Quarterback Matt Moore was granted a release from his scholarship by UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell on Thursday, leaving the Bruins extremely thin at quarterback for the Dec. 30 Silicon Valley Classic against Fresno State, as well as the near future.
And if Moore goes on to star at another school after transferring later this month, and Bruin sophomore starter Drew Olson doesn't develop into a top-rate passer, and UCLA is unable to recruit a standout quarterback in the next year or two, Dorrell may regret the words he uttered into his headset during a 47-22 loss to USC on Nov. 22.
Moore hinted at transferring last spring and wanted to transfer in September before his father talked him out of it. But if the former Newhall Hart High standout was on the fence about staying or leaving, Dorrell may have unwittingly shoved him off for good.
According to Hart Coach Mike Herrington, Moore was on the headphones listening to a conversation between Dorrell and offensive coordinator Steve Axman in the fourth quarter of the USC game, with UCLA trailing by 32 points. Axman asked Dorrell if he wanted Moore to warm up. Dorrell replied, "No, Olson needs the experience for the future."
Moore did not play in the game -- nor did he play in a 31-13 loss to Oregon the week before -- and he was the first Bruin to jog off the Coliseum field afterward.
UCLA coaches told Moore earlier this week that if he was going to leave, he should do it now. Moore asked for his release and will transfer -- Tennessee has been mentioned as a possible destination -- after final exams next week.
"He just didn't have that warm, fuzzy feeling there," said Moore's father, Don, who confirmed the Axman-Dorrell conversation. "He was disappointed about not playing the last two games. From the things that were said to him, he felt [the coaches] had made a decision and there wasn't going to be a competition anymore."
In a brief conversation with a reporter Thursday afternoon, Moore said: "I don't think for me to accomplish what I want to do is through UCLA. There's no bad blood. For me, what I need to do is ... I need to do it somewhere else."
Moore, who will have two more seasons of eligibility after using a red-shirt year, did not return calls Thursday evening.
Dorrell, whose first UCLA team is 6-6, was unavailable for comment.
As if Dorrell doesn't have enough problems, what with USC challenging for a national championship and some boosters calling for his ouster, he'll enter the Silicon Valley Classic with two reserve quarterbacks -- John Sciarra and walk-on Brian Callahan -- who have not taken a snap all season.
Of even bigger concern is the program's extreme lack of depth at quarterback, a position that was a recruiting priority before Moore's departure.
Dorrell has offered scholarships to three high school quarterbacks -- Matt Tuiasosopo of Washington, Eric Ainge of Oregon and Rocky Hinds of Playa del Rey St. Bernard -- but Tuiasosopo is leaning toward Washington, Hinds favors USC, and Ainge likes Tennessee.
Another possibility is former Thousand Oaks quarterback Ben Olson, who redshirted at Brigham Young in 2002 and left for a two-year Mormon mission this year. Olson's father said Thursday that his son will make a college decision when he returns in November of 2004.
Moore appeared to be UCLA's quarterback of the future when he won the job over Drew Olson in fall camp, but a knee injury in the first quarter of the season opener knocked him out for three weeks.
Dorrell said a starter shouldn't lose his job to injury, but when Moore declared himself fit in early October, Olson remained the starter. While Moore stewed -- privately -- Olson improved to 5-1 as a starter with wins over Arizona and California.
Moore was chosen the starter for Arizona State, completing 14 of 28 passes for 190 yards in a 20-13 victory on Oct. 25, but he struggled against Stanford and Washington State, and lost the job to Olson.
"He doesn't want to deal with this for another two years," Don Moore said. "He loves the school, he likes the coaches ... but it's a good time for him to move on. The thing about a good coach ... you need to pick a guy and go with him.
"You can't pull him when he's having a bad game or think the backup is going to rally you against a prevent defense after you're down by 20 points. I just think Matt feels they made him out to be a scapegoat for what, in reality, was a lousy team. The defense won three games, and if they don't, they go 3-9."
Staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
*--* Opponent (Result) Cmp Att Yds TD at Colorado (L 16-14) 4 7 41 0 Illinois (W 6-3) did not play at Oklahoma (L 59-24) did not play San Diego St. (W 20-10) did not play Washington (W 46-16) did not play at Arizona (W 24-21) 4 8 41 0 California (W 23-20 OT) did not play Arizona St. (W 20-13) 14 28 190 1 at Stanford (L 21-14) 19 31 145 0 at Wash. St. (L 31-13) 11 29 138 1 Oregon (L 31-13) did not play at USC (L 47-22) did not play TOTAL 52 103 555 2
Note: Moore played in five games in 2002, completing 33 of 62 passes for 412 yards and two touchdowns. He had six interceptions in two seasons, all in 2003.