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Defense Knows What Wildcat Offense Can Do

Times Staff Writer

After giving up 519, 515 and 679 yards in its final three regular-season games, UCLA’s defense is actually glad to be facing another potent offense in Northwestern when the Bruins play in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30.

It will give them a chance to redeem themselves.

“They pass the ball a lot, but they still have a run-first offense,” UCLA linebacker Spencer Havner said about Northwestern’s spread offense, which ranks eighth nationally in total offense (492.7 yards), 10th in passing offense (296.8 yards) and relies heavily on freshman running back Tyrell Sutton, who rushed for 1,390 yards and 18 touchdowns.

For UCLA defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, whose units have struggled against the run most of the season, the Wildcats’ balance is tough on his game plan.

“We’ve looked at every game that they’ve played, and we have a good picture of what we’re going to face,” Kerr said. “They have an excellent offense.”

Northwestern runs an offense very similar to the wide-open attack used by Oregon this season. UCLA did not play the Ducks this season.

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“Oklahoma and San Diego State ran this type of offense a little bit but not as much,” Havner said. “I just know that after we played them, I was really glad not to see that type of offense because it’s kind of annoying to play against with the things that they do with the quarterback.”

Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez earned Big Ten Conference co-offensive player-of-the-year honors operating behind a powerful line, led by 6-foot-7, 335-pound tackle Zach Strief.

“Again, we’re going to have to use our quickness,” Kerr said about the Bruins’ undersized defensive front. “Their line is huge and very good. We have to play with good pad level because you can’t get high, they’ll just maul you.”

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Coach Karl Dorrell has not made a decision on which of his non-scholarship freshmen kickers, Jimmy Rotstein or Brian Malette, will take over for suspended starter Justin Medlock for the Sun Bowl. Dorrell said he plans to decide once the team travels to El Paso next week.


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