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NO. 8 UCLA VS. OREGON STATE Saturday at the Rose Bowl,
4 p.m., TBS

Welcome, Matt

Former Bruin quarterback Moore lost a strange battle with Olson in Dorrell's first season, but now he's back leading Oregon State

October 19, 2005|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Saturday afternoon will mark a moment four years in the making for Matt Moore, who finally will take the field at the Rose Bowl as the unquestioned leader of a football team.

It just won't be the team he originally envisioned.

Moore was so eager to be UCLA's quarterback that he committed to the Bruins in September 2001, after making Westwood his only recruiting stop.

Now, as quarterback for Oregon State, the former Newhall Hart High star would like nothing more than to hand the eighth-ranked Bruins their first defeat of the season.

"It's definitely going to be awkward for me because I'm going to be on a different sideline than I used to be and wearing a different jersey, but I'm going to handle it like any other game," Moore said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.

"I'm going to stick to the game plan but have an attitude while doing it and hopefully win."

Moore, who left UCLA after losing the starting job late in the 2003 season, acknowledged having "a little chip on my shoulder" over the events that unfolded during his two seasons as a Bruin.

But he's happy where he landed, having guided Oregon State to a 4-2 start in his first season with the Beavers, including a 23-20 upset over then-No. 18 California last Saturday.

"He's done a great job, and I'm happy for him," UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said of Moore. "He's found a place for him to extend his college experience and play this game."

And, back at UCLA, Drew Olson, who alternated with Moore as the Bruin starter, has led UCLA to a 6-0 start, including three comeback victories to open Pacific 10 Conference play. Olson, a senior, recently became the No. 2 passer in school history, behind Cade McNown.

Moore and Olson haven't spoken since Moore left UCLA, but Moore said the biggest misconception of his time with the Bruins was that he and Olson were enemies.

"We're friends. We hung out all the time," said Moore, who will have one year of eligibility remaining after this season. "I was at his house; he was at my house. We did not hate each other. Because we were battling for a job, people were like, 'Oh, there's Matt. I wonder where Drew is. I wonder if they're feuding again.' "

So why hasn't Moore talked to Olson since leaving?

"Because I moved on and he's moved on," Moore said. "I'm here now and he's doing his thing in L.A."

At 6 feet 4 and 191 pounds, Moore is an inch taller and 34 pounds lighter than his UCLA counterpart, but Olson has an edge in the statistics that matter. Olson has completed 67.2% of his passes for 1,612 yards and 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

Moore has more interceptions than touchdowns, 10-7, and is next-to-last in the conference in pass efficiency, completing 58.1% of his passes for 1,766 yards. The knock on him is not on his talent; it's that he makes poor decisions.

But Mike Herrington, who coached Moore at Hart, marvels at the quarterback's moxie, noting that in the Cal game he threw three interceptions but, "he never was shaken in the game."

"He had one real bad interception and didn't see the linebacker. But that was early in the second quarter," Herrington said. "He shook it off and he was able to bounce back and play a solid game the rest of the way. That's just the type of competitor he is. If things go bad, he doesn't dwell on it and just keeps playing hard."

Moore's UCLA career got off to a promising start when, midway through what was expected to be a redshirt season in 2002, he filled in for injured quarterbacks Cory Paus and Olson and directed the Bruins to a victory over Stanford.

But in a whirlwind of events that would foreshadow the remainder of Moore's chaotic stay at the school, then-Bruin Coach Bob Toledo picked fellow freshman Olson to start the following week against Washington.

Olson started the final five games that season -- with Moore playing sporadically -- and was considered the favorite to become the permanent starter in 2003 after spring practice.

Moore said he wanted to transfer after Toledo was fired before the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl because he didn't want to play for a coach who didn't recruit him. But after meeting with Dorrell, Moore said he accepted the new coach's request to "stay, analyze the season, and go from there."

Then came the high point of Moore's Bruin career:

He beat out Olson in fall camp, with Dorrell announcing that Moore would be the starter just days before the Bruins' season opener at Colorado.

Which was followed quickly by another low point:

In the first quarter of that first game, Moore suffered a bruised left tibia when he was hit after releasing a pass.

Dorrell said at the time that a starter shouldn't lose his job to injury, but when Moore told coaches he was ready to return in early October Olson remained the starter.

Olson guided the Bruins to five wins in six games as the starter

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