Right now, we are down one QB, one Wide Receiver, one Tight End, one Corner Back, one Defensive End, and one Kicker. In fact, our kicker is out for the year.
I was excited after the bye week, when everyone was supposed to get better. But it seems like most of these injuries are lingering on.
I feel entirely confident that UCLA will be a victory (although Dorrell always pulls something out to make the folks down there think one more year may be OK). They are hurting offensively and we should be able to put up points against the defense. I do believe that JT will be a bit more aggressive this week, after giving Kevin Riley the week to calm down. Nate Longshore will not start. So we need to be strong here.
In reviewing the stats, it is interesting that DeSean Jackson had more passes thrown to him last week than Hawkins. Hawkins just made the catches. Before seeing that, I thought that DeSean just was not thrown to enough. But that was incorrect. After watching the game, I think I know what it was. DeSean was in double coverage quite a bit. While Riley was willing to throw his direction, he was not willing to put it where anyone could actually catch it due to the defenders. I think that will change this week. Either DeSean has an epic game, or else Riley throws some picks.
Riley is a bit of a cowboy, obviously. I think he got a bit of humility after the game, but I am sure he will come out swinging. That means he will either have a great redemption game, or else he will crap out. Somehow I do not think he is the calm steady-eddy type of QB - he wants to win (and sometimes will make mistakes because of his overbearing confidence). I remember in a high school game when I was a senior. Our kicker was out, and the QB was the backup. The coach asked him if he could make the distance. It was about 48 yards. "Absolutely" was the reply. He had never made a kick more than 35 yards in practice. Guess what - his kick went 35 yards. But that is the type of QB that Riley is - very confident, very good, but may be a little more gambling that a Tedford QB normally is. After the game, our coach said he wanted a confident kicker - might as well give it a shot. Plus I think we were down by 28 at the time anyway.
The one thing we do not know is how KR is away from home. I think we have the idea that he will be nervous, less effective, etc. We are conditioned because that is the Nate way. That may not be the case with KR. He is from Oregon, not Southern California. He probably did not grow up wanting to play for the SoCal schools like many of the Bears. I bet he does very well. I bet DeSean and Kevin both have great games on a big stage.
The one great thing that we have not had happen this year is our offensive line has been very sturdy. And they are playing well. I believe they will continue to improve. They are probably a bit embarrassed by the game last week - three sacks and a goal line stand against. Hopefully that embarrassment will spur them to play a top-notch game against the baby bears down south.
They are going to probably start Cowan at QB, or possibly the walk-on third stringer, Bethel-Thompson. If they do start Cowan, I doubt he will have the wheels that he had during the early part of the season. If Bethel-Thompson starts, Sayonara Bruins.
In either case, it is important that the Bears give a good early rush to get the QB out of synch. UCLA has had a pretty poor offensive showing this year, only reaching more than 400 yards twice (Stanford and Washington) and being held to less than 300 yards twice (Notre Dame and BYU). They are pretty inconsistent. I guess that is the hallmark of a Dorrell team. That being said, there is so much antipathy toward the Bruins from their fans at this point, I think that it would almost be a relief to them if Cal won. I am not saying the players are feeling that. But the impending doom scenario is pervasive and does get into the players heads. That can be dangerous. Or it can be a total collapse.
In any event, I think the Bears are by now so much a better team and program than the Bruins that this game should be a victory, even with Riley starting and the Bruins fighting for their lives. Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com had the Bears winning by 47 points. I am serious. And he is generally pretty good. I will not go that far, but I do think that the Bears win by a good 21 points. JT does not pile on.
Bears 42, Bruins 21