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    UCLA looks to disrupt Cameron Ward, No. 13 Washington State
    • October 6, 2023

    UCLA will play Washington State for the first time since 2019 when the Bruins produced a memorable 32-point second-half comeback for a 67-61 victory in front of a sold-out crowd in Pullman.

    UCLA coach Chip Kelly recalls the wild game but hasn’t had a reason to reflect on it much, even with the Cougars coming to Pasadena this week.

    “I remember the game, but we were scheduled to play them for two more years and then (Coach Mike Leach) left and went to Mississippi State, so there’s no correlation to what we’re playing (this week) so I haven’t gone back and watched that game at all,” Kelly said.

    The Pac-12 After Dark game served as a breakout for players like UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who threw for 507 yards and five touchdowns.

    Linebacker Carl Jones Jr. and defensive back Alex Johnson are the only Bruins remaining on the roster that played in that game.

    A lot has changed for both programs since, but this week’s installment of the series may be the last for some time following UCLA’s move to the Big Ten Conference next season. Washington State remains in limbo regarding its future, but it’s unlikely that it lands in the Big Ten with several of its current conference rivals.

    For now, the undefeated Cougars enter the game ranked 13th in the country, averaging nearly 46 points game in its four victories, which include No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 13 Oregon State.

    When UCLA has the ball

    The Bruins (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) must set the pace with a level of dominance behind the efforts of running backs TJ Harden and Carson Steele.

    The Washington State defense has an “aggressive and attacking” 4-2-5 defense that has allowed 4.43 rushing yards per attempt and six touchdowns this season. The Cougars (4-0, 1-0) are also ranked 100th in the nation with 250.5 passing yards allowed per game.

    An established rushing attack would open the Bruins’ passing attack and the opportunity for explosive plays.

    True freshman quarterback Dante Moore and the Bruins had the bye week as an opportunity to regroup following its worst offensive showing of the season in a 14-7 loss at No. 11 Utah.

    UCLA’s receivers had key drops against the Utes and the offensive line allowed Moore to be sacked seven times. Wide receiver Josiah Norwood spoke highly of Moore and the way he’s responded throughout practice as a “high-energy guy” in preparation for the Cougars.

    “They’re aggressive in their secondary with their coverages and they’ve done a really nice job,” Kelly said of Washington State. “They can cause a lot of problems for you because of how they attack offensive schemes.”

    When Washington State has the ball

    Quarterback Cameron Ward and first-year offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle have the Cougars leading the country in third-down conversions (59.6%), second in passing (405.8 yards per game), fifth in scoring (45.8 points per game) and sixth in total offense (532.2 yards per game).

    The Bruins’ defense will be tasked with trying to contain Ward. The junior has thrown for 1,389 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 75% of his passes (106 of 142) without an interception

    “We’ve seen plays (on film) where a lot of teams are trying to get after them and they just needed to execute,” Jones said about trying to disrupt Washington State’s offense. “We just have to get after them.”

    First-year defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn has helped UCLA’s defense continue to improve and come into its own this season, allowing just 37 points through the first four games.

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    UCLA defense prepares for challenge from Washington State QB Cam Ward

    “I have not seen a bigger and longer defense in a long time … I think they are playing with supreme confidence,”  Washington State coach Jake Dickert said of his initial impressions of the UCLA defense. “They are playing tremendously on that side of the ball and (Laiatu Latu) is a problem.”

    Latu has 13 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss, along with four sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. The senior defensive end hasn’t recorded a sack in the past two games but will have a huge impact on how the game plays out if he can provide pressure on Ward and help create opportunities for others.

    No. 13 Washington State (4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) at UCLA (3-1, 0-1)

    When: Noon Saturday

    Where: Rose Bowl

    TV/radio: Pac-12 Networks / 570 AM

    ​ Orange County Register