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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Despite major personnel losses, UCLA offense keeps”

    UCLA’s Karl Dorrell shares one thing with Pete Carroll, besides being a head football coach in Los Angeles and the co-holder of last season’s Pacific 10 Conference Coach of the Year award.

    In also attempting to replace invaluable veterans at quarterback, running back and tight end, Dorrell has used a philosophy strikingly similar to Carroll’s with the No. 3 Trojans: throwing inexperienced talent into key roles and pushing those athletes not to show any slack on the field.

    Ever.

    “”I think our mindset has to be playing aggressive,”” Dorrell said. “”We’re not going to pull back. We’re going to keep taking our shots. We’re going to keep putting our players in a position to make plays, and those plays will happen.””

    That strategy was executed to near perfection in the Bruins’ 31-0 victory over Stanford last Saturday.

    After a mistake-ridden first half in which UCLA stayed just a touchdown ahead of the Pac-10’s worst team, quarterback Ben Olson and running back Kahlil Bell led an 11-play, 74-yard drive that culminated in a Chane Moline touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 2:45 left in the third quarter.

    The Bruins used a field goal, another Moline score and a fumble recovery for a touchdown over the next 18 minutes to put the final outcome, according to Dorrell, much more appropriately in their favor.

    “”I’m figuring out that this offense is really close to being a very, very good offense. It’s just misfiring here and there,”” he said. “”I think we made up some of that gap with the success we had in the second half.””

    The team’s struggles against the Cardinal highlighted that its offense is still a work in progress at present but a shell of the high-octane attack led by Drew Olson (no relation to Ben), Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcedes Lewis this time last year.

    The biggest drop-off has been at quarterback, where the Olson-for-Olson switch has reaped mixed results.

    Where Drew Olson threw a school-record 34 touchdowns last year against only six interceptions, the sophomore Ben – five scores, five picks through four games in his first year as a starter – has been glaringly mortal.

    Nonetheless, both Dorrell and UA head coach Mike Stoops have complimented Ben Olson on his handling of the offense, which is still averaging 26.7 points per game compared to 39.1 last year.

    “”They’re trying to find themselves some playmakers, as well,”” Stoops said, comparing the Bruins’ early offensive struggles to the Wildcats’. “”But they always have that consistent run game to fall back on.””

    Junior running back Chris Markey has done the best job among the high-profile replacements.

    Just as Jones-Drew made a name for himself as an all-purpose monster, rushing, receiving and returning kickoffs and punts with equal aplomb, Markey is starting to show an all-important versatility.

    Markey’s return skills remain rudimentary, and he has only nine catches in four games, but his skills as a runner (6.6 yards per carry) has kept him tops on the depth chart above the sophomore Bell, his main preseason rival.

    “”They have a little more (explosiveness) than we have, because they’ve been able to run the ball more effectively, obviously, than we have,”” Stoops said. “”That’s why the running game is so important.””

    Although Lewis created unique matchup problems with his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame, sophomore tight end Logan Paulsen has held true to the former UCLA standout in both his heft (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and his propensity for production.

    Like Lewis a year ago, Paulsen is the team’s leading receiver, with 10 receptions for 144 yards.

    Stoops said he sees the biggest comparison between this year’s versions of the Bruins and Trojans in each team’s ability to keep its system intact and simply plug in personnel holes as needed.

    USC, in its quest to replace signal-caller Matt Leinart, backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White and tight end Dominique Byrd, has used a team-record 15 freshmen from its 23-member recruiting class that ranked No. 1 in the country.

    “”They’re a zone-oriented team, with a little power running and the inside zone,”” Stoops said of UCLA. “”They run their plays. They have enough to hang their hat on.””

    Despite the Wildcats holding the Bruins to 14 points in their game last year, safety Dominic Patrick said the defense isn’t going to downplay the potential of UCLA’s attack, even with significant changes to it that could play into Arizona’s hands.

    “”We game plan around a team,”” he said, “”so whatever set of players they have, we’re going to game plan around that.””

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