UCLA-Oregon St. Preview
(AP) - No one was happier to see UCLA freshman Nate Meadors' game-saving interception against Colorado than linebacker Jayon Brown, who played a staggering 110 snaps in last weekend's exhausting 35-31 win for the Bruins.
"That was the best feeling ever," Brown said. "I was like, `Game's over. I get to rest.' Nate's the man for that."
The 22nd-ranked Bruins are back at it Saturday when they visit Oregon State, which has yet to win in Pac-12 play.
The Buffaloes' offense officially ran a school-record 114 plays, one shy of the FBS single-game record, but Bruins outside linebacker Deon Hollins said the total was actually 120 including plays where penalties were called.
"That's a lot," Brown said. "I didn't even know I played that many snaps. It was draining out there on Saturday, but I'm glad we won."
Mounting injuries at linebacker meant there were no viable options other than leaving Brown in on almost every play for UCLA (6-2, 3-2).
Already without star Myles Jack, who left UCLA after suffering a season-ending knee injury in September, and leading tackler Isaako Savaiinaea, who did not play against Colorado because of a high-ankle sprain, the Bruins were further depleted when inside linebacker Kenny Young left the game with an upper-body injury.
Josh Woods, a freshman who had been on track to redshirt, was then pressed into action for the first time before exiting with a hamstring injury. That forced outside linebacker Cameron Judge to play next to Brown to finish out the game.
"Man, the injuries have reached just comical proportions," said Hollins, who returned against Colorado after missing one game because of a knee injury.
"I've never seen it," receiver Jordan Payton said. "I haven't even heard of something like this before. It's crazy, but that is a part of football. We play a game with a 100 percent injury rate, so it's going to happen."
Those injuries left UCLA able to only run two defenses most of the time against Colorado, so creating more fallback options will be a priority in practice this week before facing Oregon State (2-6, 0-5).
Hollins practiced sparingly at middle linebacker last season for a specialty package that was never used, while outside linebacker Aaron Wallace said he would be willing to move inside if asked.
Coach Jim Mora told reporters Sunday that Young and Savaiinaea are questionable to play against the Beavers, so there is a chance they could return to help stabilize the middle of the linebacker corps.
Whether shuffling where linebackers line up and getting others back healthy can solve UCLA's issues stopping the run is another matter entirely.
The Bruins rank last in the Pac-12 and in the bottom 20 nationally in rushing yards allowed per game, and that total has ballooned to 245.8 yards in conference play as the injuries have piled up.
"We're trying to manage the best we can and step up when we need to," Wallace said.
In spite of all their issues, the Bruins still control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. If they win their final four games, they would play in the conference championship game.
"Crazy, right? It's really crazy," Payton said. "We're still in this and we control it."
Oregon State is in the middle of the pack in the conference with 158.0 yards per game on the ground but is 11th in total yards at 348.4. The Beavers have been outscored 182-87 during their five conference defeats after falling 27-12 at No. 13 Utah last Saturday.
They were without starting quarterback Seth Collins, who didn't make the trip after injuring his knee in practice last week. That left freshman Nick Mitchell to make his first true career start at quarterback. He technically started alongside Collins on Oct. 24 for a trick play on the Beavers' first offensive play of the game against Colorado.
"We are continuing to make strides," Mitchell said. "In a game like this when you are playing a team that was the No. 3 team in the country last week, we were with them the entire game. That shows the strides we've made. At the end of the day it comes down to those few plays we just have to execute when it counts."
Oregon State upset the 19th-ranked Bruins 27-20 on the road in the previous meeting in 2012.