Scrimmage: Not Many Take-Aways

It's easy to conclude that the offense will struggle from the scrimmage at Drake Stadium, but Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow provided a decent excuse for it Saturday. The main story is the competition for the starting quaterback spot...

It's difficult to conjure up too many significant take-aways from UCLA's scrimmage Saturday at Drake Stadium.

If we could only say what the coaches do after the scrimmage: "I really can't conclude much until I see the tape."

The 3,000 or so UCLA football fans that were at Drake won't be able to benefit from the wonders of Tivo, however.

Too bad, too, because it'd be an interesting file to re-watch in slo-mo.

As in any of these scrimmages, just about ever in the history of the world, the defense dominated the offense. There are plenty of reasons (or excuses) this is so: Defense is always ahead of the offense in fall practice, the defense knows what the offense is going to run, etc., etc.

Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow, though, did provide one legitimate excuse (reason) the offense didn't look as good as it did: Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker stacked the box against the run and the established rule of the scrimmage was that no checking-out of the play was allowed.

We'll go with that as to the reason the offense couldn't generate any yards on the ground.

Kahlil Bell started with the first-string but we thought he only got one carry, for no yards. Fullback Trevor Theriot had two carries for three yards. Tailback Raymond Carter had 6 carries for one yard. Working with the twos, Aundre Dean had 5 carries for 15 yards, and Johnathan Franklin, working mostly against the 3s and 4s, busted one run around end for 20 yards and finished with 7 carries for 32 yards.

Bell, to our perception, had very limited work, and Head Coach Rick Neuheisel said after the scrimmage that they won't give him many more live reps until the Tennessee game. Bell, when it was clear he wasn't going in for any more work, loudly kept saying, "Come on, let me do it!"

It's easily the most worrisome aspect of the team right now – if UCLA can't remotely run the ball this season. You'd have to surmise that, with a "patchwork" offensive line and a green quarterback, the throwing game might struggle some, and if the offense is going to stay on the field for any prolonged period of time it's going to need to be able to gain some yardage on the ground.

But at this point the UCLA faithful have to have faith in Chow. It's easy to see, even in just a very controlled scrimmage where Chow isn't trying to do too much, the potential wizardy in his offensive scheme.

Or it could be that, as UCLA fans, and having watched the offense of Karl Dorrell for too long, it's like a sip of water after being in the desert for a number of years.

O-Coordinator Norm Chow.
The offense, at least scheme-wise, has the potential to be exciting (again, take into consideration what we have, comparatively, been watching for years). There are a variety of formations, the interesting use of personnel, dynamic calls in terms of down and distance, the use of multiple snap counts, and so much more. Even in the context of the fall scrimmage, when the offense is supposed to look pretty "vanilla," Norm Chow's offense, comparatively to UCLA's of the last several years, is like something out of Ben and Jerry's.

The quarterbacks didn't look particularly great. But there are some things to cling to. The 1s and 2s alternated, and Kevin Craft worked exclusively with the 1s. It took Craft five series to accomplish a first down. He looked pretty shaky in the first few series, and Head Coach Rick Neuheisel took him aside on the field to get him to settle down and focus. It worked – at least to a degree. A few series in he started to look far more comfortable, even if the plays weren't exactly successful.

On his first play, he completed a slip screen to Ryan Graves, which went for about six. In the first few series, from what we could see, he went 1 for 8, for 10 yards, an interception and two sacks.

The interception by linebacker Kyle Bosworth was returned for a touchdown the other way. The coaches then started a drive from the defense's 25-yard line. Theriot ran for two yards, and then linebacker Akeem Ayers was called for a pass interfereence. Out of the gun, Craft then took a quarterback draw 15 yards in for a touchdown.

It was a pretty smart move by the coaches, because Craft then, with more confidence, was far more effective on his next series. On first down, he scrambled for about 9 yards. Carter was tackled for a loss of one (by Steve Sloan). Craft then threw his best pass of the night, a floater on a streak route to Nelson Rosario, where the throw is intended obviously to be thrown over the top of the coverage so Rosario's 6-4 height could be an advantage. It was a perfectly thrown ball and Rosario pulled it down for a gain of 27. After Carter gained one yard on a dive, Craft then found Terrence Austin on a quick slant for a gain of 13. On play action, Craft, threw a strike to tight end Ryan Moya on a quick streak through a seam in the middle of the defense, which was good for another 16, and took the offense to the goal line. Carter loss three yards on a carry, but then Craft found Marcus Everett on a quick out along the goal line for a three-yard touchdown throw.

It was something to take-away, since Craft's next series wasn't. He threw an incompleted pass, but first down was repeated because of a penalty. Craft, then in the gun, was looking the other way when the ball was hiked and it went through his hands. He then threw a fairly good pass to Everett, who dropped it. They allowed the offense a repeat of third down, but Craft then threw into coverage and was picked off by freshman safety Rahim Moore.

Chris Forcier started off better than Craft. On his first series with the 2s, he connected with Rosario on a quick out for 3 yards, and then on a slant for 10. After a scramble, he found Austin for a completion of 17. He threw an incomplete, Carter ran for a yard, and then on third and 9, Forcier fumbled the snap.

Kai Forbath tried to kick a 53-yard field goal but was about five yards short.

On the second series for the 2s, Austin Dean carried the ball for one yard, then had a good carry, slicing through a couple of tackles to pick up 7 yards. On his third successive carry he was hit at the line of scrimmage but stayed on his feet to gain six and a first down. After a PI on freshman cornerback Aaron Hester, Forcier threw a good pass to Jerry Johnson, which would have been a gain of about ten, but Johnson dropped it. Anwon Moutra hung on to his chance on a throw from Forcier, for a gain of 11. On first down, Forcier was then sacked. After Dean gained one yard on a pitch, Forcier forced a throw which was tipped and eventually intercepted by freshman safety Tony Dye.

