Todd Husak Breaksdown Saturday's Stanford-UCLA Game

Oct. 17, 2008

Each week during the season, KTRB 860 AM radio analyst and former Cardinal quarterback Todd Husak will offer insightful analysis and breakdown Stanford keys to victory against its opponent. This week, Todd takes a look at Saturday's Stanford-UCLA game.

Stanford heads to Pasadena this weekend to take on the UCLA Bruins, a team that played Oregon very tough on the road last week. The Cardinal have finally found their identity as a power running team, but will that be enough to take down UCLA on the road? A win for Stanford and the Cardinal will be in a strong position to land its first bowl berth since the 2001 season--which would be an incredible feat considering the shape of the program in 2006. It will be interesting to see how Stanford handles the pressure of playing with a looming bowl game, which is something very few players have dealt with in their careers on The Farm. On to the keys to victory:

No turnovers
Stanford was in a position to win by three touchdowns against Arizona and dominated Notre Dame early, but the interceptions by Tavita Pritchard and Jason Forcier were killers. The Cardinal have proven that the biggest obstacle they face on offense is their own lack of execution because neither Notre Dame nor Arizona was able to stop a powerful Stanford ground game. If Stanford can hold onto the ball, the Cardinal will have an excellent chance of ending a four-game losing streak to the Bruins.

Stick to the run game
Stanford needs to grind out the game on the ground and should limit the passing play calls. Once the run game gets on track, a deep pass down the field to Chris Owusu (who looks like a future all-conference talent) off of a play action will at worst keep the defense honest and at best lead to a big play. Alex Loukas reeled off a couple of long runs on the option, which adds another dimension to the running game that is already giving defensive coordinators fits. Big doses of Toby Gerhardt, Anthony Kimble, Delano Howell, and the occasional Michael Thomas also should help keep turnovers to a minimum.

Keep the defense rolling
Stanford dominated a high-powered Arizona offense in the second half, and they did it through getting to the quarterback without blitzing, quick reads and reactions from the defensive backs and tight coverage on the outside. Erik Lorig is starting to show some of the potential that made him such a highly regarded recruit out of high school, and the linebacker unit played their best game of the season against the Wildcats.

Play hungry
Stanford doesn't have much experience in playing with so much on the line, and sometimes teams can become passive or play 'not to lose'. The players have been hearing all week that a bowl game is in hand as long as they win this week, and that can lead to overconfidence or a bad week of preparation. I think Coach Harbaugh will do a great job of keeping the team focused and playing with an edge. If the Cardinal can continue to knock people on their backsides and be the most physical team in the conference, UCLA will have a very tough time defeating Stanford on Saturday.

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