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What: Arizona (2-2, 0-1) vs. UCLA (2-2, 0-1)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m., Tucson time
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena (Calif.)
TV: ESPN (Beth Mowins, Anthony Becht and Rocky Boiman)
Radio: IMG Network (Brian Jeffries and Lamont Lovett)
Line: UCLA by 13.5 points
Previously this week at AllSportsTucson.com:
— Off-the-beaten-path storylines: Arizona at UCLA
— Arizona Wildcats helmet sticker update: Game 4
— Notables following Arizona’s loss to Washington last week.
— Cienega star QB Jamarye Joiner verbally committed to Arizona
This game will determine…
If Brandon Dawkins can perform in a true road game as the Arizona starting quarterback. To this point this season, Dawkins has played in the comforts of Arizona Stadium, including two games against lesser opponents (Grambling and Hawaii) that allowed him to gain confidence heading into last week’s near upset of Washington. Now he will face on the road a UCLA defense that is one of the best in the conference. The Bruins rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense and No. 4 in passing yards allowed per game (196.3). The more important stat is the rushing yards allowed, because Dawkins is dangerous rushing the ball. UCLA is average when it comes to run defense, ranking seventh in the Pac-12 allowing 152 yards per game.
UW coach Chris Petersen said UA defense looks a lot different under Marcel Yates than what UW saw vs. Boise State last season.
Three things to look for:
1. Who will play running back for Arizona? Difference-maker J.J. Taylor is lost for the season. Nick Wilson has not played most of the last two games with a bum ankle. Next? Dawkins leads Arizona with 391 rushing yards despite sitting out the opener against BYU. This makes for a dangerous scenario against an aggressive UCLA defense that will likely track Dawkins feverishly all game. It will take somebody else to loosen up the Bruins. Not a bad idea: Do what Cal and Washington State do — Use the lone back as mostly a receiver for quick routes to stretch the perimeter defense. That’s where wide receiver Samajie Grant might come into play positioned behind Dawkins tonight.
2. Turnovers are sweet on receiving end. The Wildcats can ill-afford to turn the ball over against UCLA, helping to shorten the field for the Bruins’ defense and quarterback Josh Rosen. On the flipside, Marcel Yates’ defense must come up with big plays against Rosen. That means the secondary must produce critical interceptions. UCLA’s running game ranks last in the conference with 117.8 yards per game, but then again, the Bruins have played decent defensive teams in Texas A&M, BYU and Stanford. Still, UCLA’s bread and butter is its passing game with Rosen. Keep in mind that when Arizona causes multiple turnovers in the Rich Rod era, the Wildcats are 24-4.
3. Can Arizona’s pass rush rattle Rosen? The Wildcats have at least one sack in their last 16 games, including four last week against Washington without top defenders DeAndre’ Miller and Parker Zellers (both of whom won’t play tonight). Arizona ranks No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 33 nationally with 2.75 sacks a game, an immediate indication of Yates’ aggressive style with his front seven. UCLA ranks No. 10 in the Pac-12 allowing 2.5 sacks a game. That has forced Rosen into throwing four interceptions with only five touchdown passes so far this season.
Arizona’s secondary vs. UCLA’s receivers. The Bruins have eight receivers between a team-leading seven and 12 catches on the season, which shows Rosen spreads the ball. Darren Andrews leads the Bruins with 12 receptions for 193 yards and he’s not a starter. Kenneth Walker (11 catches for 185 yards) is the only UCLA receiver who has started all four of the Bruins’ games. UCLA’s deep receiving unit will be a difficult test for Arizona’s secondary, including cornerbacks Dane Cruikshank and DeVonte’ Neal and safeties Jarvis McCall and Demetrius Flannagan-Fowles. Arizona’s linebackers and nickel-package defensive backs will be pivotal in coverage. This will be a significant game for Tristan Cooper, Tellas Jones (if he plays) and Paul Magliore in pass coverage.
UCLA defense seeks to continue its upward trajectory https://t.co/qIFvRGwqB1
By the numbers:
UCLA’s defense has held its last three opponents to 350 yards of total offense or less — UNLV (328 yards), BYU (273) and Stanford (350). The last time that has happened was in the final four games of 2009: Washington State (181), ASU (315), USC (336) and Temple (282). In Arizona’s last two trips to the Rose Bowl in 2012 and 2014, the Wildcats gained only 257 and 255 yards in total offense, respectively, both convincing losses.
UCLA player to watch: WR Ishmael Adams
From AllSportsTucson.com writer Anthony Gimino, who also contributes to TucsonNewsNow.com:
The former All-Pac-12 cornerback was moved to receiver in the offseason, which says something about the depth and talent of the UCLA secondary and the accompanying dearth of those traits at receiver. Adams is electric with the ball in his hands as a returner, but he’s been quiet so far on offense, with nine catches for 107 yards.
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.