Bruins Expect Surprise Package
UCLA is uneasy about this supposed walkover against struggling Colorado today, believing Buffaloes’ Coach Gary Barnett will try to pull a “Booty Jenkins.”
The term is synonymous with chicanery in the lexicon of Bruin assistant Don Johnson, who while growing up in New Jersey knew a conniver who went by that name.
“It means somebody is about to pull a fast one,” Johnson said.
Barnett has little choice but to resort to gimmicks, tricks and sleight of hand. Business as usual is out of the question.
Colorado (1-2) had virtually no offense in an embarrassing 40-3 loss to USC last week, accumulating only four first downs, 24 yards passing and 37 yards rushing in 35 carries.
The running attack was strong in the first two games, a loss to Colorado State and a victory over San Diego State. But anybody who believes the Buffaloes plan to simply run into the teeth of a stacked UCLA front today is going to be, well, buffaloed.
“Everything we did was wrong,” Barnett said of the USC game. “It just felt like we had no control.
“We were totally inept, struggling everywhere. I can’t think of an area where we were effective.”
All of which points directly to the swinging gate. Or the flea-flicker. The hook-and-ladder. Maybe even the old statue-of-liberty play.
“Of course we expect them to try different things,” UCLA Coach Bob Toledo said. “Different formations, a few new wrinkles. Gary Barnett and his staff are good coaches. They’ll have some surprises.”
In meetings and on the practice field, UCLA defenders have reviewed trick plays and oddball sets. But they also are braced for the Buffaloes’ running game, led by talented tailbacks Chris Brown--who six times has rushed for 100 yards or more--and Robert Purify.
“They run the ball good, don’t let last week fool you,” UCLA senior middle linebacker Marcus Reese said. “They came into the season regarded as one of the best running teams in the nation. We have to be ready.”
No. 20 UCLA (2-0) is strong against the run. The front seven of tackles Rodney Leisle and Sean Phillips, ends Rusty Williams and Dave Ball and linebackers Reese, Brandon Chillar and Spencer Havner have shined.
Staring into the teeth of that defense will be quarterback Robert Hodge, a senior transfer from El Camino College who made his first start against USC. He’d like a restart after completing one of nine passes for 20 yards.
Some of the problems can be chalked up to unfamiliarity between Hodge and receivers. He had thrown only seven passes as a backup to Craig Ochs, who will miss his second consecutive game because of a concussion.
“We just have to know each other better,” Hodge said. “I have to know what I’m looking for; they have to know what routes they’re going to run.”
Other problems stemmed from poor blocking. The Colorado line has been shuffled because of injuries and three starting linemen from last year’s 10-3 team--tight end Daniel Graham, guard Andre Gurode and tackle Victor Rogers--are in the NFL.
And there was the poor play of the 5-foot-11 Hodge, who had hoped to gain redemption against the two Southern California schools that did not recruit him.
Instead, he is thinking survival.
Hodge is regarded as an elusive runner, and it has been suggested in Boulder this week that Barnett overhaul the offense and implement the I-bone option--Colorado’s signature in the 1980s.
“We put the option in about two springs ago, and we weren’t very good at it,” Barnett said. “It’s unlikely that we’re going to put any option in.
“The option takes a lot of work. At this point in time, I don’t think we can devote the time to it.”
Sounds logical. Or is it a ruse worthy of Booty Jenkins?
“We know how to defense the option,” Bruin defensive coordinator Phil Snow said. “Colorado State ran it two weeks ago against us. I’m more concerned about mismatches and formations we haven’t seen.”
The Bruins had mixed results adjusting to Oklahoma State’s creative sets last week, winning, 38-24, but surrendering 444 yards of offense. Only 94 of those were surrendered on the ground, however, and Colorado would require the magic of Lance Burton to amass 359 yards through the air.
“We’re going to be run-conscious, that’s our first objective,” Bruin safety Ben Emanuel said.
With the last nonconference game at San Diego State next week, a victory over Colorado would nearly assure UCLA of beginning Pacific 10 Conference play unbeaten for the third year in a row.
A Buffaloes’ victory would be more than an upset, it would be a first. Colorado is 0-4 against UCLA, all of those games having been played in the early 1980s. Barnett is 0-5 against the Pac-10, the opposite of Toledo, who is 5-0 against the Big 12.
So all signs point to a Bruin romp. But the Buffaloes were a consensus top-10 preseason pick. They won 10 of 11 after an opening loss last season and barely missed making the bowl championship series title game.
High expectations this year were dashed early by losses to Colorado State and USC. They’ve been lampooned and discounted all week. Their pride has been injured.
In other words, it’s not a particularly good day to face them.
“I see what kind of athletes they have,” Toledo said. “I know better. When you have problems, you find answers. They will come here ready to play.”
And security might check Barnett’s sleeves on his way into the Rose Bowl.