Friday Night Lights comes to Los Angeles, with UCLA looking for a rerun against Washington. The Bruins have beaten the Huskies seven consecutive times at the Rose Bowl. Staff writer Chris Foster examines the story lines:
UCLA freshman linebacker-turned-running-back Myles Jack became something of a celebrity last week by gaining 120 yards in six carries, including a 66-yard touchdown, against Arizona in his debut on offense.
Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian is mindful of Jack, who played across Lake Washington from the University of Washington campus at Bellevue High.
“We have to be cognizant where Myles is,” Sarkisian said. “He’s an excellent player on offense, on defense and on special teams. He has blocked a punt and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him catching kicks. He has all those talents in him.”
All UCLA Coach Jim Mora will say is that Jack “is a linebacker.”
The Bruins’ depth at running back is thin. Steven Manfro (ankle) is out. Damien Thigpen (ankle) is questionable at best. Jordon James (ankle) is “fine,” said Mora.
Washington ranks 12th nationally in pass efficiency defense and 25th in fewest passing yards allowed, so UCLA’s ability to run the ball is important.
Before Jack’s outburst, UCLA had not had a running back clear the 100-yard barrier in a game since James had 164 against New Mexico State in the third game of the season.
That has left more work for quarterback Brett Hundley, whose 154.8 passing efficiency rating ranks him 17th nationally.
Hundley has labored at times. Some of his struggles have been caused by breakdowns on a young offensive line. Some has been receiver error. And some has been Hundley’s own doing.
Hundley was able to shake loose the last two games as the Bruins rediscovered downfield passing. His first pass against Arizona went to Shaquelle Evans for a 66-yard touchdown.
Price is right
Washington has the third-leading rusher in the nation. Junior Bishop Sankey is averaging 145 yards per game and is on pace to break the school’s career rushing record of 4,106 yards held by Napoleon Kaufman.
But the player who makes the Huskies go is senior quarterback Keith Price, who has a school-record 72 career touchdown passes. He is second in career passing with 8,434 yards.
“He is a vertical threat and he is very active with that,” UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos said, adding that Price “can keep plays alive with his athleticism.”
UCLA averages 77.7 yards in penalties per game, ranking 122nd out of 123 major-college teams. Just above them is Washington, which is No. 119 at 75.6 yards per game.
Mora views penalties in two categories: physical and mental.
Included in the mental category are such gaffes as false starts and offsides. UCLA had only one of those against Arizona, when it had an ineligible receiver downfield on a fake punt.
Overall, the Bruins were better against Arizona, with five penalties for 54 yards. But three of those infractions came in the fourth quarter when UCLA was struggling to hold a lead.
Scenarios are being woven (and imagined):
Sarkisian goes back to USC, where he was an assistant for Pete Carroll for seven seasons.
Mora is gobbled up by Washington, where he was a player from 1980-83 and a graduate assistant in 1984.
Both coaches brush aside questions about their future.
Ironically, UCLA made a big push for Sarkisian before hiring Mora.