UCLA has a critical game in Pullman tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Washington State. The Bruins are trying to keep pace in a wide-open Pac-12 South after dropping to 1-2 in conference play. They’ve never had a 1-3 start to the Pac-12 schedule under head coach Jim Mora.
Do you think Mike Fafaul’s performance against Arizona State will affect the Bruins’ quarterback depth chart going forward?
I think the Bruins have hitched their wagon to Fafaul as the second-string quarterback. It’s a scary proposition, especially considering how tough his first meaningful minutes were last week, but this is the conundrum that UCLA asked for. The coaching staff didn’t manage its roster properly — it didn’t help them that Jerry Neuheisel left with a year of eligibility remaining — and now they’re stuck with a fifth-year senior former walk-on and a handful of true freshmen who have been on the scout team all year. Both Matt Lynch and Devon Modster are likely more physically talented than Fafaul, but it would be a sticky situation to burn one of their redshirts and throw them into the fire now. It’s a risky move, and while I haven’t been around the coaching staff for very long, they don’t strike me as a risk-it-for-the-biscuit group, especially on offense. They’re stubborn — like most coaches — and can try to force things to work instead of self-scouting and being flexible to finding a different way for things to work. Maybe if the defense plays out-of-this-world and gives the team a good chance to win it, the coaches might bring in one of the freshmen to give a spark, but I don’t know how likely that would be.
As for the pecking order behind Fafaul, I think it’s Modster, then Lynch. Dymond Lee is not in the mix as he was hurt for a fair amount of time earlier this season. Continue reading
Washington State was a popular sleeper pick in the Pac-12 North, then the Cougars lost to Eastern Washington in the season opener. Six weeks later, they’re back to where people thought they might be: in the thick of the conference race. The Seattle Times’ Stefanie Lowe answered some questions about the Cougars, Luke Falk and the deal with WSU’s suddenly potent run game.
1. The Cougars started the year with a loss to Eastern Washington. Now they’re hot off two impressive wins against Oregon and Stanford. What has been the key in turning things around?
To this day, the Cougars themselves don’t seem to be able to pinpoint exactly why they started the season so flat. However, several things have been key to the turn around. For one, the defense seems to have come together and coalesced after a messy Game 1 that saw them give up 515 yards and six touchdowns against EWU. The return of Shalom Luani — who missed the first game due to a concussion and an ongoing legal case — at free safety was significant. He’s one of the cogs of the defense, and his steadying presence has helped the Cougars find their footing. Continue reading
UCLA Bruins (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) vs. Washington State Cougars (3-2, 2-0 Pac-12)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. PT, Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash.
Radio: AM 570
Scouting report: Washington State made a quick turnaround from the team that lost to Eastern Washington in the season opener. The Cougars are coming off big back-to-back wins over Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks and are one of just two teams undefeated teams in the conference standings. The WSU defense pitched a gem against Stanford last week, tallying four sacks, two interceptions and forcing two fumbles. On offense, WSU is, as like it always has under head coach Mike Leach, one of the top passing teams in the Pac-12, but the Cougars are no one-trick pony. WSU averages 149.2 rushing yards per game (5.0 yards per carry), which is 10th in the Pac-12, but well above what the team averaged last year (80.5). QB Luke Falk leads the way with receivers Gabe Marks and River Cracraft, while the Cougars have three running backs in their rotation: Jamal Morrow, James Williams and Gerard Wicks. Continue reading
Continuing the look at UCLA’s 2016 schedule, here is a breakdown of the Bruins’ sixth opponent, Washington State.
UCLA at Washington State
Saturday, Oct. 15 | Martin Stadium
2015 in review
Washington State had its most successful season in more than a decade in 2015 as it finished 9-4 (6-3 Pac-12) with big wins over Oregon and UCLA. The Cougars had not had more than six wins in a year since 2003, when it went 10-3 and was ranked No. 9 in the nation at season’s end. WSU turned a three-point deficit into a four-point win over UCLA in 69 seconds as quarterback Luke Falk led a 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive to upset the Bruins on Nov. 14 at the Rose Bowl. It was the first time in 31 straight games under head coach Jim Mora that the Bruins lost when leading at halftime. UCLA’s 13 penalties were a season high for the Bruins. Continue reading