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Norris is up for the challenge

September 12, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

UCLA cornerback Michael Norris expects to be busy Saturday when the Bruins play Brigham Young.

Norris is aware teams will come after him this season. The alternative would be throwing at Alterraun Verner, UCLA's top cover cornerback.

Verner was second on the team with four interceptions last season and picked up where he left off with an interception in the season opener against Tennessee.

"That's something I actually like; I welcome it," Norris said about the possibility of being challenged by opposing teams. "I understand that, because if I was in their position I'd do the same thing. It just gives me more opportunities to do some good things."

He'll get that Saturday. Last season, BYU had 622 yards passing in two games against the Bruins, a 27-17 regular-season loss and a 17-16 victory in the Las Vegas Bowl.

And the Cougars rank third nationally in passing through two weeks of this season. Quarterback Max Hall, a returning starter, has quality targets in wide receiver Austin Collie and tight end Dennis Pitta.

"They are so in-tune because they've known each other for a long time," Norris said. "The receivers understand the quarterback and the quarterback understands his receivers. It's an experienced offense."

The Bruins' secondary is in transition. Bret Lockett returns at strong safety after a one-game suspension. Rahim Moore, a freshman who started in place of Lockett against Tennessee, may replace Aaron Ware at free safety.

Rarefied air

UCLA's mantra for Saturday's game? Take a deep breath . . . then another and another. They'll be playing at 4,850 feet above sea level.

"It's not about playing BYU, it's about playing in Utah with the altitude," defensive end Korey Bosworth said. "We got two weeks under our belts with the bye week, where we've really been conditioning and getting used to getting that oxygen in our blood. I think we'll be all right."

A year ago, UCLA faced Utah in Salt Lake City and came back with sore lungs and a 44-6 loss.

"It was tough; you can definitely tell the difference," Bosworth said. "If you get out of breath, you kind of have to take a couple breaths, drink some water and get back out there."

Coach Rick Neuheisel, who was on the other side of the altitude issue when he coached at Colorado, had this opinion: "The teams that didn't pay attention to the altitude were better off than those who came in and drank 68,000 bottles of water and kept a thumbtack in their left pocket and used all those different formulas that were supposed to make you play better."

Mixing and matching

There may be a changing of the guard.

Scott Glicksberg, the starter against Tennessee, and Darius Savage split time with the first team during practice this week, partly because Glicksberg was nursing a shoulder injury that probably will require surgery at the end of the season.

Either Chane Moline or Raymond Carter will start at tailback; Kahlil Bell is out because of a high ankle sprain.

Wide receiver Nelson Rosario has a knee injury and will not make the trip.

Injured seniors Ben Olson (foot), Patrick Cowan (knee), Logan Paulsen (foot) and Marcus Everett (toe) will make the trip.


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