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Bruins need to block out their trend

November 08, 2008|David Wharton | Wharton is a Times staff writer.

UCLA players might want to avoid looking at the calendar.

With this afternoon's game against Oregon State at the Rose Bowl, they enter hostile territory.

As linebacker Reggie Carter put it: "November hasn't really been our best friend."

Over the last 10 seasons, the Bruins have gone 12-16 in the penultimate month of the year.

Coach Rick Neuheisel has chosen not to discuss past failures with his players -- "This team isn't the same as last year's team," he said -- but he has mentioned the importance of finishing strong, especially for a 3-5 team that needs to win three of four games to become bowl eligible.

"In the old days, we used to say the games they remember are played in November," Neuheisel said. "They'll be great memories if we can find a way to play our best football."

Flight plans

UCLA defensive backs have been pretty stingy about surrendering yards through the air this season, the pass defense ranking third in the Pacific 10 Conference, but they'll face a test today.

While the Bruins' opponents have averaged less than 173 yards passing a game, Oregon State has averaged almost 260.

It should help the Bruins that the Beavers are expected to start backup quarterback Sean Canfield in place of an injured Lyle Moevao, but UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner says his unit must keep track of several talented receivers, each with his own specialty.

On split end Sammie Stroughter: "He's an older guy, the most experienced. Obviously he's a punt returner, very shifty, and gets in the open field."

On flanker James Rodgers: "He's basically a running back as receiver who can catch, so he's got open-field ability too."

On slotback Shane Morales and flanker Darrell Catchings: "They're just great possession guys."

To make things a little more difficult, the Bruins secondary also must help with run defense against tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, James' young brother.

"But nobody can just cheat up and commit to the run because those receivers can beat you," Verner said. "And they can run after the catch."

Heads up

The U.S. Air Force will perform a flyover before today's 3 p.m. kickoff.


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