellent field position to Stanford's offense after the Cardinal had big returns. The special teams committed a turnover, too. Punter and kicker Harrison Waid is a good punter, at least, but is suspect as a place kicker. He missed a 23-yarder last week. And, like I said, their punt and kick-off coverage teams were porous against Stanford. It's a chance for UCLA to get a decided advantage in field position throughout the day. As returners, Rutley and Driver are decent threats.
Of course, UCLA is dealing with its own Special Teams issue, with field goal kicker Kip Smith having missed a field goal and extra point last week. He adjusted his mechanics in practice Wednesday and was better. We'll see if it translates to the games.
The 57-3 score last week against Stanford wasn't an accurate representation of SJSU. So much of it was created from turnovers, penalties, and just dumb mistakes – as well as conceding field position through special teams. But if you really look at how SJSU's defense did against Stanford's offense, or how the Spartan offense did against Stanford's defense, head to head, it wasn't too bad. In other words, if San Jose State can reduce the mistakes and penalties, it will have a chance to stay in the game with UCLA.
But probably not for the entire game. Even if SJSU plays error free, and plays out of their mind, UCLA still has far too much for San Jose State to stay with the Bruins. And maybe UCLA's defense will find its footing going up against a very familiar offense.
This game, then, could go either of two ways: SJSU makes some mistakes, and the game has the same feeling as the Stanford/San Jose State game – where UCLA is dominating the scoreboard but it just doesn't feel like they're completely dominating on the field. Or San Jose State doesn't make nearly as many mistakes and hangs for a while. We'll go with scenario #2.
San Jose State 17