UCLA Football: 4 Keys to Beating Colorado
After a 27-20 defeat to Oregon State the last week, the UCLA Bruins hope to get back on a winning clip against the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder this Saturday at 3:00 p.m. PT.
This affair will be the Bruins' first conference game on the road, and the squad led by Jim Mora will want to atone for the loss last weekend.
Colorado, on the other hand, enters with momentum. They overcame a 17-point deficit on the road in Pullman to defeat the Washington State Cougars with a score of 35-34. Not only was this the first win of the season for CU, but it also gives them confidence that they can actually be competitive and compete in conference games.
Let's take a look at four keys that should help the Bruins be victorious on Saturday.
Get Back to Running the Football
Against Oregon State, the Bruins ran for only 72 yards on 28 carries. That's a paltry 2.6 yards per carry average—which is shocking for a team that was statistically the best rushing team in the nation, with the then-top rusher in Johnathan Franklin.
Oregon State does deserve some credit for their weak performance.
The Beavers played their two safeties really close to the line and virtually dared quarterback Brett Hundley to beat them deep. Hundley did have some success throwing the football, but OSU made the Bruins one-dimensional—which was, not surprisingly, a reason they lost the game.
Collectively, the young line had a poor performance.
Jake Brendel and Simon Goines were confused by the stunts inside, and thus often blocked the wrong man. In those instances, OSU pass rushers had free lanes to charge up field and attack Hundley.
Those types of mental flubs need to be corrected in this contest. Colorado has two decent defensive ends in Will Pericak and Chidera Uzo-Diribe. The tackles, specifically Goines and Torian White, need to play much better than they did a week ago.
An established run game will set up the passing attack, and will make it easier for plays out on the perimeter to be executed. Franklin should be the focal point from an offensive standpoint in this ball game. He's far too talented to get only 12 touches, as he did a week ago.
The team should be helped out by the return of senior offensive lineman Jeff Baca. The senior from Mission Viejo is a lynchpin on the offensive line, and was out of action the previous two weeks due to concussion-like symptoms.
Match Colorado's Intensity
Expect the Buffaloes to be super amped for this ballgame.
Last week, they had a 17-point come-from-behind victory on the road against Washington State in Pullman. It marked the first win of the season for CU, but it also, perhaps, was significant from the standpoint that the win gave Colorado confidence and hope for the rest of the season.
The win couldn't have come at a better time for Jon Embree and his staff.
The Buffs lost the season opener against their state rival Colorado State and were beaten by Sacramento State the following week. In week three, they were blasted by Fresno State to the tune of 69-14.
The win against WSU in the waning seconds was incredibly emotional.
After the final whistle blew, the team celebrated on the field as if they had won the Super Bowl. Embree—usually a stoic personality—was jumping all over the field with the exuberance of a six year old celebrating a birthday at Disneyland.
Could an emotional hangover exist for Colorado? It might, but then again, the Buffs could come out with guns blazing. UCLA needs to match the possible energy right off the bat and play with emotion themselves.
The Bruins have the talent advantage, but Colorado's momentum from last week—plus the combination of the high altitude and a relatively inexperienced Bruins' squad—could keep this game close.
Exploit Colorado's Youth
Much like the Bruins and Mora, Embree utilizes tons of youth across the depth chart.
The Buffaloes start a true freshman at tailback (Christian Powell), a redshirt freshman at wide receiver (Nelson Spruce), a true freshman at nose guard (Josh Tupou) and a true freshman at cornerback (Kenneth Crawley). CU also has a litany of other inexperienced players figuring prominently in the two-deep.
With that in mind, UCLA has to force those young players into confusing and difficult predicaments. Maturity is always a question for younger players, and with a relative lack of experience, younger players do tend to make mistakes in unfamiliar situations.
With this being a home game for the Buffs (and also Parents' Weekend), one can assume that the team will be very excited for the contest from the get-go.
The Bruins need to take that energy and use it to their advantage. This means using misdirection and draws in the run game to compensate for a CU defense that might overrun plays due to being overly enthusiastic.
Some "trickeration" could even be in play this week.
Stop Jordan Webb
The Colorado offense begins and ends with junior quarterback Jordan Webb.
Webb—a Kansas transfer—beat out Texas transfer Connor Wood and Nick Hirschman to win the convoluted QB derby in fall practice. He has put up solid numbers through four games thus far, throwing for 777 yards and six touchdowns. He has only thrown three interceptions, and has had 56.7 percent completion.
Although his rushing numbers don't exactly show it, he's a mobile and elusive quarterback. When a play breaks down, he's more than comfortable to tuck it and run. Webb is perhaps even more comfortable throwing the ball on the run. He's used to it, considering that he's been sacked 16 times in four games.
Against Washington State on 4th-and-goal with 10 seconds left, he audibled and executed a perfect quarterback draw to win the game. He's a savvy football player that can make heady decisions on the field, and his propensity to run is something that the Bruins needs to be cognizant of.
His top target is redshirt freshman Nelson Spruce. The Westlake High School product leads the team with 21 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Webb also likes throwing to Tyler McCulloch and Nick Kasa. The two receivers go 6'5" and 6'6" respectively, so they could pose problems over the middle of the field.
If leading rusher Christian Powell can run the ball effectively, it'll help to open up the passing game for Webb. Powell was actually a one-time UCLA commitment before switching over to the Buffs near signing day last February.
After getting only one carry in the season opener, Powell rumbled for 147 yards on 28 carries in week two. From that point, he became the featured back. At 6'0", 235-pounds, he's a load to bring down.
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