LOS ANGELES -- Beware the stemming.
That is the message UCLA Bruins coaches are sending to their offense this week as the Bruins prepare to face Utah on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Last year against UCLA, the Utes used a technique known as stemming to confuse the Bruins' offensive line and drew six false start penalties as a result.
This year, UCLA will be better prepared for when the Utes shift around their defensive alignment after the UCLA offense is set. Last year during a 31-6 Utah victory, the Utes were shouting out the shifts and that sometimes caused the Bruins to jump.
“Those are just focus penalties,” guard Jeff Baca said. “They were bringing a lot of pressure and some exotic blitzes and so we need to be ready for that and get it cleaned up.”
UCLA coach Jim Mora is in his first season and wasn’t with the Bruins in Utah last year, but has seen enough film on Utah to be able to spot the technique. He said the Utes will line up in one formation and then right before the snap, they will shift, sometimes from a 3-4 to a 4-3 or vice-versa.
“What they are trying to do is confuse your blocking patterns,” Mora said. “Make you make calls on the move. And they are good at it. They time it up well.”
It’s a technique Mora saw a lot during his days in the NFL, but said he hasn’t seen much of it since taking the UCLA job and so it leads to more problems because college players don’t see it that often.
Last year, players said it was especially difficult because the game was on the road in a loud stadium. As a result, UCLA went to a silent snap count and jumped several times when Utah called out it’s switch because the Bruins thought it was quarterback Kevin Prince calling "hut."
Being at home this year will help, but Mora won’t take any chances. He said he would have his scout team stemming in practice this week in order to prepare and he also said he’d work with quarterback Brett Hundley on playing a role in controlling the effects of the maneuver.
“We have to do a good job of utilizing the cadence and I think Brett will do a good job of that,” Mora said. “We’ve got to vary when we snap the ball. If we can vary when we snap the ball, that’ll help us. And then we’ve got to have the poise to not jump. To hang in there."