Pac-12 showdown pits Ducks against Bruins

Pasadena, CA ( – A pair of Pac-12 Conference teams coming
off upset losses will settle their differences on Saturday afternoon when the
12th-ranked Oregon Ducks pay a visit to the 18th-ranked UCLA Bruins.

For the second year in a row, the Ducks had a game spoiled by Arizona, falling
31-24 at home to the Wildcats last Thursday. The setback may not have
completely ruined the Ducks’ Pac-12 title hopes, but it was certainly a tough
blow to take. Oregon, which is 4-1 on the season, must now be close to perfect
going forward.

“We left a lot of points and plays on the board, but that’s football. The
locker room is positive. We’re ready to move on, get back together and get it
going,” Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said, while taking the bulk of the
blame for the loss. “I just have to learn from my mistakes. We had a lot of
miscommunication errors and, obviously the turnovers. That’s on me. That’s
stuff I can always get better on.”

UCLA also lost to an unranked opponent and now finds itself in desperate need
of a win to remain on track for a possible shot at the claiming the conference
crown. Following a 62-27 trouncing of Arizona State, the Bruins appeared to be
on pace to enter this contest 5-0, but Utah had other plans, handing the hosts
a 30-28 setback last Saturday. The loss was the first in five games for the

Oregon punished UCLA last season, rolling to a 42-14 victory at home. The win
was the fifth straight for the Ducks in the series, which the Bruins hold a
39-27 advantage.

There has been a breakdown in protection for Mariota in the last two games.
The highly-skilled Oregon signal caller has been brought down behind the line
of scrimmage 12 times in the last two games after suffering only three sacks
the first three. Although he has been under more pressure, Mariota is still
playing up to his lofty standards, completing 71.1 percent of his passes for
1,411 yards and 15 touchdowns, while maintaining a goose egg in the
interception column.

Mariota’s ability to run the ball is also well documented, but he finished
with just a single rushing yard against Arizona, after tallying at least 40 in
the first four games of the season. The rest of Oregon’s vaunted rushing
attack also had some issues. Royce Freeman finished with 85 yards on 19
carries and Thomas Tyner had 46 on 10 totes. Freeman leads the team in rushing
(346 yards, five TDs), and is one of four players with at least 200 yards.

The weapons at Mariota’s disposal are also solid in the passing game. Devon
Allen (19 receptions, 377 yards, six TDs) and Keanon Lowe (17 receptions, 266
yards, four TDs) are the top wideouts, with running back Byron Marshall (24
receptions, 299 yards, two TDs) a potent contributor out of the backfield.

Oregon is still an offensive powerhouse, but not the dominant one in the
conference, ranking fifth right now in yardage (533.4 ypg).

The team really needs to make improvements on defense as well. Although foes
are averaging only 23.2 points per game, the Ducks are being lit up for 453.8
yards each week, which is the second-worst mark in the Pac-12. Reggie Daniels
(35 tackles) leads the team in tackles, while Erick Dargan (27 tackles, three
INTs) anchors a talented secondary.

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley also took a ton of sacks last weekend, falling
10 times to Utah’s pass rush. Part of the blame lies on the offensive line,
but Hundley is a guilty party as well, holding on to the ball for too long at

“I’ll say it again and until the day that I die or get out of football. Sacks
are a component of all 11 [players],” UCLA head coach Jim Mora said.
“Sometimes it’s a rush, sometimes you get beat, and sometimes the quarterback
holds it for too long. It’s a function of all of those things.”

Hundley is having a solid season despite being battered quite often. He is
completing 72.8 percent of his pass attempts and has a strong touchdown (nine)
to interception (two) ratio to go with 1,310 passing yards. He has also rushed
for 122 yards and two scores.

Jordan Payton has developed into one of the better receiving threats in the
Pac-12, and is easily the most targeted player for the Bruins. He leads the
squad in receptions (31), yards (491) and touchdown catches (three). Devin
Fuller (21 receptions, 204 yards, TD) is second in receptions and yards.

The running game is in good hands with Paul Perkins receiving the bulk of the
work. Perkins has amassed 540 yards and three touchdowns on 94 carries,
leading the Bruins by far in each category.

Despite losing to Utah, the Bruins did manage to hold a 406-342 edge in total
yards. UCLA has had some success on defense for most of the season, allowing
429 yards and 25.8 points per game. However, the Bruins have really struggled
to create negative plays, ranking last in the league in sacks (seven) and
next-to-last in tackles for loss (26).