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UCLA FOOTBALL

UCLA vs. Utah: Bruins need to keep it going against Utes

Both teams have struggled at times, and both figure to do their best work on the ground.

November 11, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Former UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow, left, will go up against Coach Rick Neuheisel and the Bruins for the first time since being fired by UCLA.
Former UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow, left, will go up against Coach… (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles…)

Another week, another must-win game for UCLA. A victory would make the Bruins bowl-eligible and keep UCLA in the hunt for the Pac-12 Conference South Division championship. Utah is also seeking a sixth win and a bowl trip. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the game's key issues and matchups:

Old school

There are no bigger proponents of the forward pass than UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel and Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

So, of course, both teams are going to run the ball.

The Bruins have had a different player run for more than 100 yards in the three of the last four games. Running back Johnathan Franklin ran for 110 yards against Washington State, quarterback Kevin Prince went for 163 against California and running back Derrick Coleman had 119 against Arizona State.

Utah's John White has run for 1,024 yards. He had 109 against Arizona, 205 against Oregon State and 171 against Pittsburgh.

Add to that the possibility of snow during the game and this has all the makings of another "Game of the Century" — the 19th century.

What's on the line

Utah is 10th nationally against the run, giving up an average of 95.4 yards a game. The Utes' defensive front is big and experienced, led by end Derrick Shelby and linebacker Trevor Reilly.

Bob Palcic, UCLA's offensive line coach, has developed three Outland Trophy winners during his career. Yet, some of his best work may be the last four seasons at UCLA.

This season alone he has lost a starting tackle and a part-time starter at guard. His starting center was suspended for one game and another part-time starter at guard had to sit out one half of another game.

Still, the Bruins are 32nd nationally in rushing, averaging 190.9 yards a game.

Not the Norm

Chow flourished at USC with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Before that, he was at North Carolina State for a year and prepped Philip Rivers for the NFL. And before that he was at Brigham Young, working with Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Ty Detmer.

That string of success ended when he came to UCLA and his quarterbacks kept being injured. This year, Utah starter Jordan Wynn was lost for the season in the fourth game.

Jon Hays, who came to Utah last summer after Nebraska Omaha dropped its football program, is now in charge. The upside for the Utes is that Hays equaled his career high in passing yards against Arizona last week.

The downside: It was only 199 yards.

Give and take

UCLA fumbled four times against Arizona State, losing two. One came on a fourth-quarter kickoff return that nearly allowed victory to slip away.

The Bruins also fumbled twice on their last drive but were able to recover both and continue on a 79-yard march to the winning touchdown.

Utah has 23 takeaways this season — 12 intercepted passes and 11 fumble recoveries.

UCLA can't afford to be generous.

By comparison

Looking at how each team fared against Arizona, Utah should be heavily favored in this game. The Utes easily defeated the Wildcats, 34-21, in Tucson last week. Two weeks earlier, UCLA had visited Tucson and was routed, 48-12.

However, there's also the California factor.

Utah was dominated by Cal, 34-10, three weeks ago. A week later, UCLA easily handled the Golden Bears, 31-14.

chris.foster@latimes.com

UCLA;Category;Utah

25.2;scoring offense;24.4

31.4;scoring defense;20.7

196.2;pass offense;181.7

190.9;rush offense;127.4

387.1;total offense;309.1

241.4;pass defense;244.8

186.4;rush defense;95.4

427.9;total defense;340.2

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