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UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

Bruins are big on blocks

Special teams could be key against USC.

November 25, 2009|By Chris Foster

An edge that UCLA appears to have over USC is on special teams.

The Bruins have the top field-goal kicker in the nation (Kai Forbath) and the nation's ninth-ranked punter (Jeff Locke).

They also excel in the ability to change momentum with blocked kicks.

The special teams, under coach Frank Gansz Jr., have blocked five kicks this season, three field goals and two punts, with two resulting in points. A blocked field goal by defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski was returned for a touchdown by Alterraun Verner against San Diego State. Linebacker Sean Westgate blocked a punt for a safety against Washington State.

"I love the man-on-man part of it," Westgate said about his punt blocking success. "You have to find a way to beat that guy any way you can. Then I get up and get to where the guy is kicking."

It was Westgate who scored the first points of the Rick Neuheisel era, when he blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown against Tennessee in the 2008 season's opener.

He has two more this season, one against Stanford and the other when he burst in on Washington State punter Forrest Reid and blocked the ball out of the end zone.

"We didn't even have the punt block on," said Westgate, who is 5 feet 11 and 205 pounds. "I saw the bad snap and took off underneath the guy blocking me. I was just going to tackle the guy, then I saw him drop the ball [to kick it], so I just jumped at him."

Locke, who has seen Westgate's handwork in the film room, says he's glad he's a teammate.

"I wouldn't want to see him coming at me," Locke said. "Sean is just able to fit through the holes between those big guys. He is able to just turn his body, somehow, and then explode. I have never seen anything like that before."

Siewierski has three blocked field-goal attempts this season. USC has not had a kick blocked.

Offensive show?

UCLA used a safe-and-sane offensive approach in a 23-13 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. The Bruins had fullback Chane Moline at tailback and ground out yardage.

"That remains to be seen," Coach Rick Neuheisel said when asked if a similar game plan would work against USC. "I don't think we can do it wholesale. I think we have to mix things up. I just think we're going to need more explosive plays. That's going to require more than just having our 'bigs' on the field."

Quick hits

Guard Ryan Taylor was suited up for practice Tuesday, but he had his injured right foot heavily taped. He was limited to running. . . . Receiver Morrell Presley (shoulder) did not suit up and is doubtful for Saturday's game. . . . Guard Stanley Hasiak missed practice because of flu. . . . A victory Saturday night would give UCLA three road victories this season, the most since winning three in 2005.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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