Tailback Johnathan Franklin's bye week had a little more purpose than for most of his UCLA teammates.
While all the Bruins have spent a couple of days doing some nip-tuck procedures on their game, Franklin had a purpose: Hold onto the football.
"Everything that happens in life is a lesson that you have to learn from," said Franklin, a redshirt freshman. "This one was a cheap lesson."
It could have been worse.
Franklin fumbled on the Bruins' two-yard line with less than two minutes left against Tennessee, but managed to get the ball back. He wasn't so lucky in UCLA's 23-9 victory over Kansas State on Saturday. Franklin lost the ball at the 40-yard line with 53 seconds left. The Wildcats were too weak offensively and too far behind for it to matter.
Still . . .
"He knows the consequences of putting the ball on the ground," running backs coach Wayne Moses said. "You can't do that to your teammates, he knows that."
Franklin, who had 119 yards rushing against Kansas State, said he has to "be more aware as far as putting two hands on the ball and holding it high and tight."
Both fumbles came on runs through the line.
"It's a wake-up call," Moses said. "Once you get into traffic, you have to cover up. Once they get you and start ripping and stripping, if you don't have two hands on the ball, you're not going to hold on to it."
Stokes nearly ready
Defensive end Reginald Stokes has made a rapid recovery from knee surgery and could return to UCLA's lineup against Stanford on Oct. 3.
Stokes tore cartilage in his right knee in August and was expected to sit out at least half the season. But his progress is such that he has practiced the last two days and participated in full-contact drills Wednesday.
"I'm close," said Stokes, a 6-foot-3, 266-pound junior. "I'm starting to do a little bit here and there and ease myself back."
Stokes was ticketed for a key role off the bench, but the Bruins have received solid play from redshirt freshman Damien Holmes.
"The trainers earlier this week were less than optimistic that he would play," Coach Rick Neuheisel said of Stokes. "But it is in Reggie's heart to make sure he makes it all the way back. I'm encouraged that he did well [Tuesday]. I'd be pleasantly surprised if he is at full speed and ready next week."
Stokes said that he attended the daily meetings to "keep myself focused so when I came back I wouldn't be so far behind."
Neuheisel was unhappy with the performance by the offense during practice Wednesday, though he did praise the play of quarterback Richard Brehaut and receiver Morrell Presley.
As for the rest . . .
"I think the focus wasn't there," Neuheisel said. "I don't fault the effort, it was the focus. You can point to all kinds of things, but the bottom line is we got to be tougher than that."
Tailback Christian Ramirez received some carries during 11-on-11 drills and could be available for the Stanford game. . . . Wide receiver Gavin Ketchum (hamstring) and guard Nick Ekbatani (sprained knee) did some team drills, but still appeared unlikely to be ready to return.