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Oregon Ducks Fly South to Face UCLA Bruins

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Game Preview

NCAA Football: Oregon at Stanford Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

After a lopsided loss to Stanford last weekend, Oregon looks to regain their edge against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Oregon has lost three of their previous four games as injuries continue to hurt the team.

At the game or on the TV, the Ducks did not have a good showing last week at Stanford. Third-string quarterback, Braxton Burmeister, took a step back in his progress after failing to take care of the ball early. With a return of significant contributors on offense and strong backfield, Oregon appeared ready to take advantage.

Instead, Royce Freeman was the Ducks’ offense in a 49-7 loss to the Cardinal. Burmeister threw two interceptions in the game which shook his confidence. As a result, the passing game did not affect Burmeister and backup, Taylor Alie, combined for 33 yards passing. Freeman finished with 143 yards rushing.

Oregon’s defense only averaged about three yards per rush by opponents. An average which took a hit after Bryce Love took just under five minutes to make his mark. The power of Love scored two touchdowns for 147 yards before leaving the second half with an injury for Stanford.

Fault can be found on both sides of the ball for the Ducks. While some penalties were highly questionable, the issues have been concerning since the start of fall camp. The penalties were unnecessary and ultimately stalled the Ducks.

Burmeister does not deserve the blame despite making throws down to the turf, behind his receivers, or picks. With Freeman doing the heavy lifting, Stanford quickly adjusted to the one-dimensional Oregon offense.

In short, frustration could be seen from players and coaches.

Stanford has been known in the past for “smash-mouth” football by wearing down opponents with the running game. The approach does not work all the time which often makes the Cardinal offense vanilla.

The script got flipped with Oregon being vanilla on offense. Hope is the Ducks’ completely wipe last week’s game for their memory and go back to be the up-tempo offense seen in the past.

Justin Herbert took three games as a starter to secure his first win. Herbert is still out but is practicing, and Coach Willie Taggart announced Burmeister would get the start. Burmeister will have a chance to notch his win in his third start down in Pasadena, California.

UCLA is coming off a 47-30 loss on the road against Arizona. The Bruins’ defense has struggled the entire season, especially against the run. Arizona running back, Khalil Tate, rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns in the high scoring affair.

Since Jim Mora took over as head coach, talk has been UCLA taking the next step to becoming a Pac-12 contender. New facilities and solid recruits have offered promise to a school looking to surpass rival USC.

Talk appeared legitimate after the quarterback, Josh Rosen, led a fourth-quarter comeback to propel UCLA over Texas A&M in the opener. The win made an early statement to Pac-12 teams and the country.

But as seen in past seasons, UCLA has never been able to back up the talk. Back-to-back losses on the road against Memphis and Stanford have dashed any hope for UCLA to get in the conversation for the conference title.

Rosen is overrated though he will likely have a good performance against Oregon. While he has thrown for over 2,000 yards with 17 touchdowns, he makes bad decisions which have led to eight interceptions on the season.

Pressure on Rosen will be pivotal for the Ducks’ defense. When scrambling, Rosen forces throws which lead to bad results. Against the Wildcats, he threw three interceptions and was held without throwing a touchdown. Also, the offensive line has not been active in protecting Rosen as he got sacked five times in the second half against the Wildcats.

Size was apparent last week amongst the Oregon secondary and the Stanford receivers. JJ Arcega-Whiteside did the most damage against the Ducks with four big catches. Two resulted in touchdowns. Lack of effort was noticeable at times by the Ducks’ defense in tackling or keeping pace with the Cardinal receivers.

Darren Andrews is Rosen’s top target at wide receiver. The passing game of UCLA will be the difference as the running game has been inconsistent. Injuries have prevented the Bruins from establishing the rushing attack this season. Jalen Starks left last week with an injury while Soso Jamabo fumbled early but did manage to score later in the game.

UCLA did a get a boost from Bolu Olorunfummi with 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns and will look to carry the momentum against Oregon. The Bruins may have trouble though on the ground with the Ducks only allowing 115 yards rushing per game.

Defense has not been the game by UCLA, allowing over 500 yards per game. Hope is Burmeister is learning to have fun during practice and can have a better performance this week.

Injuries hit Oregon once again with Tyrell Crosby, Jake Pisarcik, and Tony Brooks-James under concussion protocol after last week. The status for all three to play against UCLA is unknown.

Despite a tough stretch, the Ducks are still in contention to make a bowl game. A win can build confidence for a young quarterback in Burmeister learning the Oregon offense on the fly. Hopefully, Oregon does not leave California again with an ugly loss.