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Cal's Jahvid Best offers next challenge

UCLA FYI

If left unchecked, he could be the third tailback in a row to have a big game against the Bruins.

October 14, 2009|Mark Medina

UCLA hopes a pattern isn't forming that entails the opponent's tailback having a showcase performance.

First it was Stanford's Toby Gerhart (134 yards). Then it was Oregon's LaMichael James (152 yards). This week, UCLA faces California's Jahvid Best, considered a Heisman Trophy front-runner before the Bears were thumped in consecutive losses to Oregon and USC.

"If you don't get your arms around him, he is going to make you pay and pay dearly," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We got to wrap up and squeeze this week."

Best has rushed for 514 yards with nine touchdowns, including eight on runs this season. He was held to 55 yards by Oregon and 47 by USC, though both times the game was so lopsided that the Bears all but abandoned the run.

UCLA linebacker Reggie Carter was asked to compare Best with Gerhart and James and said Best is "probably the better of the three."

"The last couple of weeks he hasn't had, I guess, great games so you haven't heard too much about him," Carter said of Best, who is expected to play in different sets, including the wildcat formation. "But I still think he's one of the best in the country and the best in the conference. So I'm not going to take that away from him just because his last two games weren't great. Everybody has their lumps. I know he's going to come ready to play."

Carter remains sidelined

Carter sat out his second consecutive practice Tuesday after spraining his left knee last week against Oregon. He maintains, however, that he will play against Cal on Saturday.

"They told me to relax a little bit, but my knee feels great," Carter said. "It's kind of irritating. I don't like watching. I feel like a spectator."

Carter, who leads the Bruins with 27 tackles, suffered a knee injury last season against Brigham Young, but he played in all 12 games and finished with a team-high 83 tackles.

Carter says he wants to participate in at least one practice this week to work on technique, but Neuheisel expects Carter to respond the same way he did with last season's injury.

"If I were a betting man and I'm not," Neuheisel said, "I would say he'll play."

Neuheisel's prognosis drew laughs from reporters because of his obvious reference to his departure in Washington in 2003 for betting in an NCAA men's basketball pool.

Coping with Mother Nature

Neuheisel struck a measured tone on how the rain that is expected to continue today will affect the Bruins' preparation.

"The downside to it is we don't want to tear up all our grass," he said. "We get onto one field, which means we don't have quite as much room and space as you normally did. I think that's overshadowed by the fact the kids enjoy it and so we get some good tempo and good urgency."

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mark.medina@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesmedina

Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.

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