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UCLA Football Preview: Bruin Defense Needs to Stop Dylan Morris
If the Bruins allow the Washington quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards, it could be a long night in Seattle.
The Washington Huskies are a struggling football team needing a big win. When you combine that with the fact that one of UCLA’s biggest games of the season is next week against Oregon, today’s game is a recipe for a trap game. If the Bruins don’t come out playing to win, today’s game could turn into a big upset.
Let’s look at the Huskies offense that UCLA’s defense will face.
The Huskies will start redshirt freshman Dylan Morris at quarterback. Morris is averaging 252.4 yards passing per game and he is completing 58.9% of his passes. So far, he’s also thrown for seven touchdowns while being picked six times. He has thrown for more than 300 yards just once this season and that came against Arkansas State when he threw for 367 yards. His longest pass so far this season went for 45 yards against Michigan. He also had completions for 42 and 44 yards against Arkansas State and Oregon State, respectively.
With the Huskies only averaging 116.6 yards per game rushing, they will need a big game from Morris if they want to win tonight. Of course, that’s possible due to UCLA’s suspect pass defense which remains one of the worst in the country.
Washington has four receivers who are averaging more than 45 yard per game. Redshirt freshman Taj Davis leads the team with 20 catches for 262 yards and one touchdown. His long is 39 yards.
However, Terrell Bynum is the big play threat. Bynum has made all three catches of more than 40 yards for the Huskies. So, Morris will likely be looking for more of the same from Bynum. True Freshman Jalen McMillan and junior tight end Cade Otten are Morris’ other favorite targets.
Sean McGrew and Kamari Pleasant are the Huskies’ top two rushers. But the Washington running attack has not gained the kind of yards needed to win games. Indeed, the team is averaging just 116.6 yards per game. If the Huskies try to force the run, the Bruins will likely win big.
The Huskies’ defense looks a lot like Arizona’s. They are tough on the pass but they give up a lot of yards on the ground.
I expect Washington to try to shut down Kyle Philips and Greg Dulcich and force UCLA to run the ball. As a result, look for big games from Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown.
That formula kept Arizona in the game until Jordan McCloud got hurt in the fourth quarter.
The Huskies will start a nickel package to try to contain the passing game. The only problem with that is that the front six guys are all young. There isn’t a single upperclassman in Washington’s front six.
In fact, the only two starters on defense are both defensive backs. Brandon Radley-Hiles is a junior who played that past three seasons at Oklahoma and transferred to UW this year. He started 32 of 37 games for the Sooners during his time in Norman. Radley-Hiles was an US Army All-American at IMG Academy in Florida following his senior year. This is the guy to look out for when the Bruins have the ball.
The other junior is DB Alex Cook. While Cook doesn’t have a lot of fancy stats in the passing game, he is tied for the third-most tackles on the team with 26 and he is second on the team in unassisted tackles with 19.
To win today’s game, UCLA needs to keep running the ball well and getting into the end zone. It may be tougher because the Husky defense has been stingy overall.
On the other side of the ball, the Bruins need to avoid making Dylan Morris look like a Heisman candidate. That’s much easier said than done after the Fresno State and Arizona State games. Last week, Jordan McCloud was able to keep the winless Wildcats in the game until he got hurt in the fourth quarter. If Morris throws for more than 300 yards, the Bruins might be in trouble.