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Line gets better by pound

September 04, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

UCLA offensive line coach Bob Palcic kept hammering home the point Monday night.

"I told my guys, 'Keep pounding the rock, keep pounding the rock, keep pounding the rock and eventually that rock is going to crack,' " Palcic said. "And it did."

For weeks, the Bruins' offensive line had been hearing that they weren't experienced enough or deep enough or good enough. Yet, after a 27-24 victory over Tennessee, they weren't ready to feel completely vindicated.

"We played well enough to win," center Micah Reed said. "That's all that mattered on Monday night. After watching the film, there are still a lot of things to do. I'm not going to say we're not the best offensive line in the Pac-10, but I'm going to go ahead and say we're getting to where we needed to be."

The Bruins gave up only one sack, as offensive coordinator Norm Chow's mandate was for quarterback Kevin Craft to get rid of the ball quickly throughout the game. Craft's mobility was also an asset, but the Bruins' line held its ground against the pass rush.

Pushing forward, on the other hand, the line was not up to the task. The Bruins gained only 29 yards rushing, averaging 0.9 yards a carry.

"I thought our pass protection was very good," Palcic said. "We struggled in run blocking. We had too many mental errors and technique flaws in the running game, but I am encouraged because I know that was the first college game most of those kids have ever played. They will continue to get better and we'll cut mistakes."

The biggest thing the line took out of the Tennessee game was experience.

"We had to get our feet wet in a hurry," Palcic said. "Playing against a Tennessee defense that is big, strong, physical and experienced is going to going to help us down the road. I could see the confidence grow in our guys as the game went along. I kept telling them, 'Keep it close until the fourth quarter and that's when we'll get them.' "

Odds and tight ends

With Logan Paulson expected to be out about eight weeks because of a fractured foot, the Bruins are left thin at tight end. Ryan Moya and freshman Cory Harkey are the team's top two tight ends. Converted defensive end Jeff Miller, redshirt freshman Glenn Rauscher and junior Adam Heater -- who was switched to center in spring, then switched back -- are the only other tight ends on the roster.

The Bruins also will be without wide receiver Marcus Everett (dislocated toe), and Kahlil Bell is questionable because of a sprained ankle, leaving the Bruins feeling the pinch after one game.

"We have to develop as much depth as possible, as the attrition of the season is wearing on us," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "Young kids have to keep responding to the chances they are given."

Looking ahead, not back

The no-pads workout Wednesday was the last day for the Bruins to celebrate the Tennessee victory, Neuheisel said.

"My rule is, you need to celebrate," Neuheisel said. "The misery of defeat is something you can't get rid of, you have to enjoy the victories. But there comes a time when you have to leave it behind. That's what we got done today."

Of course, as soon as Neuheisel finished, a television reporter said, "Talk about that Tennessee win, Coach."

Injury updates

Linebacker Reggie Carter (sprained knee) and wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (mononucleosis) are expected to return to practice next week. . . . Running back Christian Ramirez and center Kai Maiava missed practice because of illnesses in their families. . . . Quarterback Nick Crissman, who suffered a shoulder injury last week, will have a second MRI exam Friday.


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