UCLA: Charles Sims

First Look: Houston at UCLA

September, 11, 2012
In a game that has all the makings of a classic trap, the No. 22 UCLA Bruins will try to avoid a letdown when they face the winless Houston Cougars on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

The Bruins (2-0) are coming off of an upset victory over Nebraska that put them in the Associated Press Poll for the first time since 2008, when they were ranked No. 23 during a bye week and then dropped out before even playing a game.

They face a pass-happy Houston (0-2) that is hungry after losing its first two in the post-Case Keenum era. Keenum, the NCAA all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, used up his eligibility last season, but not before directing a 38-34 victory over UCLA in the season opener last year.

Coach Kevin Sumlin is also gone, having left for Texas A&M, but Houston is still taking to the skies for most of its offense under new coach Tony Levine. Keenum's replacement, David Piland, passed 44 times in a 30-13 loss to Texas State and passed 77 times last week in a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech.

"They are pretty explosive on offense," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "They are a pretty dynamic offense. We’re going to have to do a good job on defense."

Presumably, that will include the first half. UCLA's defense has started slow in each of the last two weeks, allowing 24 points in the first half against both Rice and Nebraska only to adjust and shut out Rice in the second half and limit Nebraska to two field goals in the second half.

"I’d like to see us come out and start a little faster on defense, especially against the quarterback runs than we have in the first two weeks," Mora said.

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First Look: UCLA at Houston Cougars

August, 29, 2011
In an offseason filled with schools getting bad news from the NCAA, Houston stood out as the contrarian.

First came word that quarterback Case Keenum had been granted a sixth year of eligibility and next the Cougars learned that the NCAA had reinstated running back Charles Sims’ eligibility.

It all adds up to a Cougars offense that has all the weapons it needs to maintain the prolific pace it has set over the last several seasons and UCLA will be the first to face it when the teams meet Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Pacific. The game will be televised by FSN.

Keenum, in the hunt to break NCAA passing records for career yards and touchdowns, tore his ACL in Week 3 against UCLA last season and the NCAA deemed him worthy of resuming his chase. He is 3,487 yards shy of Timmy Chang’s career passing record (17,072) and needs 28 touchdown passes to surpass Graham Harrell’s record of 134.

And while it might seem as if 3,487 yards and 28 touchdowns are a lot, consider that Keenum passed for more than 5,000 yards in 2008 and 2009 and had 44 touchdowns in each of those seasons. He benefits from Houston’s pass-happy spread offense that, even in Keenum’s absence most of last season, ranked fifth in the nation in passing at 327.25 yards per game.

Keenum will no longer have James Cleveland, who torched UCLA for 144 yards receiving last season, but top target Patrick Edwards, a 1,000-yard receiver in each of the last two seasons is back, as is speedster Tyron Carrier, a 1,000-yard receiver in 2008 and 2009.

The Cougars also have a deeper running attack with the return of Sims, the 2009 Conference USA freshman of the year who sat out last season because of ineligibility. He joins leading returning rusher Bryce Beall, who had 870 yards rushing last season, and Michael Hayes, the shifty counterpart who had 629 yards rushing last season.

Hayes and Sims are also good receivers and will often split out wide in an empty backfield set, putting even more of a strain on UCLA’s defensive secondary, especially considering the Bruins are a bit thin at cornerback.

But while Houston’s skill players are dangerous, the Cougars' offensive line is suspect. The Cougars return only two offensive linemen and UCLA’s front seven -- led by defensive end Datone Jones -- will try to exploit that weakness and disrupt the offensive attack.

Houston also proved vulnerable on defense last season, especially against the run. The Cougars gave up 208.75 yards per game on the ground to rank No. 114 in the nation and last year when the teams met, UCLA came into the game struggling on offense, but overmatched the Cougars' defense and pounded out 266 yards rushing in a 31-13 victory. Johnathan Franklin had 158 yards and three touchdowns.

UCLA was able to control the clock and keep Houston’s potent offense off the field, bolting to a 31-3 lead after three quarters before Houston rallied in the fourth quarter against some of UCLA’s reserves. Houston, which runs a 3-4 defense, has five returning starters among its defensive front seven with linebackers Sammy Brown and Marcus McGraw leading the charge of experience, but the Cougars are thin on the defensive line and have very little in terms of experience in the secondary.



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