Let’s reset on this long (Columbus Day) weekend by revisiting some of the lingering issues from Saturday, which the Bruins need to address immediately before taking on another tough opponent next weekend. We will start with an update on Terrence Austin. Yesterday morning we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and today it sounds like there is hope he might be back as early as next weekend:
Wide receiver Terrence Austin was doing better on Sunday night, a day after sustaining a hard hit and being taken to the hospital, and Coach Rick Neuheisel would not rule out him playing this week.
Austin was hurt early in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 31-24 loss at Oregon when he leapt for a high pass, tipped it and, as he was coming down and making another effort to catch it, received a helmet-to-helmet hit.
No flag was thrown on the play, which resulted in an interception, and Neuheisel was non-committal when asked if he thought it was a penalty.
"It was helmet-to-helmet, but I can't tell," he said. "I don't know if it was malicious." […]
Neuheisel said Austin would go through UCLA's tough concussion evaluations this week and did not want to rule him out for Saturday's game with Stanford. Austin likely will need to practice by Wednesday to be able to play.
"I anticipate him being full-speed soon," Neuheisel said. "He is questionable, but I have my fingers crossed."
We all have our fingers crossed as well. However, I would imagine Austin’s doctors at UCLA and coaches will exercise as much caution as possible, in terms of deciding when he can be back in full action.
Going back to the hit on Austin, looking at the highlights even if it was a helmet-to-helmet hit, I didn’t see any malicious intent behind it. In fact the kid who delivered that hit (blanking out on his name right now) was very shook up about it when medical staff (from both teams) were treating Austin. So for now once again a huge sigh of relief about Austin and now it’s just a matter of making sure he gets back in action at the right time (based on his health).
Moving on, Saturday’s hard fought loss left Bruins a number of issues to deal with this game week (and rest of the season). First, there is the issue of mistackles (which flared up in first quarter and then late in the fourth). From the LA Times:
One thing the Bruins should be capable of doing is tackling ballcarriers. Oregon had several long runs, including a 69-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount in the fourth quarter.
Removing the victory over woeful Washington State, UCLA is giving up 200 yards rushing per game.
"We keep a 'yards after contact' stat and Oregon had a lot of yards in the first quarter," Neuheisel said. "We were much more consistent after that and held them to 14 yards in the fourth quarter, until that last run.
"We do tackling drills at the start of practice and a couple live tackling drills through the week. We'll continue to do that until we get to where we need to be."
With Toby Gerhart and the Stanford Cardinal coming into town this Saturday, they will have to get after it at Spaulding this week. If the defense can figure out how the play at the level they did most of the game sans that first quarter and the waning moments of both half, they will have a chance to improve on some of disconcerting statistics from this season. If anything, they will need to get even more physical this weekend given who they are taking on Sat (more on that below).
Besides tackling, coaches will have to work on getting Kevin to stop locking down on his receivers:
Craft had one pass intercepted and a handful of other throws that were nearly picked off. Oregon also lost an interception because of a pass interference call that appeared questionable on television replays.
"Kevin was staring things down again," Neuheisel said. "We got to get him to stop doing that."
Unfortunately I am not sure if this issue will get resolved this week. Given how long it takes for college QBs to develop, I think we will have to take our lumps with Craft for rest of the season. What I do like about him is that he doesn’t quit. He keeps after it even after bad decisions and keep taking in what CRN is telling him on the sideline and what Chow is via his headsets. We will see how he responds on Saturday.
Meanwhile, per Dohn there might be some personnel changes in next weekend’s lineup.
Among the changes that could be examined is on the offensive line, Neuheisel said, if Micah Reed, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, returns this week.
The expected return of receiver Marcus Everett (toe) could cause another change, and strong safety, where senior Bret Lockett has been inconsistent, could also be looked at.
Among the challengers at strong safety could be freshman Tony Dye.
"But so could Glenn Love," Neuheisel said. "We'll wait and see what personnel changes need to be made, if any, as we go forward.
"But we certainly want to continue to explore who our best 11 are (offensively and defensively)."
Guess we will see how practice shapes up this weekend. I imagine Dye and Love are going come after Lockett’s spot next few days.
They all will need to turn up their intensity few notches for Stanford, which according Ted Miller has emerged as the “most physical team” in the Pac-10:
Stanford is the Pac-10's most physical team: Stanford isn't the fastest team in the conference. It's not the most talented team by any stretch. But the Cardinal gets after it. It wasn't just the 286 yards rushing against what was supposed to be a stout Arizona defense. It was the Cardinal defense three times forcing the Wildcats to kick field goals from inside the Stanford 6-yard line. And that physical toughness also includes mental toughness. The Cardinal could have folded while losing the turnover battle, 3-0, or after seeing its starting quarterback, Tavita Pritchard, knocked out of the game with a concussion. But they didn't. At 4-3, Stanford needs two more wins to become bowl eligible, and the next two games are against bottom feeders UCLA and Washington State.
I can’t wait till next Saturday to find out how our guys respond, and that has been one of the most exciting aspects of this football season. Instead of dreading about next game through an entire week (like we used to in last few years), now I can’t wait (just like Ben Ball) for the next game.