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Chow takes his time with Craft

UCLA FYI

September 24, 2008|Chris Foster | Times Staff Writer

Long after UCLA was done practicing Tuesday, offensive coordinator Norm Chow and quarterback Kevin Craft remained on the field, talking about and going over Craft's footwork.

That teaching moment was another step in trying to fix a woeful offensive situation. The Bruins have scored 37 points, the fewest through three games since 1971, when UCLA scored 35 in Coach Pepper Rodgers' first season.

Craft emerging to right the listing offensive ship remains the Bruins' best hope. Coach Rick Neuheisel has said, "I have seen it inside him" but as to how to make that translate into Craft's play, he said, "I can't answer the question."

Neuheisel added, "I have seen sparks of it. He has not been consistent. You ask yourself what's the next step? Challenge him with competition. The other kids are trying to take his job, but I don't think that they've done that yet. We have to keep pushing through and searching until we get the right answer."

Those sound bytes will need to have bite on the field against 25th-ranked Fresno State on Saturday.

The Bruins' offense has not scored a touchdown in two games and ranks 117th in scoring among the 119 Division I teams. Craft threw for 81 yards in the 31-10 loss to Arizona on Saturday.

While Craft has been studying and executing Chow's offense through spring practice, fall camp and a month of the season, his numbers have deteriorated since the opener against Tennessee.

He completed 12 of 14 passes for 139 yards in the fourth quarter of that game. He has completed 49 of 99 passes for 431 yards in 11 other quarters this season.

Chow says he still believes that Craft is running the offense at too quick a pace.

"It's like when a little person learns how to speak and they stutter because their mind's going faster than they can think," Chow said.

How to fix that is the question.

"We just have to keep working with him," Chow said.

Craft echoes the same thing.

"I have to be more consistent," Craft said. "I do the classroom work, look at tape, do the homework. If you keep digging you'll be able to fight and claw."

Bell tolls again

Tailback Kahlil Bell, out the last three weeks because of a high ankle sprain, could take pressure off Craft, provided he is able to play Saturday. Bell sat out much of the last half of practice Tuesday after pulling up lame on a running play.

"I was just stretching my hamstrings," Bell said. "It has been four weeks since I've been practicing. You run the ball 60 yards down field, your hamstring tightens up, especially if you haven't done anything in a while."

Neuheisel was expecting Bell to play Saturday but wasn't sure how effective he would be.

"I hope he makes a big difference, but the proof is in the pudding," Neuheisel said. "He was adequate today. He is not 100%, but hopefully he will gain on that as we get close to the end of the week."

Odds and split ends

Tackle Micah Kia (back) and tight end Cory Harkey (ankle) were called day to day by Neuheisel, though Harkey hobbled around the practice field with a protective boot on his right leg.

Tackle Jeff Baca, a true freshman, worked with the first team in place of Kia.

Defensive tackle Jerzy Siewerski (neck) and wide receiver Nelson Rosario (knee) both went through the full practice.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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