With the end of the season in sight and a weekend road trip to Arizona State approaching rapidly, UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) will attempt to get over the hump within the conference.
A win in Tempe, Ariz. would tip the Bruins over .500 in Pac-12 play.
Arizona State will be eager to bounce back after a 43-21 loss to Oregon last Thursday, but coach Jim Mora emphasized that the game’s outcome did not change his team’s practice plans.
“They’ll probably be as determined as ever to get back on track,” Mora said. “Regardless of what happens the week before, you’ve got to do your best to prepare that week going into the game, and worry more about yourself than the opponent’s motivation.”
Mora also stressed that defense would be crucial against the Sun Devils, and noted that tempo and offensive pace would be an important factor for the Bruins to control on Saturday.
“They’re a solid team, they operate offensively at a pretty good pace, but that’s nothing new,” Mora said. “We see that all the time in college football and we see that against our offense so that shouldn’t surprise us.”
Freshman wide receiver Jordan Payton has only caught seven passes on the season so far, but will most likely see the ball thrown his way more often in the second half of the season. Payton is averaging more than 10 yards per reception, along with seven other Bruin receivers.
Payton and company will need to make things happen after the catch in order to create some room to run for redshirt senior running back Johnathan Franklin.
If the receivers can keep the defense honest, Franklin could potentially improve on his already impressive average of 6.8 yards per carry.
“Work hard and make plays, that’s the objective of the game for the receiving corps, to make plays and make blocks,” Payton said.
On the line
Redshirt senior guard Jeff Baca and the offensive line will be tested again this week after a solid performance against Utah’s stout front seven.
The Sun Devils may be without star defensive tackle Will Sutton, who was diagnosed with a bone bruise on his knee, but the Bruins will be sure to account for Sutton ““ who is third in the nation with 8.5 sacks ““ in their pregame preparations regardless.
“I feel like our young guys are maturing and I feel like we’re getting better as a unit. Every game from here on out is a must win,” Baca said, adding that the offensive line could not afford to fall back on its youth as an excuse for a subpar performance.
“That’s the thing that’s tough for young players, that goes in as a back pocket excuse, like, “˜We’ll get “˜em next year,’ type of thing, and that’s what we cannot do with this program, with this offensive line.”