Heading into their game against the Oregon State Beavers, the No. 19 UCLA Bruins look good. They're undefeated, they have the NCAA's leading rusher in Johnathan Franklin, the defense just put on a stifling performance against Houston, and everyone is saying the right things. "We're happy to be 3-0." head coach Jim Mora said in his Sept. 17 press conference, "We're not satisfied with how we're playing yet. We're constantly trying to find ways to get better." Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley echoed his coach on Twitter:
Bruins are 3-0!!!We will enjoy this for 24 hours.Mistakes were made and will be fixed.We can't and won't settle...UCLA FOOTBALL 2012— Brett A. Hundley Jr (@Brettjr_17) September 16, 2012
All that looking for ways to improve won't go to waste. Though they've only played one game in the 2012 season, it's clear that Oregon State is a legitimate threat. They bring a power running game, something the Bruin defense has yet to deal with, but it's on defense that they really shine. The Beavers' one game was a 10-7 victory over Wisconsin in which they picked up three sacks (two of them sack fumbles) and held running back Montee Ball to 61 yards on 15 carries, a total less than half his 137 yards per game average from 2011 and more than two yards below his 2011 yards per carry average. The Beavers rotate defensive linemen and linebackers in and out throughout the game, keeping their front seven fresh and quick on their feet. Johnathan Franklin is a talented young man, but he may be in for a long night against Oregon State.
That may also have a big impact on the passing game. UCLA has been going with a lot of short passes to running backs who move well with the ball in space, but that may not be effective against Oregon. The Beavers may force Hundley to target wide receivers Damien Thigpen and Devin Lucien or tight end Joseph Fauria, rather than Franklin, Steven Manfro or Jordan James. Hundley passed for 320 yards against Houston, but he was also the source of three turnovers. If he can show more of his explosive potential and less of his staring down receivers, the Bruins' offense should have a fine night.
The Bruin defense has an excellent opportunity in Saturday's game, provided they can rise to the occasion. The offensive schemes they'll see from the Beavers are different from those they saw in the first three games, with a lot more power running, multiple tight end sets, and some west coast offense principles. The game may come down to contributions from Datone Jones and the defensive line over Sheldon Price and the secondary. Jones had three tackles for a loss against Houston, a nice addition to a year that has already included a forced fumble and a tackle for a safety.
UCLA's schedule is back-loaded with the Pac-12 heavyweights, but they need to take every opponent seriously. If they do that against Oregon State, they have all the tools needed to improve to 4-0 and climb further up the rankings.