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Inside College Football | UCLA REPORT

Offensive Mistakes Are All Around

September 18, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

UCLA ranks last among 117 Division I-A schools in average total offense after two games -- not exactly a ringing endorsement for the West Coast attack that first-year Coach Karl Dorrell brought to Westwood last spring.

But neither Dorrell nor offensive coordinator Steve Axman will second-guess the decision to implement the complicated Denver Bronco-like scheme that often takes months, sometimes years, to master.

"I've said all along that this is not a veteran group," Axman said of an offense that starts one senior, flanker Ryan Smith, and is averaging 223.5 yards. "When you look across the board, the people who are playing and the positions they're playing, in one sense [inexperience is] a concern, but the nice thing is knowing they're going to be around for two or three years learning the offense.

"Any time you put in a new offense, it takes time to digest it. I'm sure that has something to do [with the struggles], but I think it's more a lack of execution. It's easy to look at the dropped passes, but when you have wide-open guys and you don't make the plays

The Bruins dropped seven passes, two of which might have gone for touchdowns, in Saturday's 6-3 victory over Illinois, mistakes they can't afford to make against top-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday. But the breakdowns weren't only in the receiving corps.

"Each of our positions has made significant enough mistakes to make a difference," Axman said. "It's been a unit thing. The dropped passes are easy to see. It's not easy to see a lineman missing a cutoff or not getting a linebacker, or a back missing a cut.

"We've been operating on nine or 10 cylinders and not consistently on all 11 cylinders, and you need to do that because this is a team game. It's been more of a problem of an individual or two breaking down on each play, and as a result, that's not allowing us to execute as a unit. But we feel we're pretty close."


Starting cornerback Matt Clark, who was held out of the Illinois game because of an academic issue, cleared UCLA's standards for eligibility on Wednesday and is awaiting word from the NCAA -- probably today -- on whether he'll be cleared to play Saturday.

Clark played in the Bruins' season-opening 16-14 loss to Colorado, but UCLA discovered last Friday that Clark received an incomplete for a history class he took in the fall quarter of 2002, a mark that dropped his grade-point average below the NCAA minimum requirement of 1.8 for juniors.

Clark made up the work for his history professor and, according to UCLA athletic officials, received a mark that pushed his GPA above the NCAA's required minimum. But the NCAA still must clear Clark for him to retain his eligibility.

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