Toby Gerhart, Stanford’s brutish tailback, gained 134 yards rushing against UCLA in a 26-14 victory.
LaMichael James, Oregon’s spinning-top-like tailback, went for 152 yards against the Bruins in a 24-10 victory. Is a pattern is forming? The Bruins can only hope that’s not the case. On Saturday, UCLA will face California running back Jahvid Best, considered a Heisman Trophy frontrunner before the Bears were thumped in back-to-loses to Oregon and USC.
“If you don’t get your arms around him, he is going to make you pay and pay dearly,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said. “We got to wrap up and squeeze this week.” The Bruins had few worries against the run before facing Stanford. They went into that game ranked ninth nationally against the run. The Cardinal gained 174 yards rushing. Oregon expanded on that with 221 yards rushing. Neuheisel framed that as occasional slip-ups, saying, “Defensively, we played terrifically 90% of time. There were seven plays cost us 170 yards of offense, and most of the time that was because we didn’t tackle and wrap up.”
But while James did have a 49-yard run, he also averaged 5.4 yards per carry on his other 19 runs, using a pivot move, where he spun around, on a number of plays. The poor tackling, Neuheisel said, is “a huge lesson for us as we go into this game with [an] explosive player like Best.” Best has 514 yards rushing and has scored nine touchdowns -- eight on runs -- this season. He was held to 55 yards by Oregon and 47 by USC, though both times the game was so lopsided that the Bears all-but abandoned the run. The Bears will serve up Best in different looks, including the Wildcat formation, something that California Coach Jeff Tedford said, “Gives you an extra blocker at the point of attack and prevents teams from stacking the box against you. It gives you a hat on hat.”