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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Injured Bruins give Wildcats advantage

    UA linebacker Ronnie Palmer gets his hands on Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft in the Wildcats 31-10 win over UCLA in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday. Craft threw for 81 yards, completing 15 of his 31 throws.
    UA linebacker Ronnie Palmer gets his hands on Bruins’ quarterback Kevin Craft in the Wildcats’ 31-10 win over UCLA in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday. Craft threw for 81 yards, completing 15 of his 31 throws.


    PASADENA, Calif. – If UCLA looked a little rusty on offense in its 31-10 loss to Arizona Saturday at the Rose Bowl, it would be hardly fair to blame them.

    After all, the Bruins had just one player in their starting offensive lineup who started in last year’s game against Arizona.

    As if UCLA’s quarterback injury issues to veterans Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson – making way for junior college transfer Kevin Craft to be the starting signal caller – weren’t bad enough, the Bruins had to cope with a banged up offensive line and the loss of starting tailback Khalil Bell.

    “”They are fighting through growing pains and that is just something you need to stay after,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. “”They have a good nucleus of good players and they can recruit.

    “”I don’t feel that sorry for them,”” Stoops added with a chuckle. “”We have been down this road before. I have had my butt handed to me and that’s just part of the process.””

    It was quite evident that Arizona’s defense was there to punish a banged up Bruin offense that had shown signs of weakness in previous games. The Wildcats weren’t ready to allow the Bruins to find their rhythm.

    Arizona allowed UCLA to gain 196 yards of total offense – an average 3.3 yards per play – which was rather unimpressive given the Bruins’ Chane Moline had a 40-yard rush on one play just before halftime.

    With UCLA’s lone touchdown achieved by its defense returning a fumble one yard for the score in the first quarter, Arizona allowed just three points to the Bruins’ offense.

    “”Our big plan was nothing easy. They weren’t going to get anything easy,”” said UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. “”The long run at the end of the half was the one (thing). We had a young d-lineman in there and (he) got cut off a little bit with some movement. So they ripped off that run, but outside of that we made them work for their yards.””

    The inexperienced Craft made his third career start Saturday. The Wildcats emphasized throughout practice last week the importance of getting to the quarterback and rattling him.

    It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to make Craft feel their presence.

    On the first play of the game, UA defensive tackle Earl Mitchell busted through the line and sacked Craft, and though the play was nullified by an Arizona offside penalty, the message was sent.

    “”We understood that we needed to get pressure on the quarterback this week and we just did it,”” said Mitchell, who looks to be making a smooth transition from fullback to the defensive line. “”It has been our emphasis all week and that is what we were trying to accomplish.””

    In all, the Wildcats sacked Craft three times for a loss of 17 yards in total, in addition to the countless times Arizona hit him as he threw and hurried his delivery. Linebacker Ronnie Palmer posted two sacks after not recording one since playing ASU in 2005.

    Craft – who showed he can get rattled by his four first-half interceptions against then-No. 18 Tennessee in the Bruins’ season opener – finished Saturday’s game 15-for-31 with 81 yards and no touchdowns.

    The Wildcats’ defense saw a noticeable change in Craft as the game went on, given he was dealing with a collection of Arizona defensive lineman in his face seemingly every play.

    “”I think our defensive line did a great job,”” said defensive back Nate Ness. “”When Coach was calling the field blitzes, we were pressuring him and getting him out of the pocket. As they got to him, he got more timid and that gives the defense more confidence.””

    The pressure on Craft mounted particularly because of UCLA’s inability to move the ball, perhaps making the Bruins’ feel the absence of Bell even more.

    Coming into the game against Arizona, the Bruins had just 38 total rushing yards through two contests – and the Wildcats’ were hoping to shut down UCLA’s rushing attack, forcing them to put the ball in Craft’s hands.

    The Bruins’ rushing game improved considerably with a 115-yard effort, but the Arizona forced UCLA to throw the ball to get back into the game.

    The Wildcats had the Bruins right where they wanted them.

    “”They were forced to throw, and that has been UCLA’s problem,”” Palmer said. “”Sometimes the best coverage you can have is just having pressure on the quarterback.””

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