THEY SAY THE margin between winning and losing is razor thin. In the case of Oregon State and UCLA…
FINAL LOOK: UCLA
The Bruins ended up going with Kevin Craft in 2008, and he threw 20 interceptions. Last season, redshirt freshman Kevin Prince won the job over Craft and then true freshman Richard Brehaut, but Prince missed a couple of early starts because of a broken jaw and had growing pains.
This season, Prince was slowed at the start because of a back injury in fall camp, so he was rusty when the season began. Then he suffered a knee injury at Texas and underwent season-ending surgery a couple of weeks ago.
So now Brehaut is in, making his fourth start of the season Saturday at Oregon State.
"From the 14th day of spring practice my first year, it's been unsettled," Neuheisel said of the quarterback situation. "It's not anybody's fault. We have young guys trying hard, but we have not had the continuity that most teams enjoy."
UCLA is 117th this season in passing (120.0 yards per game) and 117th in passing efficiency (93.54 rating).
"You have to have consistent quarterback play to be effective over the long haul," Neuheisel said. "No question about it."
--Junior free safety Rahim Moore has been selected as one of 10 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back. The only other Pac-10 player on the list is Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris. Moore is third on UCLA with 53 tackles and he has one interception.
--Coach Rick Neuheisel had the highest of praise Tuesday for Oregon State junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers, calling him the "perfect running back…He's a great weapon out of the backfield catching the football. He's great in pass protection. He's elusive as a running back with the great vision in the zone schemes that they run. He's also very powerful. And he's durable. And I don't know if he has fumbled this year. It's hard to find any flaw with Jacquizz Rodgers."
SERIES HISTORY: UCLA leads Oregon State 39-15-4 (last meeting, 2009, 26-19 Oregon State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Sophomore quarterback Richard Brehaut showed some encouraging signs last week against Arizona, passing for a career-high 228 yards and two touchdowns. But the Bruins' bread-and-butter this season out of their new pistol offense is the running game, and both of UCLA's passing touchdowns last week came from deception with the run, including a flea-flicker pass. UCLA has to be persistent with the run against Oregon State, which is uncharacteristically vulnerable against the rush this season, allowing 156.0 yards per game on the ground, ranking 70th nationally.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Given the youth on the defensive front seven, it's not surprising that UCLA is 108th nationally against the run, allowing 203.5 yards per game. That's bad news given that Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers can be a workhorse. With playmakers such as FS Rahim Moore and OLB Akeem Ayers, can the Bruins force some turnovers? Oregon State has not lost a fumble this season and has committed only four turnovers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm an eternal optimist. That's never going to change. ... I had hopes for us to be in the (Pac-10) race. I don't think we're that far away. I know sometimes the lopsided scores look as if we are. I see this as a chance to climb that hurdle faster than others might think." -- UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, in the L.A. Daily News.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: UCLA at Oregon State, Nov. 6 -- UCLA is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Pac-10, ahead of only Washington State in the conference. Can the Bruins rally to get bowl eligible as they did last season? It doesn't look possible with a team that has been banged up all season and is down to its second-string quarterback. But at least some of the conference's heavy hitters are out of the way, and UCLA came close last week against Arizona. After this game, UCLA plays at Washington, at Arizona State and is home to USC.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Play mistake-free. The Bruins are going against an Oregon State team that doesn't beat itself, while UCLA, with its youth, has been weak in the turnover department. The Bruins have committed 21 turnovers, which is one of the worst marks in the country. If UCLA can keep the turnover margin even, and pound away with its running game, it figures to have a shot against the Beavers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Richard Brehaut -- He already has started three games this season and has four more left to make a statement about next season. He's not quite the runner that injured Kevin Prince is, but he has shown some positive signs in the passing game. "I think Richard is progressing. I don't think there is any question," coach Rick Neuheisel said. Neuheisel adds that Brehaut still has a lot to learn, though, in terms of making the right reads and understanding where to go with the ball.
LB Jordan Zumalt -- The true freshman made some plays last week against Arizona, filling in for injured starter Patrick Larimore and injured backup Steve Sloan. Zumalt ended up with six tackles, including a sack. With Sloan questionable this week, it could be Zumalt in the middle, backed up by a pair of scout-teamers.
S Tony Dye -- He had 11 tackles last week against Arizona, taking the team lead with 66 stops for the season. If Oregon State RB Jacquizz Rodgers breaks free, Dye could have to make a lot of tackles this week.
--CB Aaron Hester was back in the starting lineup against Arizona after being benched for a game. He made an interception in the end zone.
--KR Damien Thigpen suffered a broken right collarbone against Arizona and is out for the season.
--WR Jerry Johnson suffered a broken left ankle against Arizona and is out for the season.
--LB Steve Sloan, starting in the middle for injured Patrick Larimore, left the Arizona game because of a left hamstring strain. He is questionable for this week.
--MLB Patrick Larimore is out for at least the next two games because of dislocated left shoulder, suffered against Oregon on Oct. 23.
--Freshman CB Anthony Jefferson suffered a season-ending foot injury against Cal on Oct. 9.
--DE Datone Jones, the team's only returning starter on the defensive line, suffered a broken foot in fall camp and has not played. It is not likely that he will play this season.
--WR Nelson Rosario, the team's leader in receptions and a big-play threat, has missed the past three games because of a sprained ankle. He is probably out again this week.
--CB Sheldon Price (sprained knee) did not play against Arizona.
--Backup DE Iuta Tepa suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Houston on Sept. 18 and is out for the season.
--Junior C Kai Maiava, a projected starter, suffered a fractured ankle in fall camp and said in late September he is unlikely to return this season.
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