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UCLA REPORT

After `Rusty' Opener, Taylor Makes Plays

September 12, 2006|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Senior wide receiver Junior Taylor waited a long time to return to the football field after suffering a devastating knee injury in UCLA's third game a year ago.

Then in his first game back, the Bruins' victory over Utah to begin this season, Taylor dropped two passes.

"That game just went so fast for me," said Taylor, who redshirted last season and missed spring drills because of the torn ligament in his left knee.

"I went out there against Utah really anxious to play but I was rusty. I missed some balls and did some things that I normally never do."

On Saturday, Taylor bounced back with a strong performance in UCLA's 26-16 win over Rice. Taylor caught four of quarterback Ben Olson's 13 completions, one for nine yards and a touchdown in the second quarter that gave the Bruins a 13-0 lead.

"I was just a lot more confident out there," said Taylor, who leads UCLA in catches with six for 54 yards. "I felt more comfortable in my routes and was able to do some things."

Taylor, who stabilizes the problem knee with a brace, may not be 100% but he displayed his skills on the touchdown grab. He made a nifty move at the line of scrimmage to get around Rice cornerback Ja'Corey Shepherd, then completed the play with a sure catch in the back of the end zone.

"That felt good," said Taylor, 20th on UCLA's all-time receiving list with 82 receptions. "But we could have had a lot more plays in the passing game.... It was frustrating because we would be open but Ben didn't have time to get us the ball."

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Coach Karl Dorrell on UCLA's play against Rice after watching game tape:

"We had some pretty good performances, although we didn't get the points on the board. We weren't executing to get touchdowns instead of field goals.

"This will be a great game to go over with for our team; so we can catch up some things that we can be really good at.... We did a lot of positive things, but there were just some miscues that overshadow the potential of what this team can become."

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UCLA, which does not play this weekend, returns to practice today and Dorrell said the Bruins would pay particular attention to ball protection, perimeter tackling and punt returns over the short work week.

At 2-0, UCLA is unranked but the Bruins received 33 votes in the Associated Press top-25 poll.... UCLA's game at Washington on Sept. 23 will start at 4 p.m. and be televised on TBS.

Dorrell said cornerback Michael Norris, UCLA's most experienced nickel back, was expected to play against the Huskies after sitting out the first two games of the season because of a knee injury. Senior wide receiver Joe Cowan, who also has been sidelined because of a knee injury, may start limited work this week.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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