UCLA FOOTBALL... Fight On~
Favored UCLA desperate for a win
Sam Allen, Bruin Sports senior staff (Contact)
Published: Friday, October 3, 2008
Oddsmakers favor the UCLA football team to beat Washington State by 17 points when the two teams meet Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
The Cougars (1-4, 0-2 Pac-10) lost their first two conference games, 63-14 to Oregon and 66-3 to California. Their top two quarterbacks sustained serious injuries in the first month of the season, and the team has now turned to redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael.
Washington State is also in the midst of a rebuilding process under first-year coach Paul Wulff.
But none of that matters to the Bruins (1-3, 0-1 Pac-10).
“I didn’t know we were favored at all,” linebacker Reggie Carter said. “I haven’t won a game in three weeks. I’m just looking for a win. I couldn’t care less if we’re favorites. I just want to win.”
After a daunting nonconference schedule, UCLA shifts into Pac-10 play this week against a listless Washington State team. But the Bruins cannot afford to take this game lightly, not after a September month in which they lost badly to Brigham Young and Arizona, and then missed an opportunity to upset Fresno State.
Washington State knows that kind of hardship just as well; the Cougars haven’t reached a bowl game in four years, and they lost eight scholarships this offseason because of poor academic progress.
“Sometimes, when things are struggling, it can be an advantage to go on the road, just because you can circle the wagons with your team,” UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. “So we expect a great effort from (Washington State).”
Players and coaches pointed to their rushing attack as the key to the offense this week. The Bruin runners were ineffective in the first three games of the season before gaining 246 yards last week against Fresno State.
The Bruins hope that rushing performance is an indication they are starting to improve. This week, senior Kahlil Bell will start at tailback, with freshman Derrick Coleman as his backup. Washington State has allowed almost 270 yards rushing per game this season.
“We just want to go in and get 300 yards rushing, that’s our goal,” freshman offensive tackle Jeff Baca said. “We came close last week. But we want 300. We want a steady number every week from now on and, of course, good pass protection for Kevin Craft.”
The UCLA defense has a lot to prove, too. Last week Fresno State cruised to a 36-31 victory with a long, crushing drive in the fourth quarter that ran out the remaining 8 minutes, 55 seconds on the clock.
Carter said that pressuring the quarterback and limiting big plays will be the biggest goals this week. The Bruins have emphasized defensive assignments and discipline this week in practice.
“Pass rush and pass coverage go hand in hand; we need to get more pressure,” Carter said.
Carter also said that confidence is not an issue for the team; they’re just desperate for a win.
“Washington State runs and passes just like any other team,” he said. “For some reason we’ve had problems stopping that the past few weeks, so we have to do it this week.”