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College Football | UCLA REPORT

They Need Work on Short Game

November 02, 2002|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — For UCLA, the end zone has become like a mirage to a thirsty man crawling through the desert. The closer the Bruins get, the more difficult it is to reach.

Consider:

* They have had first and goal inside the five-yard line three times in the last two weeks without scoring a touchdown.

* They have been inside the 20-yard line 31 times and scored only 13 touchdowns, fewer than any other Pacific 10 Conference team except Arizona.

* In the last three games, 10 trips to the red zone have resulted in only two touchdowns.

Part of the difficulty is the absence of 240-pound running back Manuel White, who will sit out his fourth game in a row today because of a pulled hamstring. But a greater problem has been the passing game.

Only two of UCLA's 11 touchdown passes have come in the red zone. Play action hasn't worked. Fade routes haven't worked.

"Defenses are compressing the field [in the red zone] and a lot of the field is taken away," Coach Bob Toledo said.

With a freshman quarterback (either Matt Moore or Drew Olson) and a small tailback (170-pound Tyler Ebell), UCLA must get creative. Bigger running backs such as Akil Harris, Wendell Mathis and Jason Harrison might get carries, or cornerback Matt Ware might play quarterback and run an option play.

But the passing game must contribute. The best weapon could be tight end Mike Seidman, who has shown the ability to outwrestle safeties for passes.

*

Sometimes the best adjustment is admitting an earlier decision was a mistake. Ware moved to free safety at the beginning of the season, but he returned to cornerback five games ago and the Bruin defense has soared.

UCLA has given up only 286 yards and 15.6 points a game with Ware at cornerback and 397 yards and 33 points a game with him at safety. The Bruins held their last two opponents, California and Stanford, to their lowest passing outputs of the season.

Ware, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, typically covers the opponent's tallest receiver, who today is 6-5 Reggie Williams. However, the other Bruin cornerback, 5-9 two-time All-Pac-10 choice Ricky Manning, wants some of Williams too.

"Manning will be upset with us if we don't put him on Williams," Toledo said. "He and [defensive coordinator] Phil Snow will have words. Ricky is a fierce competitor."

*

UCLA quarterback Cory Paus is recovering from surgery on his fibula and will watch from home, but there will be a Paus on the field today. Cory's younger brother, Casey, is a Washington redshirt freshman and the third-string quarterback.

*

Antwuan Smith, a receiver from Clovis, has received a qualifying score on the SAT and will enroll at UCLA for the winter quarter.

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