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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 8

Bruins Dig a Big Hole on the Ground

Pac-10: Paus moves the ball through the air, but Cal's defense holds UCLA running game to meager 45 yards.

October 15, 2000|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BERKELEY — You call this a running game? The way UCLA played it Saturday in its 46-38 loss to California, it was more like a walking or crawling game.

Add it up. In four full quarters and one wildly entertaining overtime, the Bruins made 45 yards when they were running the football.

What was wrong? Freddie Mitchell, the UCLA flanker, wasn't exactly sure.

"Every time I looked back, dude was getting sacked," Mitchell said. "Hard to tell."

In this case, "dude" is Bruin quarterback Corey Paus, who was indeed sacked a few times (three actually) and under constant pressure from Cal's defense. But Paus was also free to pass for 309 yards and four touchdowns, so you would have to say he was effective.

Mitchell caught eight passes for 167 yards and one touchdown, which clearly makes him more of a fan of the passing game than the running game.

"If it was up to me, I'd pass the whole time," Mitchell said.

And if the Bruins don't get their act together on the ground, that might be the only way left for UCLA to go.

It's probably going to be a couple of weeks before DeShaun Foster is ready to play again, but the Bruins' running-game problems were so severe Saturday, it might not have mattered if Foster had been around.

UCLA Coach Bob Toledo said there was one basic problem.

"You gotta block people," he said. "When you don't open any holes it doesn't matter who is carrying the ball."

Fair enough. The Bruins' offensive line has been identified as one of the team's strengths and with Cal pressuring Paus, the opportunities to run the ball successfully would seem to rise accordingly. Only that's not the way it happened.

Akil Harris ran 20 times for 59 yards. Jermaine Lewis ran 16 times for 15 yards. The other Bruins who carried the ball lost a combined 29 yards.

Oscar Cabrera, the left guard, gave credit to the California defensive line . . . sort of.

"That's just a tough defense," he said. "But we didn't execute. We just couldn't get it done.

"And it doesn't matter whether we pass 100 times and run once, we still have to do the right things on that one play."

At times, the Bruins' play-calling seemed something less than inspiring, but maybe that's the byproduct of a nonexistent running game. Almost every time the Bruins ran the ball, it was a struggle.

Case in point: Cal has scored first in overtime for a 35-28 lead and UCLA has a third and goal at the Bears' six-yard line.

Lewis runs a sweep left for no gain . . . but, wait, the Bears were penalized for encroachment and UCLA gets a first down at the two.

First down: Harris runs up the middle for one yard.

Second down: Paus keeps up the middle for no gain.

Third down: Paus keeps up the middle and gets across the goal line.

Of course, the yards get tough in the shadow of the goal posts, but there didn't seem to be a lot of confidence flowing along the UCLA sideline as far as the running game is concerned.

Lewis said the running game has to be working to take the pressure off Paus.

"Even though Corey Paus had a great game, we just couldn't get things going on the ground," Lewis said. "From a running back's standpoint, we got to open up a lot of things. A lot of things."

In the meantime, don't even worry about how UCLA's defense gave up 46 points to a team that had scored only 69 all season in five games. Forget that UCLA hasn't won a road game since 1998. And don't be concerned that UCLA's next few games are at home against suddenly tough Oregon State, on the road at Arizona, at home against Stanford and on the road at Washington.

"We've got some tough games," Cabrera said. "The season doesn't get any easier."

The state the Bruins are in, that's too bad. But everything was positive before kickoff. Toledo's pregame talk was two-pronged. He told the Bruins they needed to start fast and reminded them it was time to win on the road.

"Those were two of our goals," he said.

And?

"We didn't realize either of our goals," he said.

Here are some suggestions. Next time, call some better running plays and get Foster's number on the speed dial.

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