Las Vegas loves UCLA . . . at least this week. The Bruins face a Washington State team so undermanned that the point spread barely budged even though UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince didn't practice all week. The Bruins opened as 27-point favorites and are still giving 24 to 25 points. Staff writer Chris Foster looks at the issues surrounding the game.
Richard the first?
All signs point to Richard Brehaut starting at quarterback for UCLA.
Prince injured his right knee against Texas and nursed the injury all week. "Structurally, it's fine," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. Yet, Prince couldn't practice because of swelling and pain.
Brehaut, a sophomore, is an unknown. He has never started and has made only a handful of relief appearances, none of which wowed his coaches. Of course, a big day against a doormat-like opponent might have fans calling to keep him in the lineup.
This would be his second appearance this season. He came off the bench against Stanford and was five for nine passing for 42 yards with one interception.
Offensive coordinator Norm Chow's assessment afterward: "He threw a couple balls where I had no idea where they were going."
Darius Bell, a community college transfer, also may see time. And don't rule out Prince.
Got your back(s)
Whoever plays quarterback for UCLA will have two advantages.
1) The Bruins have been extremely effective running the football the last two weeks, getting 266 yards against Houston and 264 against Texas.
2) Washington State has holes in its defense . . . several of them.
The Cougars are 108th of 120 teams nationally against the run, giving up nearly 210 yards per game on the ground. They have tackled so poorly that Coach Paul Wulff went to live hitting during practice this week.
"Tackling is a want-to thing," Wulff said.
So far, the Cougars haven't seemed to really "want to" this season. One thing that makes their run defense look a little better is their pass defense, which ranks 116th.
UCLA is tied for last nationally in turnovers, having committed 12 this season. Hanging out with the likes of Louisiana Tech, New Mexico and Ohio is not the A-list in any category.
Fortunately for the Bruins, their defense and special teams have been getting the ball back. UCLA last week fumbled four times, losing two. Texas fumbled four times, losing them all, and had one pass intercepted.
UCLA also had eight penalties for 75 yards last week, including a personal foul by cornerback Aaron Hester that nearly got the Longhorns into field-goal range just before halftime.
To Ayers is divine
UCLA's Akeem Ayers was certainly the best defensive player on the field in Austin last week. In fact, he might have been the best defensive player in the nation that day.
Ayers, who plays linebacker or defensive end, had five solo tackles — two for losses — one sack, forced a fumble and intercepted a pass.
He is the chaos that can blow apart an offense. He is also the face of a defense built on speed.
The surprise being: The Bruins have a good chance of winning a game in October.
Last season, the Bruins were 0-5 during the month, and they have lost six consecutive October games. Of course, they didn't get to play Washington State during October last season, but beat the Cougars, 43-7, in Pullman last November.
This would be an important victory for the Bruins. It would even their Pacific 10 Conference record at 1-1 heading into back-to-back road games against California and Oregon, with Arizona and Oregon State to follow at the Rose Bowl.