Pac-10 Analysis

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How soon is too soon for the Cougars to start looking to next season?

In its 27-14 loss to Arizona State on Saturday, Washington State gave up 12 sacks. Twelve. Think about that for a second. That's the highest sack total ever allowed in an NFL game, and it's only happened five times.

And while the Sun Devils do have a pretty solid defense, it's not like their line is made up of a bunch of Osi Umenyiora's. Their 12 sacks on Saturday increased their season total to-15.

Meanwhile, it upped the Cougars' Pac-10-leading total of sacks allowed to 30, for an average of five per game.

A large part of that has to do with injuries. Virtually the entire starting line at Washington State has been inactive at some point this season. And the injury bug is biting in a lot more areas than just the O-line.

The Seattle Times recently wrote that the Cougars have eight "key" players out for the year, including former Cal tailback James Montgomery, who was running well before a knee condition ended his season. Seventeen players have made the first start of their careers already this season. Nine of those have been freshmen.

Coach Paul Wulff hasn't exactly reinstated the campus quarterback search of last season (he actually has a pretty good one in true freshman Jeff Tuel-the first true freshman to start for the Cougars since Drew Bledsoe). But the injuries are only extending Washington State's ineptitude.

If it looked like things could only go up after last season in Pullman, well, that just might not have been true. The Cougars (1-5, 0-4 in the Pac-10) are dead last in the conference in virtually all major statistical categories-offense and defense. They're being outscored by an average of 35 points to 14.8.

But the upside of this miserable first half of a season is that one year's injuries make for another's experience. With freshmen getting playing time, the Cougars are going to have a marked increase in experience next season.

Whether that marks the beginning of the program's turnaround remains to be seen. What's clear is that it isn't happening this year.

-Matt Kawahara

What is the main reason for UCLA's winless record in Pac-10 play so far?

The UCLA football team's defense is really good. It is likely also really frustrated.

This weekend, the Bruins held Oregon's talented offense scoreless in the first half, but the Ducks found ways to score when the UCLA defense wasn't on the field.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, the Bruins' special teams gave up a 100-yard return.

Then, on the first play of UCLA's ensuing possession, redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Just like that, in less than a minute, the Bruins' 3-0 halftime advantage turned into a 14-3 lead for Oregon.

The players on defense could only watch from the sideline (or, well, bury their heads in their hands).

When it was all over, UCLA suffered a 24-10 loss at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and left many fans wondering whether the team has enough offensive firepower to undo a pretty rough start to conference competition.

As it stands, the Bruins (3-2, 0-2 in the Pac-10) rank ninth in the conference in points per game and total offense-ahead of only woeful Washington State in both of those categories.

In addition, their problems under center are no secret. Senior (read: lame duck) quarterback Kevin Craft has been effectively benched. Prince's 13-of-25, 81-yard effort against the Ducks seemed emblematic of the starter's season so far. Third-stringer Richard Brehaut, who entered Saturday's game in the fourth quarter, is also a freshman.

This weekend, UCLA will face a Cal defense that has given up 72 points in its last two games and thus provided offensive coordinator Norm Chow with plenty of tape on how to score against the Bears.

Unfortunately for the Bruins' offense, video tutorials might not be enough.

-Jeff Goodman

Tags: UCLA, WASHINGTON STATE, PAC-10 FOOTBALL


Contact the sports desk of the Daily Californian at [email protected]



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