Bruins Know What Bush Can Do

After being burned by the USC star running back last season, UCLA's defense will keep a close eye on him.

November 30, 2005|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy last year, but it was Reggie Bush who put the hurt on UCLA in USC's 29-24 victory at the Rose Bowl.

The Trojan running back had 335 all-purpose yards, including a season-best 204 running the ball, and 73 more receiving. He ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the game's second play and later had a career-long 81-yarder for a score.

It figures that Bush will be a marked man on Saturday but the Bruins say there are no "Reggie Rules."

"You are watching out for him because he can beat you," UCLA safety Jarrad Page said, "but this isn't like basketball where you can have people go double team."

Since defeating Arizona State on Nov. 12, the Bruins -- last in the Pacific 10 Conference in rushing defense -- have concentrated on correcting their problems instead of worrying about Bush.

"We know that he's one of the best playmakers in the country and we know that we have to contain him," Page said. "But we don't have anything in particular set up to stop him."

Over the last month, strong safety Eric McNeal has played a lot of linebacker and is the type of player versatile enough to help against a dual-threat such as Bush. But McNeal says that if he gets his chances on Saturday it will not be to solely match up against Bush.

"Having me play linebacker is really just a way for me to get more playing time," said McNeal, who made four tackles at outside linebacker against Arizona State. "I add a little speed out there."

When Bush is lined up in the backfield, UCLA says it will treat him as any other running back. The Bruins will not change assignments just to concentrate on Bush -- not out of disrespect but because of USC's other weapons.

"When you look at them, they have tremendous balance," UCLA defensive coordinator Larry Kerr said. "They can run the football and they can throw it. They have tremendously skilled players all over the football field.

"But the key to me is their offensive line, which I think is better than last year. So where do you begin? All you can do is try and be fundamentally sound yourself."

UCLA realizes that Bush has had some off games this season. Although he retuned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown against Washington, the Huskies held him to 51 yards rushing and 18 receiving.

California also had relative success against him, keeping him out of the end zone and holding him to 82 yards rushing and four yards receiving.

"Every year is a new year and last year we had success in some areas against them," Kerr said of the Trojans. "But we had some lack of success in some areas too."

Mainly, stopping Bush.

"He presents a problem when he just walks on the field," Kerr said. "He's a threat to run, he's a threat catching the football and he's a threat to throw a pass.

"So, obviously, everybody will be aware of where he is on the field. You have to be."

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