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UCLA REPORT

Offense Battles Confusion

September 24, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Confused by the UCLA offense? You're not alone. A mistake-prone unit that has scored only 37 points in three games and ranks 116th out of 117 Division I-A teams in total yards a game has also been plagued by miscommunication from the sideline to the huddle.

"We've had a lot of plays miscalled in the huddle and a lot of signals wrong," said quarterback Matt Moore, who has been sidelined since the first quarter of the season opener because of a knee injury. "That's not just people on the field, that's people on the sideline too."

The miscommunication, apparently caused by the complexity of Coach Karl Dorrell's new West Coast offense and the length of time it takes to signal in plays, has occasionally resulted in quarterback Drew Olson not receiving the correct formation. On occasion, the wrong formation or wrong play has been called.

As a result, UCLA probably will have backup quarterbacks instead of receivers coach Jon Embree signaling in formations. Plays are sent in by players through running backs coach Eric Bieniemy.

"It's something that's being experimented with," Dorrell said, "but no decision has been made yet."

Olson said having backup quarterbacks signaling formations will "take a little pressure off the coaches. They're on the sideline doing a lot. They can focus more on the game plan, calling plays, getting the right personnel in there."

Has the confusion stemmed from the wrong formations or plays being called or Olson misreading the signals?

"It's a little of both," Olson said. "It wasn't really the coaches' fault.... It's something that shouldn't be happening, but it's not a big deal."

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Dorrell said Tuesday that it would be "two or three weeks" before Moore returns, "and there's no guarantee he'll be back for the Washington game" on Oct. 4. But Moore, sidelined because of a severe bone bruise, dropped back and threw passes Tuesday.

"I'm preparing to play against Washington," said Moore, who will wear a knee brace when he returns. "I think I could play this Saturday [against San Diego State] in an emergency, but they're not going to let me do that."

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Starting strong safety Jarrad Page was held out of contact drills Tuesday because of a stiff neck, but Page is expected to start Saturday.... Tight end Marcedes Lewis, listed as doubtful for Saturday because of a left shoulder sprain, responded well to treatment and participated in all phases of Tuesday's practice except contact drills.... Reserve fullback Pat Norton, who suffered a high ankle sprain Saturday against Oklahoma, watched Tuesday's practice on crutches. "They're saying I'll be out three to five weeks," Norton said. "I'll be back in two."

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