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College Football | UCLA REPORT

New Quarterback Needs Protection

October 26, 2002|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Introducing ... Matt Moore.

The freshman UCLA quarterback makes his debut today. But he doesn't want to be too visible. In fact, he'd like nothing more than to conceal himself behind a wall of teammates.

"Our line is very good," he said. "I should have time to do what I need to do."

Pass protection, however, has been lacking. Opponents have blitzed UCLA silly -- although the resulting injuries to quarterbacks Cory Paus and Drew Olson have no one laughing.

The Bruins have allowed 22 sacks -- seven against California last week -- and rank ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference. The problem has been ongoing. UCLA quarterbacks were sacked a conference-high 102 times from 1999 to 2001, but never before have the results been so disastrous.

Responsibility does not rest solely with the offensive line. Freshmen fullbacks Keith Carter and J.D. Groves are still in the learning stages. Redshirt freshman tailback Tyler Ebell, 5 feet 9 and 170 pounds, is hard-pressed to handle blitzing linebackers.

And Moore must deliver the ball promptly. Paus had a tendency to take too long because he often looked to throw long passes.

Look for Moore -- or fellow freshmen Olson and John Sciarra -- to drop back quickly and throw short passes. "We're going to call passes that our quarterback has a chance to complete," Coach Bob Toledo said.

*

Compared to the quarterbacks and fullbacks, Ebell is beginning to feel as experienced as Emmitt Smith, although he has started only two games.

"With all the injuries, I've got to feel like a veteran and continue to step up," he said.

Ebell has rushed for 424 yards in the last three games, silencing critics who said he was too small to be an every-down back. The next question is whether he can block well enough to help protect the quarterback on passing plays.

Offensive coordinator Kelly Skipper said Ebell was making progress in that area too. "Tyler blocks pretty good," he said. "He lacks experience in pass protection -- he rarely had to do that in high school. But he's definitely coming on."

Backup tailback Akil Harris weighs 214 pounds and sometimes replaces Ebell on passing downs.

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The trombone section of the Stanford band will have a familiar sound to UCLA receiver Tab Perry.

His sister Tanicia, 23, a recent Stanford graduate, still plays the instrument in the band at football games. Perry's parents also are Stanford graduates.

"I'm the odd one out," he said.

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