UCLA 101: Breaking Down the Bruins

THIS IS THE 2-5 Cougars' last golden opportunity to try and right the ship. UCLA, tied for the league lead, has quietly rolled to a 4-0 start in Pac-10 play and ride a nine-game conference winning streak. But WSU always seems to play well against the Bruins, winning five of the last six meetings. The Bruins, however, have vowed not to get caught by surprise.

Cougars (2-5) vs Bruins (5-2)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
3:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Martin Stadium (35,117)

TELEVISION:
FSN

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
UCLA by 6

LAST MEETING:
2006 WSU Won 37-15

THE SERIES:
UCLA leads 35-17-1

CF.C PREDICTION:
WSU 31, UCLA 28

THE BRUINS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Patrick Cowen, QB: Cowen took over for the injured Ben Olsen but is battling a knee injury himself. He is very effective in the short passing game, but isn't asked to do too much more than that.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Chris Forcier, Osaar Rasshan, QBs: Area media reported earlier this week UCLA will take the rare step of bringing four quarterbacks on their travel squad, fueling speculation that Cowan will not be ready to play. He missed significant practice time this week and was reported by the LA Times to be "hobbling", although Cowen said he was simply "fatigued". Karl Dorrell said Thursday he has no doubt on Cowan's availability for Saturday after his QB ran through most of the snaps in yesterday's non-contact practice. If Cowan cannot go, the quarterbacks behind him have served primarily to hand off the ball when called upon this season.

Kahlil Bell, RB: A solid running back who has taken on a workhorse load since Chris Markey got hurt, who himself is expected to return and get more reps this week. Bell is averaging 5.3 yards per rush and over 100 rushing yards per game.

Brandon Breazell, WR: The Bruins top playmaker. He leads the teams in receptions and yards and will even contribute with an end around run or trick pass a couple times per game as well. UCLA relies on him to stretch the field and keep the defenses from creeping up on an otherwise conservative offense.

Overview
This offense has survived injuries and a fairly conservative style to somehow still manage to put up over 28 points per game. A lot of the credit can got to former WSU offensive line coach Bob Connelly who has had the Bruin beefeaters opening holes for the running game consistently all year.

Strategy
WSU has done a poor job of taking away any specific aspect of their opponent's offense save for the game against Arizona State. But given the opportunity, they should try to force Cowen, or the other QBs, to beat them by taking away the Bruins' most valuable offensive asset -- the run. The Bruin offense thrives when it has balance. Cowen is a capable passer but isn't going to light you up without support from the running game and the backup QBs are untested. Washington State needs to focus on playing solid run defense, assignment football and stay at home in anticipation of trick plays from Brandon Breazell, who the Bruins rely on to jumpstart the offense.

THE BRUINS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Bruce Davis, DE: Arguably the top defensive end in college football. Davis has shrugged off double teams all season to once again lead UCLA in sacks with 6.5 this season.

Overview
The Bruins usually run a base 4-3 system but Dorrell has said he expects to play very little of their base this week. They have had a strong run stopping defense that ranks in the top ten nationally at 79 rushing yards per game and only 2.5 yards per rush but heading into Pullman, are down to three d-tackles with experience, the starting defensive end is out and his backup, Tom Blake, isn't 100 percent either. The Bruins are also expected to be without their starting middle linebacker

Strategy
The Bruins have been rock solid against the run but the back seven can be beat if Brink can find his rhythm. Even with all the injuries, UCLA should still have a solid run defense but the Cougs have to find a way to get a running game going. If not, any defense can sit back in coverage and clog the throwing lanes. The tipping point on who wins and who loses the game may hinge on if the Cougars can run between the tackles, particularly later in the game.

THE BRUINS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Bruins are solid in all areas. They have a freshman kicker in Kai Forbath who shook off some early season jitters and has connected on 15 of his last 16 attempts..

FINAL THOUGHTS
UCLA is highly unpredictable coming in, and not just because of their injury situation. As good as they looked against Cal, this is a team that lost to woeful Notre Dame the week before. The offense can go stale for periods of time and that is when the Cougs have got to pour it on -- and on both sides of the ball. WSU can still win by going airborne early and often, it is after all the offense's strength. But the Cougs' best chance to come away with a W probably rests on having more balance between the run and the pass. On defense, the Cougs need to try and frustrate the Bruins at every turn and then hope the pressure to keep up on the scoreboard leads Cowen or the backups QBs into making some mistakes. Under Karl Dorrell UCLA is 21-1 when they score at least 30 points and 22-2 when they win the turnover battle. In the '04 Cougar win, Washington State held UCLA to 29 points.


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