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Saturday, Oct. 11th, • 3:40 p.m. (MST/PDT)
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UCLA AT A GLANCE
Coach: Karl Dorrell (first season)
Offense: Multiple Defense: 4-3 2002 Record: 8-5; Pac-10 4-4/T4th (Beat New Mexico in Las Vegas Bowl)
Site: Los Angeles
Series Record: UCLA leads 16-9-2 Last meeting: UCLA beat Arizona 37-7 last season.
WHEN UCLA HAS THE BALL
UCLA had looked terrible on ofense during the early part of the season, but looked very good last weekend against Washington. The Bruins are confident that the unit has turned the corner and will soon climb out of the bottom of the PAC-10 where they have been mired with, ironically enough, Arizona.
We are catching them at a time when they are playing their best football," said Arizona coach Mike Hankwitz. "That's the way football works."
The Bruins will once again go with Drew Olson at quarterback. Olson, who assumed the starting role when Matt Moore was injured, has done a much better job in the past few weeks. The offense had their best performance of the year against Washington and show signs of being a pretty good unit.
"(Drew) Olson just gets better," Hankwitz said "If you look at his stats, he has continued to improve."
Moore has returned to practice and could suit up this weekend. The Bruins don't want to rush him back to action, but if he's healthy the Bruins would consider using him if the offense struggles.
"We are going to continue to evaluate Matt (Moore) and see where he's at," said Bruin coach Karl Dorrell. "We want to make sure that obviously he's fully healthy and has all the capabilities that we think are necessary for him to perform."
The running game got going against Washington. Both Tyler Ebell and Manuel White have played well in recent weeks. Ebell killed the Cats a year ago and the Bruins need the running game to be effective so they can take some pressure off the passers.
It looks like their running game is starting to kick in with (Manuel) White and (Tyler) Ebell," Hankwitz said. Ebell had a strong freshman campaign, but has not been able to duplicate his numbers from 2002. White has picked up the bulk of the carries and has been effective as the primary runner.
The Bruins have talented receivers led by Craig Bragg and three others with at least 10 catches. Mercedes Lewis is a particularly dangerous target from the tight end spot. Bragg is the go-to guy. He already has 31 catches this season.
"Bragg led the Pac-10 in punt returns a year ago, and he had 55 catches, so he has picked up right where he left off," noted Hankwitz. "They have three other receivers that have over 10 catches, so Olson is starting to spread it around."
The Arizona defense has been much improved the past two weeks. The Wildcats limited TCU to just one long play and only gave up one touchdown to Washington State in the first 3 ½ quarters. Expect the Wildcats to continue their "bend-but-don't-break" defense. They have talent, but not a lot of depth and that could be the key.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
The Arizona offense has been bad. Kris Heavner has given the Wildcats a small spark, but that hasn't resulted in additional scoring. After putting 42 on UTEP in the opening game, this team has not scored more than 13 points since.
The biggest problem with the offense is a patchwork line. Starters Brandon Phillips and John Parada are out for the year, while Reggie Sampay is down for the time being. An already thin unit is now thinner and that means the Cats have had to shift guys around, since they don't have enough bodies to simply promote.
The one aspect of the offense that has suffered the most has been the running game. The Cats have not been able to establish a consistent running game and that has hurt the passing game and the overall time of possession. Clarence Farmer has the talent of an All-American back but he has not been able to get going. In fact he's not even the featured back at times.
The Arizona offense is bad enough on their own, but they face one of the Pac-10's best defenses. The front seven is fantastic. The Bruins have six senior defensive linemen and a solid linebacking corps that includes the stellar Brandon Chillar.
"I've always had great respect for (defensive coordinator) Larry Kerr and what he has done with his defenses at Colorado State," said Hankwitz. "They play a Tampa Bay-style defense, and they are an aggressive unit. They really haven't allowed many touchdowns. They have a veteran defense, and they have some guys who can make things happen." The defensive backs are very good. Matt Ware and Jarad Page are both excellent and Ben Emmanuel is an experienced guy.
OUTLOOK: If the UCLA offense has indeed come alive then the Cats could be in trouble. The Wildcats are not going to outscore anyone and have to hope they can get into a defensive slugfest with the Bruins. If the Bruins revert to their old ways, then the Cats have a very good chance. If the offense gets rolling, then UCLA wins easily. Discuss this story on the FOOTBALL MESSAGE BOARD