UCLA’s troubles with stopping the run started with Utah’s Joe Williams last October, and continued Saturday when Stanford’s Bryce Love ran wild against the Bruins.
Love rushed for 263 yards in the Cardinal’s 58-34 victory. He should have people’s attention in Utah, with the Utes hosting Stanford in their next game, Oct. 7.
UCLA coach Jim Mora has some indirect advice for the Utes: practice tackling. It may be easy to dismiss Love’s performance as simply a reflection of the Bruins’ struggling defense — going back to the day when Williams ran for 332 yards against them at the Rose Bowl.
Yet Love’s breakaway ability that should frighten any opponent. Love’s average run against UCLA went for 8.8 yards, but that number requires further study. Four of his runs — of 27, 32, 30 and 69 yards — accounted for 178 yards. He gained 85 yards on his other 26 carries, including 30 yards on his first nine attempts of the game.
So the trick is to keep him from getting going, and to make open-field tackles when he does run beyond the line of scrimmage. That’s what UCLA failed to do. Mora made an interesting point, noting that when the Bruins’ first-team defensive linemen dominate the scout team in practice, as they should do, the defensive backs don’t get a lot of chances to make tackles. They missed a bunch of them against Stanford, as Love punished the Bruins.
Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said his defensive coaches “manufacture” such tackling assignments for the defensive backs in Tuesday practices, for the reasons Mora cited.
Stanford coach David Shaw likened Love to a striking cobra. “He’s looking for that crease … when he gets the opportunity to make a big play, he’s going to make it,” Shaw said.
Appearing on the Pac-12 media teleconference Tuesday, Love said the key is “staying patient, trusting the system, just keep working it and eventually, something will open up.”
Love has gained 180 yards vs. Rice, 160 yards vs. USC, 184 yards vs. San Diego State and 263 vs. UCLA for a total of 787 yards in four games. He’s the only collegiate rusher in the last 20 years to break off a 50-yard run in each of six straight games, dating to last season.
The Cardinal will host Arizona State this week before coming to Utah.
Showdown in the Palouse
The Pac-12′s biggest game of the week comes Friday, when No. 5 USC visits No. 16 Washington State. The Friday window gives the conference a decent showcase — never mind the kickoff time of 10:30 p.m. in the East.
It’s a big opportunity for WSU quarterback Luke Falk of Logan, facing a Trojan team that has not been overwhelming lately. USC needed a late drive to force overtime against Texas and had trouble shaking California until the fourth quarter.
Falk has thrown only one interception in 169 attempts this season. He’ll face a USC defense that picked off four passes against Cal. “Like a lot of teams, they’re starting to play together better, and they’re fast and athletic to begin with,” said WSU coach Mike Leach.
Another 200-yard runner
Love was not the only Pac-12 running back to shred a conference opponent for 200-plus yards last weekend. Washington’s Myles Gaskin rushed for career-high 202 yards on 27 carries in a 37-10 win at Colorado, which last year fielded the league’s top statistical defense.
Gaskin’s 57-yard touchdown run completed the Huskies’ 27-3 domination of the second half in Boulder. He had carried the ball only 24 times in Washington’s first three games, including routs of Montana and Fresno State.
PAC-12 POWER RANKINGS
1 • Washington (4-0)
Two-year total score vs. Colorado: 78-20.
2 • USC (4-0)
Trojans have 13-game winning streak since loss at Utah.
3 • Washington State (4-0)
Cougars’ five-game homestand ends with USC’s visit.
4 • Utah (4-0)
Utes have started 4-0 for third year in a row.
5 • Stanford (2-2)
Utah’s next opponent hosts Arizona State this week
6 • California (3-1)
Bears’ competitiveness making Weber State look good
7 • Oregon (3-1)
Ducks penalized 14 times in loss to ASU
8 • Colorado (3-1)
Steven Montez went 21 of 27 vs. Washington, but three passes were picked off.
9 • Arizona State (2-2)
Manny Wilkins: 188 passes without an interception.
10 • UCLA (2-2)
Nobody can say the Bruins are not entertaining.
11 • Arizona (2-2)
Wildcats idle after loss to Utah; Colorado is next.
12 • Oregon State (1-3)
Gary Andersen: 7-21 in third season, with Washington and USC ahead.