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UCLA FOOTBALL

Don't say Bruins have no chance against Oregon

No. 1 Ducks are big favorites, deep, high scoring and tough at home, but one theory says Bruins are better against speed teams, especially if they can run the football.

October 20, 2010|By Chris Foster

UCLA has lost six consecutive games against top-ranked teams and Oregon has won seven of its last nine against the Bruins. Still, anyone who knows UCLA's dual personality knows the Bruins are most dangerous when counted out. Staff writer Chris Foster looks at the game's key issues and matchups:

Looking out for No. 1

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel isn't worried so much about playing the nation's No. 1 team.

He's more concerned about facing what has made Oregon the nation's No. 1 team.

Oregon has redefined the term "hurry-up offense."

What most often implies desperation of sorts is modus operandi for the Ducks, who average a point every 1 minute 11 seconds of game time. Oregon ranks first in the nation in total offense and scoring, and running back LaMichael James is the top rusher, averaging 169 yards a game.

One working theory is that UCLA matches up better against speed teams than it does power teams. That idea will be severely tested this week.

Playing keep-away

The best way for UCLA to slow Oregon down is to keep the Ducks' offense off the field.

UCLA churned out yardage and held onto the ball against Houston, Texas and Washington State — the Bruins' three victories. But California jammed up UCLA's running game, the Bruins were forced to throw, and they didn't do it well, resulting in a woeful 144 total yards.

UCLA will have to get back to its ball-control ways against an Oregon defense that has been good, but has three starters nursing injuries — tackle Zac Clark (leg), end Terrell Turner (leg) and cornerback Anthony Gildon (ankle).

Expect the Ducks to dare the Bruins to throw. The numbers say that's a winning strategy: UCLA ranks last nationally in passing efficiency.

Pass or fail

Neuheisel has tried to keep Oregon guessing as to who will be UCLA's quarterback: Kevin Prince, who has limped through practice on an injured knee, or Richard Brehaut, who has one start in two seasons.

Ducks Coach Chip Kelly doesn't seem to care. "It's not like UCLA is going roll in here and throw 75 passes with Brehaut at quarterback," he said.

Both Prince and Brehaut played against the Ducks in a 24-10 loss last season. They combined to complete 18 of 35 passes for 145 yards with two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Going deep

Oregon's depth goes well beyond the number of eyesore football uniforms it can trot out.

Kenjon Barner, a running back and kick returner, is expected to miss the game with a concussion. Cliff Harris, therefore, may handle punt returns — and all he's done is take back three for touchdowns this season.

The Ducks are so deep that they haven't even tapped running back Lache Seastrunk, a freshman the Bruins deeply coveted. Seastrunk has yet to play, but he might Thursday if Barner is out.

Home baking

Always raucous Autzen Stadium makes the Ducks even more difficult.

Oregon has won 13 consecutive home games and has played before 71 consecutive sellouts. UCLA has not won there since 2004.

The crowds have always taken a froth-at-the-mouth approach to Neuheisel, whose Colorado team faked a punt on Oregon late in the 1996 Cotton Bowl while already leading by 30 points.

After that, the bad blood continued to boil when Neuheisel took over at Washington, Oregon's bitter Northwest rival.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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