The mere name of UCLA's tight end -- Marcedes Lewis -- evokes an image of luxury, of a sleek and powerful vehicle that is a cut above the rest, and Lewis certainly has the chassis to match, an athletic 6-foot-6, 251-pound frame that looks fresh off the NFL assembly line.
But for the last five weeks, Lewis has been stuck in the garage, looking for the key to unlock the array of talents and features he displayed in the Bruins' season-opening 16-14 loss to Colorado on Sept. 6.
Lewis caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Buffaloes, making a leaping grab of Drew Olson's 13-yard pass in the end zone to give UCLA a 14-10 lead at the end of the third quarter. He also had a 34-yard pass reception nullified by a holding penalty.
He has caught six passes for 72 yards in the five games since.
"I'm getting a little antsy," said Lewis, a sophomore from Long Beach Poly High. "But that's good because when I get my opportunity, I'm going to break loose. I'm going to do everything I can do when I get the ball, because you never know when you're going to get the ball again."
Wide receiver Craig Bragg has emerged as Olson's favorite target, and opposing defenses have given the Bruins more opportunities to throw deep, often taking Lewis out of the mix. But that could change today against California.
The Bears love to blitz, and Lewis could go from a third or fourth option to the first option if Olson needs to dump quick passes over the middle.
"They put a lot of stuff in [the game plan] for me this week, so we'll see what happens," Lewis said. "But I'm not disappointed because we're winning.... We're winning games and I'm not getting the ball much, so imagine what we'll do when I get the ball."
The UCLA defense played its worst game of the season at Arizona last Saturday, missing -- by defensive coordinator Larry Kerr's count -- 37 tackles while allowing the worst offensive team in the nation to gain 519 total yards. But the Bruins think it might have been what they needed.
"It helped us grow as a defense," linebacker Spencer Havner said. "We were pretty happy with the defense in the first five games; it was good to have a game that sets you back a bit, slaps you in the face. It makes you better. We didn't tackle against Arizona, and that amounted to hundreds of yards after the first hit. We realize how important it is to wrap guys up."