Monday, September 10, 2007

Running with PAC: Week 2

We'll start off this week with the Thursday night game that featured Oregon State visiting Cincinnati. The Beavers looked a little shaky against Utah the prior week, but the wheels came off the bus against the Bear Cats. They had a ridiculous 7 turnovers (6 interceptions!) and were completely embarrassed in a 34-3 shellacking. Sammie Straughter rejoined the team for this game after missing most of training camp due to a death in the family. The rust was apparent as Straughter fumbled a punt that was recovered inside the 5 yard line by Cincinnati. A blocked punt also lead to easy points and the otherwise good Beaver special teams looked very poor. Ultimately, the Bear Cats stacked against the run and bullied OSU's offensive line. Without a dependable passing game, the Beavers struggled all night long.

The Oregon match up with Michigan was the marquee game of the week. If the Wolverines hadn’t dropped their opener to Appalachian State, this might have been a big win for the Ducks over a top ranked team. As it turns out, Michigan may be headed for a train wreck season with Oregon as just the second of many defeats. Dennis Dixon was hot, hitting 16 of 25 passes for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns. After trading scores early, it was all Oregon and they romped their way to a crushing 38-7 victory at the Big House.

The big surprise of the week was a commanding 24-7 victory by Washington over a ranked Boise State squad. Freshman quarterback Jake Lockier played as advertised and he has hit the ground running (literally!) and propelled the Huskies to two consecutive victories. I originally thought the Huskies would be a rather easy-out for UCLA, but that game looms large two weeks from now at the Rose Bowl. This team is gaining confidence each week and they have some young talent that can produce.

In other conference news, both Arizona schools cruised to victory. Arizona beat up on local whipping boy, Northern Arizona. ASU got punched in the face early by Colorado but they recovered and easily coasted to a big 19-point victory. Washington State rebounded after their loss to Wisconsin in week one and easily defeated an out-matched San Diego State team. Stanford and USC got to sit on their butts this week but will be back in action this Saturday against San Jose State and Nebraska respectively.

Notre Dame got demolished again this week to nobody's surprise. They walked into Penn State and the Nitnany Lions had their way in a romping 31-10 affair. It looks like Weiss has settled on Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. He struggled putting together only 17 completions on 32 attempts for 144 yards a 1 interception. Utah struggled to move the ball against the Air Force Academy and fell short with a 4th quarter rally. The team suffered another setback after losing wide receiver Brent Casteel for the season. The Bruins will be heading out to Salt Lake City next week to take on the Utes.

We wraps up this weeks article our victory over BYU. The game was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the UCLA defense looked suffocating as they swarmed and attacked Max Hall and the Cougar offense. Trey Brown had another huge day and his pick-6 sparked the Bruins and helped push UCLA to a commanding 20 point lead in the 2nd quarter. The offense wasn’t moving the ball that well, but Kalil Bell became a one-man team taking 4 consecutive runs 40 yards for a touchdown. The other good news was Kai Forbath hit both of his two attempts, one from 40+ yards out.

The second half, by comparison, was a nightmare; BYU stormed back and erased all but 3-points of the Bruin lead by the 4th quarter. The UCLA defensive back seven could not cover the middle of the field to save their lives and Max Hall connected with running backs, receivers, and tight ends all virtually un-covered between defenders. The offense ground to a halt and Ben couldn’t connect with his receivers in BYU’s zone 3-4 defense. At the end of the game, both the defense and the offense stepped up to make big stands; this senior lead team willed themselves to victory despite some key injuries on defense.

You have to give the Cougars some credit for the Bruin’s struggles. They have a huge offensive line, a solid quarterback, and a very dependable defense. I figured it would be a close game but I didn’t think UCLA’s offense would go into a turtle-like shell after having some success early in the contest. The final 10-point margin of victory doesn’t show just how close the Bruins came to losing that game. The defense was left on the field for way too long in that second half and you could tell they were gassed at the end. The UCLA offense will have to perform much better if the Bruins are going to make any noise this year in the conference title race.

(photo credit: AP)

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