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Seeking a New Routine : Bruins: Old methods are discarded as UCLA tries to end slump against Oregon State.

October 15, 1994|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Monday, practice was late, after weightlifting, rather than the reverse.

Tuesday, things were normal.

Wednesday, breaks were taken during drills with the offense, and Bjorn Merten trotted onto the field to kick field goals, as though drives had been stopped.

Thursday, normally 12 practice periods of five minutes each in T-shirt and shorts, became 14 periods of six minutes each in shoulder pads that were expected to be used.

Friday, instead of the usual light walk-through, there was a team meeting and no practice.

The idea is to break UCLA's routine tonight against Oregon State at the Rose Bowl. The Bruins, 2-4 and 0-3 in the Pacific 10, have lost four games in a row, and Coach Terry Donahue is trying anything--everything--to break the streak.

"What did a man say? If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" he said. "When it's broken, you've got to fix it.

"When you're in this type of situation, you want to, No. 1, have new hope. You want things to change and not have just the same old stuff. . . . It's a lot different when things are going right."

A year ago, when UCLA was on a seven-game winning streak in a Rose Bowl season, the practice routine was inviolate and Oregon State was a bump in the road to a showdown game against Arizona that had Pac-10 championship ramifications.

The Bruins nearly stumbled over the bump, winning in Corvallis, 20-17, when Merten--who has kicked two field goals in his last eight attempts--had two 35-yard field goals in the fourth quarter. UCLA players acknowledged that they had Arizona on their minds and were glad to escape Oregon State with a victory.

This season, their minds are no farther away than the Rose Bowl tonight. Oregon State (1-4, 0-3) looks like Penn State when you have lost four in a row.

Arizona is the opponent next week, which might as well be next year if UCLA does not beat the Beavers.

"We're just trying to get a win," Donahue said. "Saturday night, we're approaching it that this is a big test for us, and we've got to pass the test. It'll be hard. They're a good team. They took SC all the way to the end, and we've got to make some plays Saturday night."

Oregon State's 27-19 loss to USC last Saturday provided an example of the Beavers' problems. They led the Trojans in the second quarter, 13-2, fell behind, 27-13, then rallied behind freshman quarterback Tim Alexander.

Oregon State's hope for the future, Alexander, the high school player of the year in Florida last season, rushed for 117 yards, including a run to the USC four, on which he was knocked out of bounds and broke his collarbone.

Rahim Muhammad replaced Alexander and fumbled on the next play.

Alexander is out for the season, and Oregon State's starter, Don Shanklin, who suffered a recurrence of a sprained foot against the Trojans, is expected back tonight.

The Beavers run the wishbone offense, and Shanklin runs it well. He averages 6.9 yards a carry and has even thrown the occasional pass, something Oregon State is not known for. The Beavers have thrown only 39 times all season, but Shanklin completed a 64-yarder to Cam Reynolds for their first touchdown against USC.

Oregon State has 318 yards passing in five games. It had only 311 yards all last season.

Shanklin and Alexander notwithstanding, the Beavers' offense is built around halfback J.J. Young, who is averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

Winning has been a big problem at Oregon State, which has beaten only Wyoming, 44-31, and has lost three games in a row.

"We've had some heart-wrenching losses, and we've been able to get to the point in a game where we've had two or three plays that, if we had made the play, we were going to be successful," Coach Jerry Pettibone said. "We've not been able to do that."

Neither has UCLA.

In the losing streak, UCLA has shown an alarming tendency to give points away with offensive mistakes. The Bruins have been outscored, 133-38, in their losing streak and five touchdowns have followed UCLA turnovers.

"We've just got to move the ball and do some good things," Donahue said. "It's interesting in how all this is intertwined. We've got to give our defense some hope that the offense can score, so the defense doesn't get demoralized. What happens to you in football is that when people make big plays, you get juiced up, excited. None of that is happening for us."

It's another routine that UCLA is trying to change.

UCLA BRUINS

TONIGHT'S GAME

* Opponent: Oregon State Beavers.

* Site: Rose Bowl.

* Time: 7.

* Records: UCLA 2-4, 0-3 in the Pac-10; Oregon State 1-4, 0-3.

* Radio: XTRA (690).

* TV: Prime Ticket.

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