It's all about pain for redshirt freshman Ben Olson. The more he can endure, the quicker the quarterback will be back on the football field.
That's why Olson, who has been sidelined the last two weeks because of a small fracture in his throwing hand, has been pushing himself in practice this week. He's been taking snaps, handing the ball off to backs and throwing short passes to test how much he can do with his injury, and Wednesday night, Olson even participated in a few team drills.
"I'm trying to get ready for this Saturday," Olson said about UCLA's game against Rice at the Rose Bowl. "It just depends on what the hand will let me do. It's a pain issue.... [UCLA doctors] are not worried about me breaking it worse or injuring it that way."
Olson's biggest problem is his left index finger, which has become weaker because of the fracture. Once Olson is able to use the finger to throw with force, he said he'll be ready.
"Right now, I really don't have a whole lot of strength, trying to get over the top with my pointer finger to throw the ball," Olson said. "It's getting better. I'm able to grip a football, but my hand is still bruised."
Although UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell did not rule Olson out, it did not seem as if he expected him to be ready for this weekend.
"He's not close to being in ... position to play yet," Dorrell said. "He is getting some reps and throwing a little bit. He's taken some snaps, and that's the first step. But I don't think the likelihood of that is going to happen this week."
Redshirt freshman Nathaniel Skaggs started at defensive tackle against San Diego State and finished without a tackle. Skaggs' backup, freshman Chase Moline, was credited with two tackles in limited action.
This week in practice, Moline and Skaggs have split time working with the first-team defense.
"You'll see them both split time in there," Dorrell said about the players' role on Saturday. "Moline played well against San Diego State, so he's warranted more playing time."
Defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, commenting on preparing for Rice's new offense, which reportedly is a mixture of the Owls' option base and a spread shotgun attack: "We don't know if we're going to see the wishbone or the shotgun triple option," Kerr said. "We'll probably see it all, and the thing is, they probably can do it all too.
"You just have to try and go off of history. You have to try and prepare for what they are talking about, but we really don't know."
Rice has seven starters back from a defense that gave up 34.3 points per game last season. The Owls' average took a hit in a 70-63 loss to San Jose and 51-14 loss to Louisiana Tech.... Rice was originally scheduled to play Houston to open the season, but when the Owls joined Conference USA, they moved the game against Houston to Nov. 26.... Linebacker Wesley Walker, sidelined since having arthroscopic knee surgery in early August, has been slowly working his way back, and Dorrell said he could play against Oklahoma on Sept. 17.... UCLA had a couple of minor fights in practice Wednesday, highlighted by a tussle between freshman quarterback Osaar Rasshan and junior quarterback Brian Callahan. Sophomore linebacker Fred Holmes and senior offensive tackle Robert Cleary also exchanged blows.... The Bruins received a non-binding commitment from kicker Kai Forbath from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School.