Scouting the Enemy: UCLA versus Arizona State


The Sun Devils are coming to town this Saturday to face the Bruins in arguably one of the most important games in program history.

UCLA (5-5, 2-5 in PAC 10 Play), has had it going recently on the offensive side of the ball (Kevin Prince tied Tommy Maddox for the most consecutive 300+ yard games by any Freshman QB in UCLA history at 3 games), but will have its biggest challenge so far against the ASU Defense who ranks 15th in the nation in total defense (301 YPG), and 35th in the nation in passing defense (allows 195.9 YPG).

Can UCLA solve the ASU puzzle? I’ll look into it after the jump.

In all of ASU’s losses, they have given up an average of 212.8 yards through the air. Against USC and Oregon though, the Pass Defense hasn’t been the problem, only allowing 112 passing yards to USC and 120 to Oregon. Even more shocking, ASU only racked up one sack in the past 2 weeks… not taking anything away from their 20 sacks preceding the USC game That basically infers that ASU’s pass coverage is ridiculously good. Neuheisel praised the ASU defense earlier this week:

"“This is a very, very good defense, no question about it,” Neuheisel said. “Solid across the board. They’ve got a great pass rush, great run-stopping. We’re going to have to make some plays and be a balanced team this week. It’s going to require a great offensive plan.”"

UCLA shouldn’t be better off at creating a game-plan this week as they had to choose between attacking WSU’s defense in the air or the ground (The Cougs have given up 228.9 YPG on the ground, and 282.7 YPG in the air)… decisions, decisions. This week is for real. This is a legitimate defense; and they will be a great challenge for UCLA to overcome.

Ever since that 4th Quarter of the Oregon State game, Kevin Prince has been a different QB. His development actually made it fun to watch UCLA go on offense again. His development was aided by the young receiving tandem of Nelson Rosario, and Taylor Embree. Rosario has amassed 16 catches and 332 yards in the past 3 games, he has been backed up by Embree who had 14 catches and 216 yards in the past 3 games. The passing game has shown all facets of the passing tree; deep posts, Norm Chow’esque corner smash routes for the mid game, and great check-downs to the ever reliable Chane Moline for a consistent 5-10 yard gain.

However, the running game has been very stagnant lately. While it has improved drastically from the “I’m so happy we got 30 yards rushing” attitude from last year, it isn’t good enough just yet to really go through as a “complete” game plan. Ball control is a good starting place for any running game, but original starting tailback Jonathan Franklin has had some issues handling the ball;

"“It’s rough, especially when … it’s just rough,” Franklin said. “It’s the worst feeling ever. It’s one of those feelings that is indescribable, especially as a running back.“You’ve got the team counting on you, you’ve got the coaches, you’ve got the family in the stadium watching, family at home watching. It’s disappointing. A lot of people are counting on you and by fumbling, you let a lot of people down.”"

He was replaced by Derrick Coleman last week, and in his limited carries last week, he managed to fumble again. I believe that Franklin is the “best gun in the cabinet”, but he’ll have to sort out that security issue before he can continue to develop. UCLA’s running game has been most effective in their “WildBruin” set with the shifty Milton Knox at the helm. While the schemes behind it aren’t entirely complex, the quick exchanges in the backfield were very clean-cut and should be seen again this week.

Here are my keys on offense:

  1. Go back to the Tennessee game-plan of “don’t lose the game for yourselves” and rack up more intermediate yardage, while keeping the defense honest with the occasional deep strike.
  2. Utilize the “Wild Bruin” as a consistent running scheme to pick up yards on key drives.
  3. Hold on to the ball

The Devils looks like a UCLA type offense. No definite QB, struggling line, middling running game. Small world right? Well no need to compare mediocrity.

Looking at the statistic rundown for QB’s, Danny Sullivan (Senior), looks like the guy, but watching ASU, any fan would tell you Brock Osweiler is the golden boy in the desert. Of course, Samson Szakacsy (Suh-Cah-Chee) is another capable, more mobile backup. Just in comparison, Osweiler is a Matt Barkley type QB (he has raw talent, but he is a freshman).

In the rushing game, Dimitri Nance has been less than amazing, only collecting 570 yards rushing on the year (7th total in the PAC 10, 90th in the nation).

For once, I’m not concerned with this one, when you rotate QB’s, it means you don’t have a QB. That lack of consistency has crippled ASU’s offense, and they have correctly loss to a good portion of their decent opponents.

UCLA is going to have to play an above average game…at least to keep the Bruins in it. Here are the keys

  1. Don’t go soft, blitzes have upset Osweiler in the past, and UCLA’s DC Chuck Bullough has been slightly conservative in his gameplans.
  2. Should Szakacsy play, UCLA has to play the contain game to make sure that they don’t look silly against a mobile QB
  3. Leave it all on the field. The veterans on the defensive side of the ball need to have a great game to keep their season going.

I hope that you enjoyed my first post here on SoCalSports Hub, leave me a comment to tell me how you liked it!