PULLMAN – When the Pacific-10 Conference scoring and offensive leader meets the defense best at preventing touchdowns, something’s got to give.
That’s the case today when No. 9 UCLA visits 16th-ranked Washington State.
The Cougars (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10) lead the conference in scoring offense, averaging 40.6 points per game, and total offense, 480 yards per game. The Bruins (6-1, 3-1) lead the league in scoring defense and total defense, holding opponents to 16.4 points and fewer than 316 yards a game.
Both teams are trying to rebound from their first losses of the season and the loser likely will drop out of the conference championship race.
UCLA tailback DeShaun Foster could well determine the outcome. He leads the Pac-10 in rushing, averaging nearly 144 yards a game, all-purpose yards (162) and scoring, with 10.3 points per game.
Foster, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior, is the first Bruin back to gain more than 1,000 yards in seven games.
“Obviously, DeShaun Foster is one great back,” Washington State coach Mike Price said. “They are going to give the ball to him against us and everybody else. Stopping him is the main thing.”
Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser leads the conference in passing yards and total offense, averaging more than 260 yards a game. A favorite receiver is Nakoa McElrath, who leads the conference in receptions and receiving yards per game, averaging nearly seven catches for 109 yards.
The Cougars defense was stung by Oregon’s rushing game Saturday in a 24-17 loss. Backup tailback Onterrio Smith had a school-record 285 yards and the Ducks rushed for 446 overall against WSU.
Meanwhile, UCLA fell to Stanford, dashing the Bruins hopes for a national title as Foster was held to just 77 yards.
Bruins coach Bob Toledo said the UCLA defensive lapse was disappointing.
“We didn’t perform very well. We lost containment on the quarterback and blew some coverages,” Toledo said. “We’re disappointed, especially after watching the video and realizing just how bad we played.”
The Bruins top quarterbacks, Cory Paus and Scott McEwan, are questionable for today. Toledo said Paus is unlikely to play and the decision on whether McEwan will start will be made before the game’s kickoff.
Paus aggravated an injury to his right thumb against Stanford and was replaced by McEwan, who sprained his right ankle, but completed 15 of 24 passes for 221 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Ryan McCann, who won three games last season, might get the call, Toledo said.
Wide receiver Brian Poli-Dixon and safety Jason Stephens are injured and won’t make the trip to Pullman, Toledo said.
WSU cornerback Marcus Truffant returns after missing a month with a broken right thumb, allowing the Cougars to match UCLA receivers one-on-one so linebacker Billy Newman can move up to help against the run.
It is the first time the teams have played each other since 1998 and the first at Martin Stadium since 1997, a season-opening 37-34 victory for the Cougars.
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