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UCLA

Jordan Payton, other UCLA receivers face big test against Oregon

Jordan Payton, Chris Morley
UCLA wide receiver Jordan Payton escapes a tackle by Memphis defensive back Chris Morley on Sept. 6.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There are only three teams that have given up more sacks this season than UCLA. The secondary is ranked 107th in the country. Quarterback Brett Hundley is holding onto the ball too long.

The laundry list of worries for this UCLA football team grows longer by the game. The one unit that has looked pretty consistent, though, has been the wide receivers, especially Jordan Payton. The junior caught seven passes against Utah on Saturday, and leads the team this season with 31 catches. He’s averaging close to 100 yards receiving per game, which has opened up the field for players like Devin Fuller and Thomas Duarte.

The game against Utah, which likes its defensive backs to press at the line of scrimmage, sets the Bruins up well for another tough, physical defense this week against Oregon.

“Overall, we played pretty well,” Payton said. “There were moments we were pressed and the pressure kind of affected us and our routes, but overall we played pretty well. But we definitely have to get better for this game. They have some great DBs over at Oregon, so we’re definitely excited for the challenge coming up.”

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For example, Oregon senior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a two-time, first-team Pac-12 selection and a likely first-round NFL pick, will be one of the toughest defensive players the Bruins will face all year.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” Payton said. “He’s definitely one of the best corners in the country, so it’s definitely a huge task for me. He’s a phenomenal player. There are so many things he does well, it’s hard to point out something he does that’s not good. … He’s just a phenomenal athlete. So I’m excited, I’m going to do all I can this week to prepare and get ready for him.”

Because of how athletic and smart Ekpre-Olomu is, Payton said he’s going to have to “be more prepared than [I’ve] ever been.” This is coming from one of the few wide receivers that catches not only footballs from a machine after practice, but tennis balls as well.

Arizona beat the Ducks last weekend and had offensive success in part because of how physical it played. The Bruins now have a formula, but whether they can execute it remains to be seen.

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For more Bruin observations, follow Everett Cook on Twitter @everettcook


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