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UCLA-Oregon matchup could be a time for desperate measures

UCLA-Oregon matchup could be a time for desperate measures
Quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) will lead the Ducks into the Rose Bowl on Saturday night for a key Pac-12 Conference game against the Bruins. (Steve Dykes / Associated Press)

This UCLA versus Oregon was an A-list game until last week. Now it's a matter of survival. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the story lines and matchups:

Quarterback elite

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UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon's Marcus Mariota are projected to be first-round picks in the 2015 NFL draft.

"They are very similar in a lot of ways, especially in their character and leadership," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "Both are about the same size. Both have the ability to make about every throw downfield. They have the added dimension of extending the play, not only to throw it, but to take off and run."

Mariota leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 202.4 rating. Hundley is fifth at 181.4.

"What doesn't worry you about Mariota?" UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said. "They have skill-position players who do a really nice job as far getting open late in plays. He has a knack for finding guys."

Hundley offers UCLA the same ability.

Rush week

The other thing Mariota and Hundley share is the need to run for their own safety these days.

Hundley was sacked 10 times by Utah last week. Mariota has been sacked 12 times in the last two games. Injuries along the offensive line have been a big reason for the pass protection breakdowns.

UCLA has been without tackle Simon Goines (knee) all season and tackle Conor McDermott (shoulder) has played little. Guard Alex Redmond (ankle) is doubtful for a second consecutive game.

Oregon has lost three tackles. Tyler Johnstone (knee) was lost for the season in training camp. Andre Yruretagoyena (foot) and Jake Fisher (leg) are still in recovery mode. Freshman Tyrell Crosby and former walk-on Matt Pierson are the Ducks' starters.

"That is usually an indication of success, keeping your [quarterback] in rhythm, upright and confident," Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich said.

Speed thrills

Oregon is so deep at running back that it has used Byron Marshall, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013, as a wide receiver. Running back Royce Freeman has size to go with his speed, weighing in at 230 pounds.

Receiver Devon Allen is not a track guy playing football. He is a football guy who runs track. Of his 19 receptions, six are for touchdowns.

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The Bruins can't match the Ducks' breakaway speed in the backfield, but Paul Perkins has become an important cog with his slashing running style.

At receiver, UCLA can fly with the Ducks. Jordan Payton, Eldridge Massington and Devin Fuller all have touchdown receptions of 80 yards or more this season.

Ground Duck

UCLA must do a better job limiting Oregon's running game than it did against Utah, which rushed for 242 yards last week. Oregon had 325 yards rushing against UCLA last season.

"The first five games are out of the way and we are going to be a lot better from here on out," UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks said.

How does he know? "I go around the locker room and see it in the faces," Kendricks said. "I see the focus in meetings. That loss really hurt us last week."

Another this week would hurt worse.

History Lesson

Oregon's last loss to UCLA was in 2007, a 16-0 Bruins victory in which the Ducks were without star quarterback Dennis Dixon, who had suffered a season-ending knee injury.

UCLA, which defeated Oregon 20 times in 26 games from 1969 to '99, has lost 10 of the last 12 in the series.

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