The Bruins began preparations for their Dec. 4 season finale against top-ranked USC, engaging in light workouts Tuesday and focusing mostly "on technical issues," Coach Karl Dorrell said.
That will remain the case for the rest of the week while the coaches put in longer hours trying to come up with a plan that will give the team a chance against the Trojans.
That plan will be implemented in practice starting next week, Dorrell said, acknowledging that having nearly three weeks between games is a new and somewhat uncomfortable experience.
"I've never had three weeks off in any place I've been, and this is different for me," he said, adding that he has sought advice from former colleagues who have been in similar situations. "A lot of things are positive, but the biggest negative is that [when the game finally comes around] you haven't played."
The layoff will be helpful to injured players such as running back Maurice Drew and linebacker Justin London (ankle), safety Ben Emanuel (foot) and tight end Marcedes Lewis (tailbone). They were the most notable among players excused from Tuesday's practice. Tackle Paul Mociler sat out practice because of a stomach ailment.
The Bruins held Oregon to a season-low 58 plays, 337 overall yards and only 145 rushing yards Saturday, and that's noteworthy because it helped move the defense up a couple of rungs in the respectability department -- from 108th to 104th nationally in total defense, giving up an average of 431.3 yards.
In rushing defense the Bruins have improved from a season low of 116th (out of 117 Division I-A teams) several weeks ago to 109th, yielding an average of 221 yards. It was their second solid effort in the last three games, the other coming Oct. 30 in a 21-0 defeat against Stanford.
Said London: "I think we're homing in on the mind-set we have to have each and every week. We're just learning how to play as a team and learning how to win. It's starting to come more naturally, and it's great for our young guys and great for our team."
Quarterback Drew Olson, who runs the nation's 18th-ranked offense, can relate to what the young and inexperienced defense is going through.
"They were like that with us last year," he said of a senior-led Bruin defense that was among the nation's best last season, while the offense was one of the worst. "We scored six points against Illinois, and Illinois scored three. So as an offensive unit we know exactly how it feels to be on the other side."