|Cougars vs. Bruins|
AT A GLANCE
3:30 p.m. Pacific Time
THE BRUINS ON OFFENSE
Players to Know:
Drew Olson, QB: Olson has quieted a lot of critics with a superb senior campaign so far, averaging 256 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns against just two interceptions this season. Saturday marks his third start and fourth appearance against WSU over his career, a team that has consistently had his number.
Maurice Drew, RB: Drew is a threat to score out of the backfield as a runner or receiver and one of the nation's best punt returners with three touchdowns in just 10 attempts this year. He leads the Bruins with 173 all-purpose yards per game. Stopping him is proving to be nearly impossible, but containing him is a must if the Cougs want to have a chance in this game.
Marcedes Lewis, TE: At 6-foot-6 with outstanding speed and strength, Lewis is a walking mismatch for linebackers or safeties. A top contender for the Mackey Award, he leads the Bruins with 302 receiving yards and two touchdowns this season.
Overview: Karl Dorrell has steadily improved the Bruin's West Coast offense to the point it rivals any other in the conference. UCLA is averaging more than 43 points per game and has the capacity to generate big plays on ground and through the air. The Bruin's have also turned the ball over just three times this year.
Strategy: On paper, this group has WSU's defense bested in both in talent and experience. The obvious superstar is Maurice Drew, but Olson has plenty of capable receivers at his disposal if the defense overplays the run. Pressuring the quarterback is a must and Scott Davis and crew must cover the tight end effectively when the Cougs blitz. Ultimately, the best way the Cougs stop this offense is to keep them off the field as much as possible.
THE BRUINS ON DEFENSE
Players to Know:
Spencer Havner, LB: Havner is a tackling machine, ranking among the nations statistical leaders for several seasons now. He and fellow senior Justin London lead arguably the conference's best linebacking corps.
Dennis Keys, FS: Keys will be asked to assist in coverage of deep threat extraordinaire Jason Hill provided the junior's thigh bruise allows him to see the field. If Hill faces consistent double teams, another receiver like Bienemann could be poised to break a few big plays.
Overview: The Bruins run the typical 4-3 defense with a lot of salty veterans in the front seven. They are breaking in a young secondary but have done a good job of supporting them. The pass rush has been solid and the linebackers force a ton of fumbles. The weakness in this group has proven to be run defense, with a smaller but very active line. The Bruins are surrendering 210 rushing yards per game and have given up a league worst 12 rushing touchdowns this season.
Strategy: With UCLA's iffy run defense, the Cougs will likely try to give the ball to Jerome Harrison as long as he remains effective. But the Bruins are also well aware of this, so Brink and company could look to hurt them with play action passing anytime they stack the box. It is vital for the Cougs to score early and often if they want to dictate the pace of the game with The Ghost's running ability.
THE BRUINS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Maurice Drew headlines an outstanding special teams unit for the Bruins. Their kick coverage is outstanding and kicker Justin Medlock is accurate out to 50 yards. Drew averages 33 yards per punt return and the Cougs should not even think about testing him. WSU can't afford any special teams mistakes and must do everything possible to give the potent Bruin offense a long field to work on.
LB Will Derting (knee) out, WR Jason Hill (thigh contusion) is doubtful, WR Chris Jordan (groin pull) a game time decision, Cody Boyd (ankle) a game time decision. DT Ropati Pitoitua (leg), LB Steve Dildine (leg), WR Michael Bumpus (knee), P Kyle Basler (stomach ailment) all probable.
UCLA: G Chris Joseph, DE Nikola Dragovic, FS Chris Horton, DT Kevin Brown, WR Junior Taylor all out.
After years of underachieving, UCLA is now an experienced team of veterans finally coming into its own. Their offense is so potent; the Cougs might have to score at least 40 points to win. Washington State can't afford the offense to stall out for any significant period of time in this game as they did last week. Running the ball is important, but he coaches must adjust quickly if the offense struggles or the Cougs look to get left in the dust. The biggest thing WSU has going for them is home field advantage. The Bruins leave Southern California for the first time this year, and teams often have trouble getting in sync coming off a long home-stand. The crowd needs to bring a lot of noise to help keep the defense charged and the Bruin offense deaf.