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Moore Patiently Waiting for a Chance

Bruin backup is a little frustrated he lost starting job because of injury, but he supports Olson.

October 19, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Matt Moore made a trip to the water bucket, and people elbowed each other, certain he was about to warm up.

He took off his cap, and they nodded knowingly.

Then he doused his head with water and put his cap back on without ever reaching for his helmet.

Moore's bruised left leg has long since healed, but the quarterback who won the UCLA job in training camp is stuck on the sideline while Drew Olson plays just well enough to keep winning.

"I'm happy, I'm excited. We're 3-0 in the Pac-10, undefeated," Moore said, then admitted what is obvious.

"Personally, yeah, it's frustrating," he said.

Moore wasn't supposed to lose his job because of injury, but he didn't even play in UCLA's 23-20 overtime victory over California on Saturday because things didn't go badly enough or well enough for him to get the nod.

"I think we went in thinking if things weren't going well and we needed to reignite the offense and make a change that would be a good time," offensive coordinator Steve Axman said. "Or if we got a big lead, that would be a good time."

But even though Coach Karl Dorrell said before the game Moore would play, the time never came.

"Right now we have a four-game winning streak," Axman said. "I feel our quarterback is playing well and he's getting better. To make a change -- you've got to worry about making that type of change. On the other hand we feel very confident in Matt and his ability to step in."

Before the season, Moore was the sort of impatient young buck who said he'd think about transferring if he didn't win the starter's job. Now he's trying his hardest to put the "M" in team.

"I'm trying to play my role now," Moore said. "I've said before I'm Drew's eyes on the sideline. I let him know what I see and we go over it. My role is when I'm supposed to play, then I play.

"Last week they told me when I was going in. This week there was a little comment made that I was going to play, but it came down to game situations."

Olson completed nine of 20 passes for 173 yards Saturday, was sacked six times and was lucky not to throw an interception. But he threw two touchdown passes, and UCLA won.

So Moore stood and watched.

In the three games since he returned from injury, he has thrown eight passes.

"It's hard to handle," Moore said. "You've just got to stick with it. It's tough."

Olson and Axman know that, and they are impressed with the way Moore has handled the situation.

"Obviously it's really frustrating for him," Olson said. "It's a huge help to this team not to let it be a controversy. It's kind of like when New England went to the Super Bowl, and Drew Bledsoe was such a class act [when Tom Brady was playing.] It means everything to me."

Axman praised Moore as well.

"It's very frustrating for him. I know he's frustrated. We talk about it," Axman said. "I feel bad for him. I'd love to see him getting lots and lots of reps.

"The toughest thing is he is getting a lot of other pressures, outside pressures that come into play in his situation. He's a local kid, so there are a lot of people who know Matt Moore. His hometown is close by. There are a lot of people who feel, 'Hey, you should be playing.'

"He's been a first-class individual about it. I'm real proud of him."

Watch Moore warm up or in practice, and it doesn't take a quarterback expert to see his ability and potential seem greater than Olson's.

But Olson plays, and everyone waits to see if Moore will play again in more than garbage time.

"I sure as hell hope so," Moore said. "If not, I don't know what I'll do. I'll figure that out later."

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