RB Johnathan Franklin and the UCLA running game will need to move the chains to keep the explosive Oregon offense off the field on Thursday Night
In their previous matchup on Oct. 10, 2009, the Bruins blew a three-point halftime lead when they gave up a 100-yard kick return touchdown to Kenjon Barner to start the third quarter, and just 13 seconds later, bested that ignominious play with a 32-yard pick-six from Kevin Prince to CB Talmadge Jackson.
Holdovers in Westwood from last season are still fuming about that bitter defeat to then-No. 13 Oregon at the Rose Bowl, and have had Oct. 21, 2010 pegged on the calendar as a day of redemption ever since then.
The Ducks have 19 returning starters from last year, so the Bruins won’t be intimidated by Oregon’s personnel if they know they can hang with UO by playing mistake-free football.
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel has surely reminded his players that Oregon’s inflated rankings are largely the result of a combined 141 points scored in a pair of shutouts against cupcakes in New Mexico and Portland State back in September. The Bruins are better prepared for Thursday’s matchup given that their out-of-conference schedule was much more challenging than Oregon’s.
UCLA still has most of the key defensive personnel that limited the Oregon offense to one TD in last year’s contest, and held serve on the other side of the ball in spite of virtually no pass offense.
Bruin defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough will be under pressure to orchestrate the schemes necessary to produce a repeat performance by defensive captain S Rahim Moore, LB Akeem Ayers and the rest of the returning Bruins.
The so-called “Filthy Five” that comprises UCLA’s offensive line averages over 310 pounds per starter, and each lineman can easily push around the faster-but-smallish Oregon defense if the right blocking and protection schemes are called in from the sidelines.