Wildcats report (10.29): Strength meets strength
By Anthony Gimino
TUCSON — UCLA has been able to do only one thing well offensively this season, and that plays right into Arizona’s strength.
The Bruins, who switched to the Pistol offense in the offseason in order to run the ball better, have succeeded in that regard. Led by tailbacks Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, UCLA is averaging 209.86 yards per game on the ground.
The Pistol, with the quarterback in a short shotgun snap and the tailback lined up behind him, is one of the hot offenses in college football. Nevada coach Chris Ault started it, and various teams dabble in it, such as Washington State and Washington — Arizona’s past two opponents.
UCLA, however, is trying to major in the Pistol.
“It’s trendy right now,” said Arizona co-defensive coordinator Tim Kish. “Everyone seems to think that it’s a good little sidelight right now. But it is this particular team’s offense this week. It is what they’re in just about every play.
“It causes you to be a bit more assignment-oriented defensively. It’s similar to the option from that perspective.”
Arizona seems equipped to handle a strong running game. The Wildcats are seventh nationally in run defense, allowing 90.86 yards per game. Only two opponents have reached triple digits on the ground against Arizona — The Citadel (a triple-option team that put up 150 yards) and Cal (146).
UCLA’s success on the ground has come with significant struggles in the passing game. Some of that has to do with injuries to starting quarterback Kevin Prince, who is now out for the season because of knee surgery.
The Bruins are averaging just 104.57 passing yards per game, and with sophomore Richard Brehaut still not established as a passer, the Wildcats could really gang up against the run Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Still, Stoops is wary of UCLA, a team that’s been hard to figure out. The Bruins dominated at Texas but have lost three Pac-10 games by a combined score of 135-20.
“If you’re not prepared, disciplined enough, tough enough to do the things necessary to win, you’ll get beat,” Stoops said. “They have good enough players to beat us, that’s for sure. We know that.”
Quarterback Nick Foles is expected to be ready to play Saturday after missing last week’s game because of a dislocated knee cap, coach Mike Stoops said.
There is not expected to be an announcement until game time on whether Foles or Matt Scott will start, however.
Starting defensive tackle Justin Washington, who missed Saturday’s game against Washington because of a knee sprain, is expected to play at UCLA. Fellow redshirt freshman Sione Tuihalamaka took his place in the starting lineup last week, and the Wildcats rotated a few players through the position.
Tuihalamaka was the projected starter at the position until Washington outplayed him in fall camp.
“Sione is improving a lot as the season goes forward,” Stoops said, “and we need him to.”