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UCLA braces for No. 13 Washington State’s air attack

UCLA must find a method to stop quarterback Cameron Ward when the Bruins host No. 13 Washington State in a Pac-12 game on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl.

Ward has completed 106 of 142 passes for 1,390 yards and 13 touchdowns without an interception this season.

He came into the week ranked 22nd in the FBS in passing yards, 10th in completion percentage (74.6) and tied for 11th in touchdown passes.

Thanks to him, the Cougars (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) rank second in the nation in passing yards per game (405.8).

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for him,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said of Ward. “He should be in the conversation for the top quarterbacks in the country. He’s athletic, he is sharp, (and) he throws an extremely accurate ball. I think he’s got great ball location and accuracy. It seems like he’s doing a great job decision-making this year. He can obviously beat you with his legs. He is right up there with the top quarterbacks in the country.”

The Cougars have been idle since their impressive 38-35 win against then-No. 14 Oregon State on Sept. 23.

Ward threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns against the Beavers, finishing with just six incompletions on 34 pass attempts.

The success of Washington State this season has helped circulate rumors that coach Jake Dickert could be a candidate for one of the higher-profile job openings, such as Michigan State, but he insisted that speculation is just a product of the program’s success.

“We wouldn’t be talking about these things if we were 0-4,” he said. “I love my job. I love being here. We’re focused on right here, right now. Not on the past, not on the future.”

Washington State leading receiver Lincoln Victor sustained a high-ankle sprain in the first half against the Beavers and is doubtful for the matchup against UCLA, but Dickert said Monday that Victor is making better progress than anticipated.

Cougars safety back Tanner Moku is also expected to make his season debut after missing the first four games with a foot injury.

“We feel fully invested that he’s going to be out there running around on Saturday,” Dickert said of Moku.

A win Saturday for UCLA (3-1, 0-1) would certainly boost its chances of climbing into the Top 25.

The Bruins have also been off since Sept. 23 and their 14-7 loss at then-No. 11 Utah.

Bruins quarterback Dante Moore completed just 15 of 35 passes against the Utes and UCLA was just 3 for 17 on third downs.

On the bright side, the Bruins had four sacks against Utah and hope to put similar pressure on Ward.

“I think we’ll try and limit them so they run the ball,” UCLA defensive lineman Keanu Williams said. “They don’t want to run the ball, so we just got to get them doing what they don’t want to do. If we do that we will be in good shape.”

UCLA and Washington State have not played since 2019, when the Bruins won a 67-63 shootout in Pullman, Wash.

The past five matchups between the teams have been decided by a touchdown or less.

–Field Level Media

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