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Against high-powered Baylor, UCLA will try to control the tempo

The Bruins' Holiday Bowl matchup with Baylor pits UCLA against an up-tempo offense. UCLA has had success against similar teams this season.

December 18, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass from USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth quarter of the Bruins' victory over the Trojans, 38-28.
UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks celebrates with teammates after intercepting… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

This shouldn't be anything to sweat for UCLA.

Sure, the Bruins play a Baylor team with a blur of an offense. It's nothing the they haven't seen before.

The Bruins have generally handled spread offenses well. They routed Houston, beat Arizona State, destroyed Arizona and survived Washington State.

TIMELINE: College football 2012-13 bowl schedule

So seeing the Bears go full tilt in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl Dec. 27 won't be an eye-opener.

"West Coast, Pac-12, we've seen a lot of teams who run up-tempo offenses," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "It's nothing we haven't seen before. We just have to contain their athletes."

Simple, right?

UCLA Coach Jim Mora paints a different version.

"Their offense is ridiculously good," Mora said. "They go at a real fast tempo. They are comparable to Houston and Arizona, and probably a little bit faster in their tempo."

The 17th-ranked Bruins beat Houston and Arizona by the combined score of 103-16.

The Bears offer challenges. They are ranked first nationally in total offense and third in passing offense. Sure, Baylor's run game is less impressive in comparison, but running back Lache Seastrunk has 693 yards rushing in the last five games.

But the key, Bruins' players said, is tempo.

"We have to dictate what we allow them to do," safety Andrew Abbott said. "You take them out of their game plan, get them in second and long, it makes them a true offense. They can't run that tempo anymore. They have to see what defense you're in. We can dictate."

Baylor quarterback Nick Florence has dictated pretty well, throwing for 4,121 yards and 31 touchdowns. Receiver Terrance Williams has 95 receptions for 1,764 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"It's going to take all 11 of us being accountable," cornerback Aaron Hester said.

The Bruins' secondary has been scorched at times this season. But the Bruins feel familiarity is their comfort zone.

"Most of these spread offenses are universal," Hester said. "We face an up-tempo offense every day in practice. I know they're going to have some new stuff for us. We just have to prepare for what we've seen on film."

The winner is …

UCLA defensive backs will be able to judge how well voters for the Biletnikoff Award did this season.

The Bruins have already faced USC's Marqise Lee, who won the award. They will now get a look at Williams, a Biletnikoff finalist.

"Terrance Williams is an awesome receiver," Hester said. "So is Lee."

USC attempted to get the ball into Lee's hands on the first play against UCLA. Hester intercepted the pass, setting up a touchdown and setting the tempo.

Still, Lee had nine receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown in UCLA's 38-28 victory.

"This season, as secondary, we've been challenged by some top receivers," Abbott said. "I think we have stepped up to the challenges. Some have had catches; don't think any has destroyed us as defense."

Well, there was the 27-20 loss to Oregon State. Markus Wheaton had nine receptions for 150 yards and one touchdown. Brandin Cooks had six receptions for 175 yards and one touchdown.

Numbers game

Though Baylor has a glitzy offensive resume, the Bears rank 119th out of 120 teams nationally in total defense.

UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone doesn't want to hear about the numbers.

"They play a lot of good offenses in that league," Mazzone said. "I don't care about rankings. I just know they come after you. That's what I see on film. What they have done a good job of defensively is creating turnovers."

Baylor is tied for 29th nationally in turnovers forced with 25.

Future Bruins?

Three high school players who have committed to UCLA were chosen to play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl.

John Lopez, a guard from Orange Lutheran, Kenneth Lacy, a tackle from Phoenix Mountain Pointe, and Deon Hollins Jr., a defensive end from Missouri City (Texas) Marshall, were picked to play in the Jan. 4 game at the Home Depot Center.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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