UCLA's new "pistol" offense made its scrimmage debut Sunday, surrounded by unsure critics trying to forecast its odds of success/failure.
And beneath clouds that couldn't decide whether to rain, the Bruins withheld a concrete answer as to whether that offense, which Nevada uses with great success, will misfire.
The first few drives were messy, crammed with false starts and defense-initiated demolitions in the backfield. But by the time sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince and the first-team offense had their third series, that elusive groove was found.
Prince, by run and pass, promptly led the team down the field then capped it with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Rosario, making the offensive-style switch seem wise.
"Once we started to get in the flow of it … the defense started to get a little confused and we were able to make some plays," said Prince, who completed eight of nine passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns, the other a 10-yard toss to tight end Joseph Fauria.
Defenses usually win intra-squad scrimmages simply because they see the offense every day, but that didn't seem true Sunday.
"It's not like we've seen it before," linebacker Akeem Ayers said. "It's new to us just like it's new to them."
Coach Rick Neuheisel said it was hard to gauge how his team performed overall in the 75-play scrimmage, but he said the offense, which is a hybrid of the shotgun formation, showed a "definite benefit."
"If we can improve just a little bit more than we did in the first half," he said of the new offense, "we'll be right where we need to be at the conclusion of spring football."
Usually lining up behind Prince, sophomore tailback Johnathan Franklin led all runners with 44 yards on nine carries. He broke off two big runs on zone-read plays in which Prince correctly decided to hand the ball off rather than keep it himself.
But the defense looked stout often, recording seven total sacks and several helmet-to-helmet collisions for lost yardage. Linebackers Patrick Larimore, Glenn Love and Ayers were particularly impressive.
"It was a big difference from the last practice," Ayers said. "Everybody was flying around, being excited, making big hits and making big plays."
Fauria pulled up lame after his touchdown catch, visibly favoring his right leg. Neuheisel said he was fine, though.... Kai Forbath, who won the Lou Groza Award last year as the nation's top kicker, made field goals from 26 and 42 yards.... Six-foot, 256-pound freshman fullback Jayson Allmond showed shades of Jerome Bettis on a few up-the-middle runs, bulling through the defense before being brought down.