There was then an attempt at a 42-yard field goal by Forbath that was blocked. It wasn't a case of a great block, but a very low trajectory on the kick from Forbath.

Forcier went through a few more series, and connected on a few more passes, probably the best being a 15-yarder to Moutra. He was also sacked a number of times, and scrambled for a gain of 15.

Overall, if you had to compare, Forcier looks less jittery than Craft, but once Craft gets over the nerves, he appears to have better command of the offense and throws a better ball. Forcier looks like he's still a young pup and possibly a year or two away (he is, after all, just a redshirt freshman).

You also have to discount in for the offense that it was without some of its major pass-catching weapons. Out for the scrimmage were receivers Gavin Ketchum (shoulder), Dominique Johnson (hip) and Taylor Embree (shoulder), while tight end Logan Paulsen (concussion) also sat it out.

The young quarterbacks had a few series each. Working with the 3s, Kevin Prince didn't get a lot of opportunity, throwing two incomplete passes and getting sacked once. Nick Crissman, working with the 4s, rolled out and completed a pass to walk-on fullback Tyler Tuiasosopo for five yards.

Darius Savage is back with the starting offensive line at left guard, and Scott Glicksberg is now working with the second-string. The O-line, you'd have to say, didn't have a great day, allowing eight sacks while creating very few holes for the running game.

It's clear the defense's strength is up the middle, with the two defensive tackles, Brigham Harwell and Brian Price. Isolating on them for a few plays, they mostly owned their blocker, using quickness and a burst to side-step their blocker on almost every rep.

Defensive end Korey Bosworth injured his ankle, and his status is unknown.

Steve Sloan, working with the 1s since starting middle linebacker Reggie Carter sat out with a concussion, looked very good. He was, for the most part, in position to make a play.

In the defensive backfield, Alterraun Verner continued his stellar fall camp. On his interception, he jumped a route on a pretty well-thrown ball.

The special teams were a mixed bag. There was the missed and blocked field goals. To open the scrimmage, Aundre Dean fumbled the kick-off. Punter Aaron Perez boomed a couple, but true freshman punter Jeff Locke mis-hit a couple, pretty much as he's been doing in practice. Perhaps it's far too early to panic, since Perez shanked his fair share as a freshman, too.

The special teams highlight was Terrence Austin's 61-yard punt return for a touchdown, even though a couple of defenders might have been able to tackle him if they had been going at full speed.

Neuheisel, in the video interview after the scrimmage, said that Craft is leading for the starting quaterback position, and he attributed it to aspects of the competition that he can see, such as in the huddle and on film, that the public can't. With Craft, it appears to be a mental issue, with him getting wound up and losing focus. With Forcier it's really just a matter of experience, maturity and strength.

One note that has to be made was the very poor condition of the field at Drake Stadium. It was spongy, and was ripped up merely by running on it. There was a scary moment when Craft scrambled and slid for a first down, but he didn't actually slide since his cleats got dangerously caught in the grass. He dug up so much grass that it got caught all the way up to his knee brace. In the first few minutes of the scrimmage, Neuheisel was politely demanding a field crew to help with the grass. It was a very regrettable situation, that UCLA can't provide a good enough field to at least ensure its football players from not suffering injuries for its fall scrimmage.

UCLA's note on the field:

In mid-July, the grass field in Drake Stadium was in great shape for the football scrimmage and the upcoming men's and women's soccer seasons.

About three weeks prior to the scrimmage, the field underwent a weed-abatement spraying program. Due to a misapplication by a professional company, the spray killed much of the grass in addition to the weeds.

Faced with a field with mostly dirt and little or no grass, a decision was made to resod the field as quickly as possible. The field was resodded eight days prior to the scrimmage to ensure that the football players had a good, safe field for the scrimmage. The men's and women's soccer teams will also begin playing on the field in about a week.

Other players not participating in the scrimmage for various reasons were safety Glenn Love, offensive lineman Jess Ward, and freshman safety E.J. Woods.

With high school football programs starting their practice, there wasn't a big turnout for recruits. Recruits in attendance included committed guys linebacker Todd Golper and defensive Sheldon Price, as well as linebacker Robert Franco and defensive end Sterling Carter.

We'll have plenty more video and photo galleries from the scrimmage coming soon.


SCRIMMAGE STATS

Quarterback Stats

Kevin Craft – 8-18 for 93 yards
         3 interceptions
                 14-yard rushing touchdown
                 3-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Everett

Chris Forcier – 7-13 for 71 yards
                    0 touchdowns
                    1 interception

Receiving Stats

Ryan Graves – 2 for 13 yards
Nelson Rosario – 3 for 40 yards
Terrence Austin – 3 for 40 yards
Antwon Moutra – 2 for 26 yards

Rushing Stats

Aundre Dean – 5 for 15 yards
Raymond Carter – 6 for 1 yard
Johnathan Franklin – 7 for 32 yards

Defensive Stats

Sacks – John Hale, Nathaniel Skaggs, Korey Bosworth (2), Justin Mann, David Carter, Chinonso Anyanwu, Justin Edison

Interception – Rahim Moore, Kyle Bosworth (touchdown), Tony Dye, Alterraun Verner

Safety – team (1)

Special Teams

Terrence Austin - 61-yard punt return for touchdown



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