Business-Like at the <br>Rose Bowl

In his weekly Wednesday column, <b>Charles Chiccoa</b> discusses the San Diego State game, the positives (offensive line) and the negatives (the quarterbacking) and what we can hope for the rest of the season...

You know things have changed around here when the Bruins bump off a respectable opponent by 23 points and we're all thoroughly unimpressed. Yeah, San Diego St. is respectable. Defensively, they have size, they're athletic and they sell out at the line of scrimmage, particularly vs. a team like the Bruins. They fill up the box, press the wide-outs, and they are no longer intimidated by the major conferences. They have a nice little running back who can be effective in their spread, pass-happy, dink-and-dunk offense which regards the run as a kind of trick play. They are, however, handicapped with a generic quarterback in Matt Dlugelecki. He looked marginally better than the side-arming wild man we saw last year, but still nothing to fear. When you throw the ball over 50 times and give up 2 backbreaking picks you need more than 263 yards to show for it.

Of course the Bruins' quarterbacking has been nothing to write home about either. Drew Olson's 158 yards on 29 attempts, with one very bad interception, was absolutely underwhelming. He pretty obviously missed Craig Bragg, who's always served as his security blanket. Contrary to what some may believe, UCLA has nice depth in their receiving corp. But the loss of your primary receiver, even one as good as Bragg, is not sufficient explanation for what we saw last Saturday. The hope, I suppose, is that Olson will be a late-bloomer. It may just be he's in the tradition of Wayne Cook and Cory Paus, mediocrities whose modest talents were not heavy enough to bear the weight of so many starts over so many seasons. This Bruin offense is shaping up as potentially explosive, but it's being held back by its quarterbacking. This is the last place you can afford a weak link. And how many more games will it take for Olson to break out? Of course, there's no other alternative.

Maurice Drew and the "Cable Guys" are becoming a very pleasant constant. Mo went for 161 and it felt like nothing special, which is a measure of this guy's talent. His, uh… balletic, uh… pirouette… that great spin move on the 57-yard touchdown run provoked the second loudest response (second only to Steve Finley's grand-slam several miles away) from the Bruins usual "show-me" crowd. Mo is a good bet to break every Bruin rushing record if he stays healthy and stays put for all four years. By himself, he's worth the price of admission. Reggie Bush may be a more versatile threat, but Mo might be slightly better running from scrimmage. In any case they have radically different styles.

It was nice to see Tab Perry shake his coverage so beautifully on that post corner route (and you have to give Olson credit for putting the ball on target while taking a hit). Also, true freshmen Marcus Everett and Brandon Breazell look to be anything but "sleeper talents." They've both been impressive since day one, and we can only hope to see more of them as the season progresses. Ditto for true soph, Joe Cowan. And with the absence of Bragg, Junior Taylor has become more assertive. Though he only caught three balls for minimal yardage, he's playing as if he wants to be a go-to guy, too, which can only help down the line. Marcedes Lewis still seems to be the forgotten man. Tom Cable and Karl Dorrell are going to somehow have to force Olson to look for Marcedes. I wonder if it has something to do with Olson's apparent problems in seeing the field. The tight end, particularly a quick one like Marcedes, is often running medium to longer routes in the center of the field where there's more congestion, and where he may be a harder target to spot. Whatever the case, it needs to be solved before Cal, Arizona St. and SC. The Bruins need to execute on Saturday, not save plays to surprise people the following week, which is a Toledoism.

The defense looks to be somewhat recovering from their shocking demolition at the hands of Vernand Morency and Oklahoma St. Little by little they're becoming more and more adequate (could I make that any less definite). On the third down play on which Matt Clark made his pick, the Bruins stacked the line of scrimmage so that a run was out of the question, then came with effective pressure and forced the turnover. This is the way Pete Carroll plays with regularity; it's something Bruin fans wish they would see more often. The defensive front will get the formidable bad boy, C.J. Niusulu, back next week, and, you would think they'll get Justin London back at least by the Cal game (and why risk him against Arizona if the game develops promisingly?). Eyoseph Efseaff is at least providing bulk and strength in the middle. Justin Hickman looks better with each succeeding week, as does Wesley Walker. Ben Lorier looked surprisingly good on his few opportunities last year, and he seems to be cashing in that promise this year, though he may be playing a bit overanxiously which is understandable given how far he's had to come. Matt Clark is easily the most improved player on the team. He had an extraordinary game vs. the Aztecs; Ricky Manning would have been proud of him. He's put on some muscle and he's no longer shy in coverage. For whatever reason, he looks to be completely reborn in his final year. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of Ben Emanuel in this, his fifth year. I've given up wondering why he's on the field every play of every game. It's just one of those bizarre, characteristically Bruin things… you know, like Dion Lambert, Teddy Lawrence, Javelin Guidry, Ryan Roques, those guys. Trust the coaches? You trust them.

Although KD, against all expectations, has turned the offense around this year with the hiring of Cable, there's still a big, fat question mark on this team's forehead. One slip against a stiff, a blowout loss in Berkeley, or Tempe, or at the hands of the Trojans in the Rose Bowl, and interest will begin to sag… again, the Cranks will begin baying, and the Blues will start either rationalizing or running for cover. Right now UCLA is a much improved program over last year's train wreck. So far they're short an effective quarterback and a fordmidable defense. They'll either continue to build or deflate based on these two factors the remainder of the season. That antsy feeling is still hanging on and only a dramatic turnaround by the defense and by Drew Olson can make it disappear. Yeah, I know, Arizona's up next, but it's the date in Berkeley that I'm focusing on. Lucky we BROs don't play, but then that's one of the less appreciated benefits of sitting in the stands.


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