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UCLA REPORT

The Offense Has Time to Cash In

September 21, 2006|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

UCLA has been a model of consistency over the first two games when it comes to keeping the football away from opponents.

The Bruins lead the Pacific 10 Conference in time of possession, averaging 35 minutes 37 seconds a game -- nearly two minutes more than any other team in the conference.

But ball control has not produced many touchdowns for UCLA's offense, which has reached the end zone only five times and is tied with Arizona for the fewest offensive scores in the Pac-10.

"I don't really consider time of possession a real vital statistic," UCLA offensive coordinator Jim Svoboda said. "It is in some cases, but there have been lots of examples of people who won games but did not win time of possession."

UCLA is averaging 192 yards rushing, 221 yards passing and 26 first downs a game. Good numbers but not dominating. With the Bruins starting conference play Saturday at Washington, their goal is to add more big plays to their ball control.

"When you get first downs, you maintain possession," Svoboda said. "But we also talk a lot about creating explosive plays through second effort."

In recent seasons, UCLA's big plays often came from running back Maurice Drew. With Drew now in the NFL, the Bruins have to look elsewhere, including quarterback Ben Olson.

"We're doing a lot of really good things," said Olson, who has completed passes to 10 receivers. "We just have to put it all together."

In his first season as a starter, Olson has thrown for 442 yards and five touchdowns while completing 73.1% of his passes. His 172.36 passing efficiency tops the Pac-10 and ranks sixth in the nation.

But Olson hasn't hit any deep throws. In UCLA's 26-16 victory over Rice, his longest completion was 18 yards and for the season, it's 46 yards to tight end Logan Paulsen, with a majority of those yards coming after the catch.

Svoboda said that he would like to get more opportunities for Olson to throw deep, but the Bruins will not force that to happen.

"It's predicated on what the defense is doing," Svoboda said. "If the cornerbacks are playing off, we'd be beating our heads against the wall trying to throw over the top against that. But if we have teams playing bump coverage, we'd like to take our chances."

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Two redshirt freshmen, quarterback Osaar Rasshan and running back Ryen Carew, have played important roles this week for UCLA's scout team offense. Rasshan has emulated Washington's Isaiah Stanback, and Carew has been the Huskies' Kenny James.

"Although we're not tackling, Osaar has given us a real good look and Carew does a great job of running," defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker said. "The key is that even when it looks like we have them bottled up, they keep running and playing, which makes our defense do the same. We just can't assume that these guys are tackled. We have to emphasize to keep running to the ball."

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Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham on UCLA quarterback Olson: "I knew Ben from his high school days because we tried to recruit him when I was at Stanford. We thought he was just one fine quarterback and I don't think that he's done anything to dispute that today. He's gotten off to a good start and he's been fairly selective in making sure that he doesn't put his team in a bad position."

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Cornerback Michael Norris is out for Saturday's game because he aggravated his knee injury in practice.

lonnie.white@latimes.com

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