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Defense (almost) boxes in Rodgers

November 09, 2008|David Wharton | Wharton is a Times staff writer.

All week long, the UCLA defensive players talked about building a cage around Oregon State tailback Jacquizz Rodgers. They talked about stopping the big cutback runs that hurt USC earlier this season.

It almost worked.

Rodgers was discouraged early in Saturday's game at the Rose Bowl but eventually found a rhythm -- and some open space -- leading his team to a 34-6 victory over the Bruins.

"We knew we were beating ourselves in the beginning," he said. "In the second half, we put it on ourselves to come out and play hard."

That translated into 144 yards rushing, boosting Rodgers' season total to 1,089, a Pacific 10 Conference record for a freshman. He had one touchdown run and also scored on a pass reception.


The scenario is becoming all too familiar.

The UCLA defense keeps the score close into the fourth quarter, then falls apart.

This time, Oregon State scored 17 points in the final 10 minutes, leaving Bruins players and coaches to question themselves. Here's one popular answer: The defense gets worn down from being on the field too much, the offense unable to move the ball.

Linebacker Reggie Carter offered another theory: frustration.

"I know we're not tired, but it's like toward the fourth quarter we kind of mentally break down," he said. "When the game gets close to the end and we're losing like that, everybody's eager to try and make the play. When you go searching for plays, you miss."

Finally a win

All week long, Oregon State Coach Mike Riley tried to dodge talk about his losing streak to UCLA.

Counting his two stints with the Beavers and four seasons as offensive coordinator at USC, Riley was 0 for 9 against the Bruins.

"I really tried to wipe that out of my mind," he said. "Everyone kept saying that this team hasn't beaten UCLA, but I told the team that this 2008 team hasn't played UCLA."

However, his players said they were happy to help their coach break the jinx.

"Now Coach Riley can say he has beaten the Bruins," Canfield said.

Long and short

It was a tale of two games for UCLA punter Aaron Perez.

In the first half, Perez had a 51-yard punt that pinned Oregon State inside its 20-yard line. Then he hit a 67-yarder that was downed at the one.

But in the second half, a low punt from the end zone netted only 20 yards and another sailed out of bounds for 24 yards. Oregon State converted both into scores.

Ranked among the top punters in the Pac-10, Perez said he sometimes tries too hard. "I take it upon myself to bail us out," he said. "I just expect to hit a 55-yard punt."

Line item

On the Bruins' revolving offensive line, Nick Ekbatani started at right guard but was replaced by Sonny Tevaga. Assistant Bob Palcic said it was no reflection on Ekbatani's performance.

"Sonny's been doing a good job in practice," Palcic said. "I wanted to give him a chance."

The Bruins were without two backup guards, Micah Reed and Scott Glicksberg, suspended for the week along with defensive lineman Jess Ward. Palcic said that did not factor into his unit's performance.

UCLA rushed for 48 yards in 27 carries.


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