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UCLA FOOTBALL FYI

Spread goes through Bruins like a knife through butter

UCLA's defense has had particular trouble stopping the spread offense in recent years, and Oregon, the Bruins' opponent Saturday, runs it better than anyone in the Pac-10.

October 10, 2009|Chris Foster

It's no secret that UCLA has had its woes against spread offenses in recent seasons.

The lowlights include:

* Oregon gained 323 yards rushing in a 31-24 victory last season.

* Washington State rolled up 274 on the ground and 271 more passing in a 27-7 victory in 2007.

* Oregon . . . again . . . rushed for 256 yards in a 30-20 victory in 2006.

"There is a lot of space and a lot of confusion sometimes," Bruins free safety Rahim Moore said about playing against the spread. "This offense, you can't have your eyes in the backfield. They switch stuff up on you. . . . If we have good eyes and stick to the details, we should be fine."

Whether that's the case or not will be hashed out today when Oregon comes to the Rose Bowl.

The Ducks run the spread like a three-card-Monte game, with deception edging on larceny. Basically: You pays your money and takes your chances.

"Their offense is ridiculous," UCLA linebacker Reggie Carter said. "It really makes you work. I don't know how they do it so well, but they do. They do it the best I've seen. We have to find ways to keep it contained."

The Ducks have been contained a little bit already. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli injured his right knee against Washington State last week and is not expected to play.

That leaves the less-agile Nate Costa in control of the offense. Costa was considered the heir apparent to Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon in 2006, but he's had two knee surgeries since then.

Costa had not played in a game since November 2006 before getting in against Purdue on Sept. 12.

The Bruins, though, are in no position to feel confident. They are still stinging from being punished for 174 yards rushing by Stanford in a 24-16 loss last Saturday. They see this task as being at least as difficult as facing the meat-and-potatoes Cardinal.

"This offense makes you have to play," Carter said. "This week we stressed playing sound football and doing your job. If we're not doing our jobs, it can be real tough. They will hit seams if you're in the wrong gap."

Carter has seen the result of that. Masoli rushed for 170 yards against UCLA last season.

Costa gives the Bruins a different look. He gained 26 yards in six carries against Washington State, but completed seven of nine passes for 80 yards.

Still, UCLA defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough is stressing the same philosophy no matter who is running the spread.

"It makes you play assignment football," Bullough said. "Your assignment is to be in the right gap. If you get out of that gap, that's when they hit you. They want to get you in one-on-one solo tackle situations. So you have to tackle well. Play assignment football and make your solo tackles."

Quick hits

UCLA has lost six of its last eight games against Oregon. . . . The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific 10 Conference games, the longest active streak. . . . The Bruins have scored 11 of the 12 times they have reached the red zone this season, but six have been field goals.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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