Pretend, for a moment, that you are BYU coach LaVell Edwards, faced with playing UCLA at Cougar Stadium today.
Here's the scenario: The Bruins have talented running backs in senior Kevin Williams, the Pac-10's leading rusher last season, and sophomore Daron Washington, who gained 85 yards on seven carries in last week's season-opener. UCLA was 7-0 in games where Williams rushed for 100 yards last season, including a victory over BYU. In the three games the Bruins lost last year, they were held to 110 rushing yards or less.The Bruins have a quarterback, Rob Walker, whose only varsity experience occurred last week, against Cal-Fullerton, not known for its pass defense - or anything else related to football, for that matter.
So what do you do?
How about assigning eight guys to shadow Williams' every move - or Washington's, when he's in there - while the remaining three guys just sort of mill around in the secondary in case Walker tries to pass.
In other words, make the kid show he can throw.
Edwards, of course, is well-aware that Walker is critical to the Bruins' success. This week the BYU coach said, "The quarterback problems they (UCLA) are having could have some effect on them," which, translated from coach-speak into normal English, means: "If Walker can't throw, UCLA is hurting."
One thing that will help the Cougars is the return of inside linebacker Shad Hansen, the team's leading tackler, who suffered a concussion against San Diego State. The other inside backer, Todd Herget, is still doubtful with an ankle sprain, and safety Derwin Gray says the team needs both players in there.
"It's really important that they play, because they're the heart and soul of our defense," Gray said.
If Walker is able to throw, Gray said, the Bruins could present some problems for the Cougar secondary. "San Diego State had more speed," he said, "but UCLA has some tall, rangy receivers." Second-team All-American Sean LaChapelle, for instance, is 6-31/2 and possesses a 33.5-inch vertical leap. That makes him tough to outjump.
On the other side of the ball, the Bruins probably can be expected to do what they did last year - give up a few passes while concentrating on shutting down the Cougar running game. Ty Detmer threw for 377 yards in that contest but BYU got just 57 yards on the ground and lost. Without an effective running game, the Cougs found the going tough inside the UCLA 30-yard line. In fact, they had the ball in that area twice in the fourth quarter and could have won with a touchdown, but they came up short on two fourth-down situations.
This is a solid UCLA defense. Only twice in their past nine games has it given up more than two TDs in a game - to Stanford and USC. Over that stretch, they have allowed an average of just 12 points a game.
Like Gray, BYU offensive lineman Scott Brumfield says the Bruins present a different challenge. "I don't know if they're as fast as the San Diego State linemen, but they're real physical," he said.
Given a choice, though, Brumfield said he and his teammates would rather face physical than fast.
The game will be televised live on Channel 5 at noon.
GAME NOTES: BYU has not lost two in a row at home in the same season in the Edwards' era . . . The last two consecutive home losses were over two seasons, against Oregon State in the '86 finale and Pitt in the '87 opener . . . The Cougars tied their own NCAA record last week with 37 consecutive games scoring on a TD pass . . . UCLA has a 36-5-2 all-time record against WAC teams; BYU is 8-11 against the Pac-10.