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Neuheisel admires what Craft has done for him lately

October 20, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

If nothing else, UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft has survival skills.

On the verge of being yanked, he drove the Bruins 88 yards for a field goal in the last two minutes of the first half against Stanford on Saturday. On the precipice of defeat, he took them 87 yards for a game-winning touchdown in the last two minutes of the game.

Craft and the Bruins seem to handle playing four minutes of football. What to do during the other 56 minutes will be work for the week as UCLA prepares to play at California this Saturday.

"I think Kevin is doing great things," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "You factor in his experience and an offense that is completely foreign to him. We're asking him to do an awful lot. He doesn't go in the tank when things go wrong. You have to admire that."

Craft survived his own performance against Tennessee -- four first-half interceptions -- and drove the Bruins to a go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes of the season opener. He nearly rallied UCLA in the fourth quarter of a loss to Oregon, then got the job done against Stanford.

But finding ways to spread those performances over the entire game has eluded the Bruins' coaching staff so far.

"We'll explore everything from personnel changes to scheme changes," Neuheisel said. "One of the things you have to understand is it is difficult to change and not suffer some on your efficiency."

Using elements of the two-minute offense throughout the game sounds simple, but is somewhat unrealistic.

Using more no-huddle is an option, but "you have to remember what you're doing to the defense, leaving them exposed in terms of time on the field," Neuheisel said.

Working out of the shotgun more would "buy you extra time, but it is hard to get as much running game from it," Neuheisel said.

Craft will probably be moved outside the pocket with rollouts, an effective tactic against Stanford.

"I thought that was brilliant by Norm," Neuheisel said of offensive coordinator Norm Chow. "We were having a hard time holding up [the pass rush]. . . . I think it helps Kevin a little. There is some comfort in being on the move."


Baby boomers

Of Craft's 23 completions, nine went to true freshmen, including the seven-yard pass to Cory Harkey for the game-winning touchdown. Taylor Embree had four receptions for 72 yards, Nelson Rosario four for 71 yards, with two catches on the drive to the winning touchdown.

"Nelson burst on the scene," Neuheisel said. "If that's an indication of what's to come, he can be a huge weapon. Both those passes he caught were balls over the middle that couldn't be touched by the defense. It opens up the possibilities of bigger plays."


Odds and ends

Stanley Hasiak, a 6-foot-6, 320-pound offensive lineman from Kapolei, Hawaii, said he has orally committed to play for UCLA. . . . Defensive end Reginald Stokes suffered a knee injury Saturday and Neuheisel said, "We'll wait and see how he does through the week."


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