Eugene, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - In yet another road clash with a nationally-
ranked foe, the UCLA Bruins will square off with the mighty Oregon Ducks in a
crucial Pac-12 contest at Autzen Stadium.
For UCLA, this game is the second-half of arguably the toughest stretch of
football any team in the Pac-12, and perhaps the country, will play this
season. The first contest also came on the road against then No. 13 Stanford
and finished in a 24-10 setback for the Bruins. It was the first loss of the
season for the Bruins, who are still holding a 5-1 overall record and the No.
12 spot in the most recent Top 25. To avoid slipping further they will need
to bounce back quickly. Against Oregon that is no easy task.
"Coming off a really tough loss to Stanford getting a chance to go up to
Autzen and play against this group it keeps you focused that's for sure," UCLA
head coach Jim Mora said. "You line up 11 on every play and you compete your
butt off and that's what our plans are."
Although there has been some controversy over where exactly Oregon should rank
nationally, there is no argument that the team belongs among a handful of
legitimate national title contenders. The Ducks have streaked out to a 7-0
overall mark after a 62-38 rout of Washington State last weekend. The Ducks,
always known for their outrageous offensive numbers, have scored more than 50
points in all but one game and are currently tied for first in the Pac-12
North Division (4-0) with in-state rival Oregon State.
These two programs have not squared off since the 2011 Pac-12 title game as
they did not meet a year ago. In that championship game the Ducks posted a
49-31 victory. The win was the fourth straight for the Ducks against the
Bruins. However, UCLA owns the all-time series edge, 39-26.
Against the stingy Stanford defense, UCLA really struggled. The normally
effective offense for the Bruins managed a season-low 266 yards. That is far
below the season average for the Bruins, who are netting slightly more than
500 yards of offense per game. The 10 points the Bruins scored were also a
season-low for a team scoring nearly 40 points a contest.
In the loss, quarterback Brett Hundley did not look as comfortable under
center as he normally does. Hundley did complete better than 60 percent of his
pass attempts (24-of-39), but totaled a season-low 192 yards and was
intercepted twice, while being sacked a season-high four times. Hundley needs
to get back into the form he had shown in previous weeks as he has amassed
1,661 yards and 13 scores to just six interceptions on 66.8 percent passing.
An area that Hundley has excelled, and even did so against Stanford, is
getting multiple receivers involved. Shaquelle Evans (24 receptions, 319
yards, five TDs) and Devin Fuller (27 receptions, 300 yards, two TDs) are the
The Bruins might get an added boost to the offense this week with Jordon
James, who has missed back-to-back games with an injury, close to return. Mora
said that James is "getting closer" after practice this week. James is the
team's leading rusher with 463 yards and five scores this season and could
certainly be used after the Bruins had just 74 rushing yards last week. Paul
Perkins (238 yards, three TDs) should start if James is sidelined again.
Not only was the offense not at its best against Stanford, the Bruins also
failed to put forth one of their better defensive stands. In fact UCLA gave up
a season-high 419 yards to the Cardinal. On the year the Bruins have been
holding teams under 360 yards and 20 points on average each week. Leading
tackler Eric Kendricks (56 tackles) may be back this week as well. Like James
he has missed time with injury. All-American linebacker Anthony Barr remains a
player that the opposition must gameplan for.
Other than Baylor, no team in the country is producing more yards (643.1) or
scoring more points (57.6) per game than the Ducks. There has been an
incredible balance for Oregon, as it is the only team in the country to have
2,000 yards passing and rushing.
It was just another day at the office for Marcus Mariota last weekend against
Washington State. Mariota threw for 327 yards and two scores on 23-of-32
passing and also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown. Mariota should be the
Heisman front-runner at this point, or at least be one of the top contenders.
He has thrown for 2,051 yards and 19 scores this season and has yet to be
intercepted. Then add in the 493 yards and nine scores on the ground and you'd
be hard pressed to find a more worthy candidate.
Mariota is just one of an embarrassment of riches for the Ducks on offense.
Byron Marshall (746 yards, nine TDs) has been phenomenal as the feature back
for the offense with four-straight 100-yard performances. Thomas Tyner has
gotten his chances as well and with 360 yards and seven touchdowns has clearly
taken advantage. De'Anthony Thomas did not play for a third straight week
against the Cougars, but is getting closer to returning.
Then there are the players that are bringing in Mariota's passes. Josh Huff
(32 receptions, 627 yards, six TDs) and Bralon Addison (32 receptions, 543
yards, six TDs) are the main targets.
Oregon has been producing on defense as well. Though the Ducks rank just sixth
in the league in total defense (370.1 ypg), that number is clearly colored by
the 559 yards the Ducks gave up to Washington State. Before that contest
Oregon had not let a team post more than 380 yards. It also helps that the
Ducks lead the Pac-12 in forced turnovers (21).
Even though Oregon is favored in this contest, as it will be in just about
every game this season, head coach Mark Helfrich still knows his team must be
wary of UCLA.
"They're a really talented team. We know a lot of teams in this conference
pretty well. They're very well coached, great quarterback, great defense. It's
going to be a huge challenge," Helfrich said about the Bruins.
The Sports Network