UCLA let a golden opportunity slip through their grasps against Arizona. With the Wildcats starting quarterback and tailback both out with injuries, the Bruins should have started off 2-0 in the Pac 12 for the first time since 2013. Instead, we are examining what the Bruins need to improve upon, still. There is another opportunity on Saturday for UCLA to get a conference win. They host the Beavers of Oregon State who are currently in last place in the Pac 12 North. UCLA keys to victory should be simple this week, but not necessarily easy to accomplish.
The biggest headline going into the game is the status of sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He suffered an injury to his ankle late in the Arizona game and was replaced by Austin Burton. If DTR isn’t able to participate on Saturday, then Burton will be the man.
There is no real reason why UCLA shouldn’t be in this game regardless of who is taking snaps under Center. Oregon State, while competitive, is a beatable team. What are the biggest keys to victory for UCLA? Well, let’s go to the drawing board.
Contain Isaiah Hodgins
One of the best receivers you’ve never heard of plays his home games in Corvallis, Oregon. The man in the #17 jersey ranks among the top 10 in every receiving category this year. So far, he has hauled in 33 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns. He has at least one touchdown catch in every game this season. The junior from Oakley, California stands 6’4 and weighs 210 lbs so he provides a big threat against the shorter corners of UCLA. Darnay Holmes and/or Elijah Gates should have a busy day at the office with Hodgins.
Let Kelley Be The Hero
Welcome back to the dance Joshua Kelley. After missing week one against Cincinnati, Kelley has been getting back on track the last four weeks. He had a 127-yard performance last week while also punching in his second touchdown of the year. His load has increased every week and I would like to see him get at least 30 carries against the Beavers. Especially if DTR is inactive, but even if he can play, Kelley should be the go-to for UCLA’s offense. Oregon State’s front seven has had some trouble stopping the run this year. If I were on the sideline for the Bruins, I am wearing them down all game.
Break Luton’s Streak
Jake Luton, the quarterback for State, has zero interceptions so far this year. He has also thrown nine touchdowns to pair with the INT goose egg. What a coup it would be for UCLA to be the ones to change that. A UCLA victory is much more likely as well if they can force Luton to make poor decisions. A reason for Luton’s start to the year has been the receiver you read about earlier. The second leader in receptions for the Beavers is Champ Flemings with 12 to Hodgins’ 33. If the Bruins can check off the first box on these keys to victory and force Luton to look at his other options, I can see a pick or two coming for the secondary. Sorry Jake.
It isn’t going to be an easy task for UCLA but if they have a solid game plan they can get back above .500 in conference play. Oregon State, while they do not have a winning reputation lately, does have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Coach Azzinaro better have his guys ready for a balanced attack as well as a committee of running backs who are all dangerous. Contain Hodgins, stuff the running lanes, and UCLA wins the game. It’s a simple formula this week, but the execution will need to be on point.