After four seasons covering UCLA for the L.A. Daily News, Brian Dohn knows Bruin football. He took time
out from his daily coverage duties to answer some questions about the Noles vs. Bruins matchup. By the way, you can keep up with UCLA's Emerald Bowl preparations by reading Brian's articles, and his Bruin Blog.
ChantRant: It appears the Bruins got stronger at the end of the season, beating USC and Arizona State. Is that true, and if so, why?
Brian: Certainly, UCLA played its best football the last three games, and I'm throwing Oregon State into the mix. The biggest reason is the defense played well. Very well. Their tackling was solid, and the blown coverages were limited. Another key was the defensive pressure, which centered on heavy blitzing and trust in the cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage. Offensively, UCLA was pretty much the same. The Bruins drove between the 30s, but stalled many times and had to settle for field goals.
ChantRant: After beating their biggest rival, can UCLA perform like that against FSU? Or is the Emerald Bowl more of a reward of a fun trip with a game attached?
Brian: I think the best thing for UCLA is playing a school with the reputation of Florida State. I know the Seminoles aren't as good as they usually are, but after playing bowl games against WAC and Mountain West schools, the Bruins are fired up to be playing a big-name program. That said, I do not think it is possible to bring the intensity UCLA had in the USC game, and for obvious reason. It's like asking Florida State to bring the same intensity as it brings for Miami or Florida.
ChantRant: Did QB Patrick Cowan come of age in the USC game, and can he repeat the performance against FSU? Can he handle pressure in the pocket, especially if linebackers don't allow him to run?
Brian: I don't think Cowan came of age. He simply did what he's been doing since taking over the starting role. He completed about 50 percent of his passes, made a couple of nice throws
and then some that made you shake your head. He had one strong running drive against USC, and that ended in a touchdown. However, USC coach Pete Carroll made the quick adjustment by putting a linebacker on him as a spy, and Cowan didn't do too much with his feet after that. The biggest thing Cowan did was not turn the ball over, which caused USC to drive for touchdowns rather than have 30- and 40-yard drives.
ChantRant: Will Dorrell attack FSU the way he did USC, with stout defense and ball control keyed by Cowan's ability to run?
Brian: Yes, I think that will be the game plan. Cowan with some rollouts where he can run or dump the ball to his fullback or tight end, running back Chris Markey with some tough running between the tackles and a heavy blitzing defense behind coordinator DeWayne Walker. He tried to play conservative cover-2s in the middle portion of the season and his secondary got picked apart. UCLA isn't a great blitzing team, but the linebackers should do enough to put pressure on Florida State's quarterbacks.