Beavers' big tasks: Stop UCLA's run game and Johnathan Franklin in space
CORVALLIS Notes, quotes and other stuff from Oregon States Monday practice session at Prothro Field as the Beavers (1-0) prepare for Saturdays Pac-12 opener at 19th-ranked UCLA (3-0) ...
Oregon State goes from facing one Heisman Trophy candidate to another.
First was Wisconsins Montee Ball, who was held to 61 yards on 15 carries in OSUs 10-7 upset of the 13th-ranked Badgers.
Next up is UCLAs Johnathan Franklin, the nations leading rusher with 541 yards, a 180.3-yard-per-game average. The 5-11, 195-pound senior has an 8.2-yard average per carry in first-year coach Jim Moras spread offense.
Mark Banker keeps no secrets about which ballcarrier he thinks is better.
Franklin will be the best running back weve faced, OSUs defensive coordinator says. He is having a good time in the open offense theyre running. He is great out of the backfield catching the ball.
He has good size he is built like a pro-style running back. And he has the ability to pick and slide, to change direction and make that lateral cut and then get vertical, turn the edge on you. He is a guy you have to work at tackling in space.
A year ago, Franklin was injured early in UCLAs 27-19 win over Oregon State in Corvallis, getting only six carries for 36 yards. The Beavers know theyll have their work cut out for them trying to tackle him this time.
You have to come hard, OSU middle linebacker Feti Unga says. Hes a really tough runner. He has a vicious mentality not only to get away from people, but he likes to dip his shoulder and bring it. Coming up against him, were going to have to be ready to do the same.
UCLA has a multi-threat quarterback in Brett Hundley, a 6-3, 225-pound redshirt freshman
Brett Hundley who ranks third in the Pac-12 with 275.7 passing yards per game (69 for 103 for 827 yards, with eight TDs and three interceptions). He ranks second in the loop in total offense at 315.3 yards per contest. OSUs defense will be particularly mindful of his ability to scramble.
He is a big ol kid with a lot of poise, Banker says. The Bruins have designed plays where he can run, though theyve used them a little less over the last game and a half.
In the passing game, when he is standing back there, he is a big threat to pull the ball in and run. Hes not crazy wild. He believes in his protection, but you can sense that timing. He looks, nothings there, and all of a sudden, hes gone.
UCLA, averaging 40.7 points per game, ranks second nationally in total offense (622.0) and fifth in rushing offense (311.3). Oregon State ranks fifth in total defense (207.0).
OSUs defensive plan will be to stop the run first.
Were going to be dealing with a better overall offense (than Wisconsin), both on the ground and in the air, Unga says. They have really good running backs and their quarterback is mobile. He reads his options well. Its going to come down to being able to contain both the run and the quarterback option and force them to take to the air.
Well have to be able to make tackles in space, OSU cornerback Jordan Poyer says. Were going to have to make plays and force turnovers. (The Bruins) had five turnovers against Houston (one nullified by penalty). They will turn the ball over, so when those opportunities are there we have to take advantage of them.
UCLA uses a no-huddle offense, which makes it harder for an opposing defense in a lot of ways.
The lack of oxygen in the brain harms you from the standpoint of thinking, Banker says. You need to be sound in what you do.
Banker used 24 players on defense against Wisconsin. Will he be able to get to his substitutions against the fast-paced Bruins?
Well, well see, OSUs D-coordinator says. Well game-plan for that. When a play is just ending, (the Bruins) are putting a new substitution group in.
We have to be heads-up on the sideline, but theres still time to get our substitutions done.
The OSU scout team has been using UCLAs no-huddle offense this week in practice.
There are no (defensive) huddles, Unga says. Everything is line up and get the call from the coach (at the sidelines), and everyone is echoing it.
Its going to take a lot of attention to detail, Poyer says. Guys on the sideline have to be ready to go if we need to put in our nickel and dime package. But we can do it.
UCLA has won seven of the last nine meetings against Oregon State, including the last two.
The Bruins 17-14 win at the Rose Bowl in 2010 was an all-timer. Put succinctly, the Beavers got hosed at least to the point of getting a chance to win in overtime.
With the score tied 14-14, the Bruins lined up with four seconds to go and completed a long sideline pass that went out of bounds at the OSU 34-yard-line as time expired, and it appeared overtime loomed. But UCLA challenged the call and officials inexplicably put a second back on the clock. Kai Forbaths 51-yard field goal gave the hosts the triumph.
Had the Beavers won the game, theyd have improved to 4-0 in Pac-10 play.
UCLA gained 210 yards rushing in that game and 211 yards rushing in last years 27-19 victory at Corvallis.
They got us with the run both years, Unga says, We have to stop the run. But theyre a lot more versatile offense this year. Its going to be really hard with the backs and the quarterback they have.
Were a different defense this year. But weve played only one game; we shouldnt take it for granted. Were going against a way better offense overall than we did last week.
UCLA led 21-3 late in the first half last season when Poyer returned a punt 85 yards for a TD in the closing seconds to get the Beavers back in the game.
We had a perfect return set up left, Poyer recalls. As soon as the ball went off the punters foot, I knew it was there.
(UCLA punter Jeff Locke) booms it. Hes going to give us some opportunities to return punts. Im sure theyll talk about what happened last season, but Im going to try to get back there and return some punts Saturday.
Oregon State which saw its Sept. 1 opener against Nicholls State postponed to Dec. 1 because of Hurricane Isaac is the nations only team to have played one game through the first three weeks. Will that be a detriment against an opponent that has played three times?
I dont think so, Poyer says. Our guys have been working hard at practice and have gotten better every single day. I dont think its a disadvantage. Weve played in big games before. The Wisconsin game was big, and it will carry over to UCLA.
I would take the experience (of playing three games), Unga says. But we have fresh legs with the bye week. We should be ready to be physical and well have had more time to prepare.
Were ready to come out and prove what weve got. It comes down to us doing it ourselves.
Last season, Unga was second in the Pac-12 in tackles when he went down with a knee injury on the first defensive play of a 38-28 loss to Brigham Young. He missed the next five games, returning for the final two games against Washington and Oregon, but at less than full speed.
I couldnt really run those last two games, the 6-1, 250-pound senior says. Now, Im good. Im 100 percent. Theres a big difference. On top of that, I have a great defense around me now. Thats a big difference, too.
Starting receivers Markus Wheaton, Brandin Cooks and Kevin Cummings went almost the entire way against Wisconsin as backups Obum Gwachum and Richard Mullaney played sparingly and Micah Hatfield didnt play at all. The 6-5, 225-pound Gwachum, at least, will see more duty Saturday.
'Boom' is a big target, and hes deserving of playing, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf says. "Hell play more. Youd like to give the starters a rest here and there, but as long as theyre playing fast and staying healthy, well use them a lot.
Wheaton, who had eight receptions for 87 yards against Wisconsin, ranks eighth on the school career receptions list with 144 and is tied with Steve Coury for eighth in receiving yardage at 1,837. Wheaton needs 10 catches to move past Phil Ross into fifth place and 109 yards to surpass Roddy Tompkins for the seventh spot.